SE: Wildcats Knock Off No. 1 Again

While closing out games against highly-ranked opponents hasn’t been a strong point for the Wildcats this season, on Saturday evening in Bramlage Coliseum, K-State got over that hurdle as it knocked off on the No. 1 team in the nation. Led by the hard work, determination and poise of junior forward Wesley Iwundu, K-State (14-9, 3-7 Big 12) defeated No. 1/2 Oklahoma (19-3, 7-3 Big 12), 80-69.

“It’s big for us, it’s big for K-State,” Iwundu said as he flashed a smile during the postgame press conference. “That’s the No. 1 team in the nation, it doesn’t get any better than that. They’re the best team in the country and we just beat them, so we have every reason to hold our heads up high and enjoy it for the next couple of days then get back to business.” 

The win proved Bramlage Coliseum a tough place for top-ranked teams as it marked the Wildcats’ fourth victory over No. 1 ranked teams on their home court, including their third in a row. K-State beat No. 1 Texas, 71-62, on January 18, 2010, and topped No. 1 Kansas 84-68, on Feb. 14, 2011. 

As a matter of fact, K-State hasn’t lost to a No. 1 ranked team in Bramlage Coliseum since January of 1997. 

“You can’t wish it, you can’t just want it to happen, you have to go do it and make it happen, and that’s what they did tonight,” said K-State head coach Bruce Weber after the game. “Now we go down in history; that’s five No. 1 wins for K-State. The crowd was unbelievable; there was great energy in the building.” 

Weber believed in his team and began putting his players in the mindset to win before the game tipped off. The morning of that game, Weber sat his team down in the student section of Bramlage Coliseum and played a video on the videoboard. The video showed highlights of K-State men’s basketball upsetting No. 1 teams. It showed the big-time plays and the big-time celebrations. 

“Just looking at the video, seeing all the guys, seeing Jordan (Henriquez), Rodney (McGruder), (Jacob) Pullen make those plays and knock down No. 1 teams, it got me really excited and I knew we could do it,” explained Johnson. “I was screaming at the videoboard yelling, ‘Go Rod! Go JO!’ It brought a lot of positive emotion and brought confidence that we could do it if we stuck together and stuck to the game plan.”

From start to finish, a sold-out, jam-packed Bramlage Coliseum was on its feet as the Wildcats put on their best show of the season. As the team stuck to its game plan, the energy in Bramlage continued to electrify. 

Though Iwundu was the team leader with a career Big 12 high 22 points and a career-high tying seven assists and team-high three steals, it took a full team effort to take down the Sooners. 

Along with Iwundu, freshman forward Dean Wade (17 points), junior forward D.J. Johnson (12 points) and senior guard Justin Edwards (11 points) also scored in double figures. 

“We came out and held (Oklahoma) to their lowest point total, to their lowest field goal percentage; we did a lot of things,” said Weber. “And you have to have people step up and be special. Wesley had a career night, Dean came back and the real Dean Wade we thought we would have all year played, then DJ was big time in his 23 minutes. It was a team win – Austin Budke (four points), Justin (Edwards), Barry Brown (nine points), Stephen (Hurt) – it was a great team effort for our guys. We knew it was possible.” 

The Sooners may have opened the game with a quick 9-0 lead, but that would be the only time the No. 1 ranked team held K-State back. The Wildcats went on to shoot 75 percent from the three in the game’s opening 10 minutes and, once they took their first lead (25-24 with 7:45 to go in the first half), the Cats never looked back. 

In the first half, Iwundu kept a short leash on the Big 12’s scoring leader, Buddy Hield. Hield, who averages 25 points per game, scored just six first-half points thanks to Iwundu’s solid defense. 

Iwundu’s defense made every shot difficult for Hield and was one of his of many highlights in the game. Overall, along with his stellar offensive performance, Iwundu only had one turnover in his 38 minutes on the court and grabbed seven rebounds. He made big time plays as he closed the first half with an alley-oop, hit a three-pointer with six minutes left in the game to secure K-State’s lead, and went 7-of-8 from the free throw line. 

“He was special, there’s no doubt,” said Weber about Iwundu’s game. “You need somebody to step up and be special – he made that three, he made his free throws, only had one turnover – and to play both ends like that, he was big time. You need somebody to be special, the whole team did a great job, it was a team win, there’s no doubt, but Wes spearheaded it.” 

The morning following the win, on Super Bowl Sunday, Iwundu was featured on ESPN’s SportsCenter to talk about his performance in his team’s most recent victory. 

“The fans in Manhattan, it’s a tough place to play,” Iwundu told the show’s host when asked why Bramlage Coliseum is such a tough place for opponents. “We feed off the energy; when there’s a lot of people in the crowd, you have nothing to do but play good, and we really feed off of it.” 

