It may not be the most ideal way to do it but K-State will take it. The 9th-ranked Kansas State Men’s Basketball team went into their game Saturday at Oklahoma State with an opportunity to secure at least a share of the program’s first regular season conference championship since 1977 when Jack Hartman was head coach and players like Mike Evans and Curtis Redding roamed the court at Ahearn Fieldhouse.
The Wildcats battled with the Cowboys for much of the first half at Gallagher-Iba Arena but found themselves trailing 36-30 at halftime. Then K-State went on a 20-5 run that spanned the first six minutes and 46 seconds of the second half to take a 50-41 lead. With the Wildcats ahead 53-45, the Pokes used an 11-0 run to take a 56-53 lead with 6:20 remaining. K-State though returned the favor and worked out a 61-57 advantage with 4:45 left on the clock but after that things went south for Bruce Weber’s squad.
Missed shots and bad fouls hurt the Wildcats and allowed Oklahoma State take control down the stretch and pull away for a 76-70 victory ending K-State’s five-game winning streak. Senior Rodney McGruder led the Wildcats with 22 points while Thomas Gipson added 15 and Angel Rodriguez had 10. Le’Bryan Nash led all scorers with 24 points and Freshman star Marcus Smart added 21.
After the game, the Wildcats became big fans of the Baylor Bears a team they knocked off on their home court with a Rodney McGruder buzzer-beater exactly one week earlier. The Bears must have forgotten about that game because they were in a helping mood as they kept their NCAA Tournament hopes alive by destroying Kansas 81-58. The Baylor victory allowed K-State to earn a share of the Big 12 title after all as both the Wildcats and Jayhawks finished with identical 14-4 records. It also marks the first time in school history that K-State’s Football and Men’s Basketball teams both won a conference championship in the same academic year.
Kansas State (25-6, 14-4) now turns its attention to the Big 12 Tournament where they will be the #2 seed. The Wildcats will open tournament play on Thursday, March 14 at 6 p.m. at Sprint Center in Kansas City when they will play the winners of Wednesday’s opening round contest between TCU and Texas.
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