The K-State Wildcats were done no favors by the selection committee, drawing the Kentucky Wildcats in their second round of the NCAA Tournament. The purple-clad Wildcats simply could not hit their stride offensively, falling to Kentucky 56-49.
“In the locker room, there’s some tears,” K-State head coach Bruce Weber said. “Tears of joy from the season that we had, but also tears of sadness that we just didn’t have enough to continue.”
In a weird sequence of events, K-State trailed Kentucky before the game even started. K-State was issued a technical foul during pre-game warmups when sophomore guard Brian Rohleder was called for a technical foul for dunking past the 20 minute marker. Kentucky’s freshman guard Andrew Harrison stepped to the line and knocked down one of two free throws, giving UK a 1-0 lead before tipoff.
“I know it’s a rule, but sometimes common sense has to be — come down and say ‘Hey, guys don’t dunk’,” Weber said.
Despite Kentucky starting the game off with a one-point advantage, it was the Wildcats of K-State who fought hard offensively to take the early lead. Freshman guard Marcus Foster hit a jump shot at the 16:13 mark in the first half, giving K-State a 6-5 lead. They would hold that lead until the 13:38 point in the first half when Kentucky’s sophomore forward Alex Poythress tied the game up with a jump shot of his own. After that, K-State would trail for the remainder of the game. The Wildcats from Lexington would push their lead to 13 points with just under two-minutes to play in the game, which was the widest deficit of the evening.
There are few teams in the country that can rival the size of the Kentucky Wildcats. With the Harrison twins who stand 6’6″, they cause a lot of mismatches for opposing teams. Kentucky held the Wildcats to 37 percent shooting from the field.
“They keyed in on our key plays,” Foster said. “They did to us what we tried to do to them, which was crowd their space. I commend them. They played good defense.”
Against a team that doesn’t allow many teams to get to the rim, K-State became dependent on jump shots. Unfortunately for them, those didn’t want to go down. The Wildcats trailed 29-23 at the half despite missing all seven of their long range attempts. K-State finished 5-21 from outside and only 6-12 from the free throw line.
The purple-clad Wildcats could find no answer for Kentucky’s freshman phenom Julius Randle. The talented freshman lead all scorers with 19 points to go along with 15 rebounds. Friday was the 21st time this season that Randle has finished with a double-double. Kentucky out-rebounded K-State 40-28 on the day.
“They killed us on the glass, and that’s something that we have struggled with,” senior guard Will Spradling said.
The Kentucky Wildcats will now face the undefeated Wichita State Shockers in the third round of the NCAA tournament on Sunday to see who will make it out of St. Louis.
K-State finishes their season with a 20-13 record. Through two seasons at the helm, Bruce Weber is now 47-21 as the head coach of the Wildcats.