Whether it was against No. 9/8 North Carolina, No. 19/17 West Virginia (double overtime), No. 13/15 Baylor (double overtime), or at No. 6/7 Kansas, K-State men’s basketball has competed with the nation’s top teams all season long, but on Saturday night, the Cats finally got over the hump. 

And who better to do that against than the highest ranked team in the nation? 

“It’s unbelievable, you always dream about playing the No. 1 team when you’re a little kid in your driveway,” said Wade. “It was amazing. I caught myself a few times thinking, ‘Man this is crazy,’ while we were in the huddle, it was something I’ve never experienced.” 

Following Saturday evening’s big win, K-State returns home to Bramlage Coliseum to take on the No. 15/13 Baylor Bears at 7:15 p.m., on Wednesday evening. 

“It wasn’t that we didn’t believe, we just didn’t get it done. You have to earn it, you have to make it happen,” said Weber. “We had chances against North Carolina, West Virginia, Baylor, Texas. We’ve had chances against a lot of people, we just didn’t make it happen and now we did, so I hope that will continue… We have a lot of opportunities to continue to get top-25 wins, and that continues with Baylor on Wednesday.” 

For photos, stats, highlights and more on Saturday evening’s Wildcat victory, please click here

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WOMEN’S TENNIS RALLIES FROM 3-0 DEFICIT, BEATS COLORADO 4-3

After losing the doubles point in a tiebreaker as well as dropping the first two singles matches, K-State women's tennis erased a 3-0 deficit and came back to defeat Colorado, 4-3, on Friday at Body First Wellness and Recreation Center. 

K-State (3-1) rallied behind sophomore Carolina Costamagna's three-set win in the No. 3 position to situate itself for the comeback win over Colorado (3-3). Costamagna prevailed in a 7-5 tiebreaker in the third set before Iva Bago and Livia Cirnu evened it at 3-all with their respective victories. Freshman Millie Stretton was then left to clinch the match for the Wildcats as she took down Colorado's Alex Aiello 6-2, 4-6, 6-3. 

"Today was tough, it was such a roller coaster," said K-State head coach Danielle Steinberg. "For the girls to be able to close this match and for Millie (Stretton), a freshman, to be able to clinch it knowing that everything was on the line was huge for us." 

To continue reading about the Wildcat tennis team’s victory, please click here


TRACK AND FIELD STRONG AT FRANK SEVIGNE HUSKER INVITATIONAL 

After a strong day of competition on Friday, Kansas State saw four more athletes set personal bests and one school record be broken as the Frank Sevigne Husker Invitational came to a close at the Bob Devaney Sports Center on Saturday.  

With the four personal bests set on Saturday, the Wildcats finished the overall competition with eight athletes recording PRs and three first-place finishes.

After qualifying for the 60 meter hurdles in Friday’s preliminary round with a time of 8.20, senior Akela Jones set a new personal record and a new school record with a time of 8.05 to win the event. Her mark also ties for the second-best mark in the NCAA this season. 

For more information on the Wildcats track and field team’s weekend at the Frank Sevigne Husker Invitational, please click here.


EQUESTRIAN DROPS TOUGH LOSS IN STILLWATER

K-State equestrian dropped a tough competition as the No. 9 Wildcats fell short in the spring opener at Totusek Arena on Saturday  

Five of the Wildcats’ six points came from the upperclassmen leadership in the match up, while K-State registered one Most Outstanding Performer (MOP) honor as senior Danielle Kemper captured her first MOP of the season and career in Reining. 

“I am very impressed with how the team performed today,” said Wildcat head coach Casie Maxwell. “It has been awhile since we were last in the competition arena, but the team had really old confidence and energy against a tough OSU team. Congratulations to OSU for riding really well – it was a tough competition day.” 

For more information on the Wildcat equestrian team’s weekend, please click here


WOMEN’S BASKETBALL FALLS AT WEST VIRGINIA

K-State women’s basketball’s offensive struggles continued on Saturday, as the Wildcats fell at West Virginia, 64-44. The Wildcats have now lost three-straight games. 

K-State (14-8, 4-7 Big 12) shot 27.6 percent from the field, while West Virginia (18-6, 7-4) finished at 57.8 percent. This was the lowest point output for K-State this season. 

K-State returns to Manhattan to host No. 20/19 Oklahoma on Tuesday at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast on FCS Central and K-StateHD.TV, and on the K-State Sports Network and for free at www.kstatesports.com. 

For more on the Wildcat women’s basketball team’s upcoming game, please click here.


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