Wildcats Upset No. 8 Jayhawks
Before an excited, energetic crowd, the Wildcats (14-15, 7-9 Big 12) upset No. 8 Kansas (22-6, 11-4 Big 12), 70-63, in one of their best performances of the 2014-15 season, one that marked the first time in over 30 years K-State defeated KU in back-to-back home games.
"We did a great job defending, we fought them, we had some guys be special and we used the energy of the crowd," said Wildcat head coach Bruce Weber after the game. "It was an unbelievable atmosphere. It is a nice night for K-State. I'm happy for (the players), but I'm really happy for K-State because I know how important this is."
Last night's win took an all-around team effort. The Wildcats were able to put the past behind them and focus on nothing but than the task at hand.
"I just asked them to forget about what happened before, not worry about the future and focus on the moment," added Weber. "I've talked all season about not dwelling in the past and not worrying about the future, just focusing on today, and I think they did that. They focused on today and how to be successful."
Perhaps the most focused of all, the team was led by sophomore Nigel Johnson, whose 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting were a career-high.
"After I saw my first two go in, that gave me confidence to just keep shooting it," said Johnson. "The environment was great. You can easily go out and get over-excited, so I was just trying to stay calm, and then after a couple of my shots went down I was just playing basketball."
The sophomore from Ashburn, Virginia, stepped up and time after time as he helped the Wildcats when the team needed him most.
Maybe he was feeling it, but maybe it was because his mom, Sidney Johnson, was in the house. The last time Johnson scored points in the double digits (14 points) was at West Virginia on Feb. 11, a game in which his mom was also in attendance.
"His mom came, and it was his mom's birthday yesterday," laughed Weber when asked what factor he credited Johnson's stellar performance to. "Yesterday was the first time a player texted me about having our meeting early so he could go with his mom for a birthday dinner. I'm happy she was here. He did well when she was in West Virginia, so she got a nice birthday present tonight."
Following Johnson, Wildcat seniors Thomas Gipson and Nino Williams anchored the team as Williams scored 15 points and grabbed five rebounds, while Gipson scored 12 points and grabbed a team-high six rebounds.
"It was a good, good team win," said Williams, who hit a jumper with less than 30 seconds remaining to essentially put the game away. "I think today's game we came out and we went at them. They have confidence just by being Kansas, and we just told ourselves to come out and play. We've got them two years in a row now, so it's good to beat them. Like coach said, it's good for the fans, the alumni, all the students. This was a good, family K-State win, a big-time K-State win."
While the Wildcats took the evening to celebrate, today, the focus returns to their next opponent. Continuing a two-game home stand, the Wildcats host on No. 12/13 Iowa State on Saturday at 3 p.m.
"It was all about fighting them, battling and playing hard," said Weber. "If you just let them play chess, you're not going to win. You've got to knock the queen over, knock the pawns over. You can't just let them get in a rhythm and routine, you have to battle them. We did that."
For game notes, stats, quotes and more on last night's game, please click here.