K-State men’s basketball team victorious on senior day

Senior forward D.J. Johnson claps for his teammates during the basketball game between K-State and Texas Tech in Bramlage Coliseum on March 4, 2017. (Emily Starkey | The Collegian)

It had been a while since the Kansas State men’s basketball team won a game without some late drama. But in the Wildcats’ final regular season game there, was no drama. The Wildcats took care of Texas Tech 61-48 Saturday afternoon in Bramlage Coliseum.

The drama-free finish was a fitting end to senior day. Seniors Wesley Iwundu, D.J. Johnson and Carlbe Ervin left the game for the final time at Bramlage Coliseum with just over a minute left and the game out of reach. Senior reserves Austin Budke and Zach Winter were subbed in, and the home crowd praised the five seniors for the final time.

“I was happy, it was a sigh of relief to know that we made it through all four years of my college career,” senior forward Wesley Iwundu said. “… It was just a happy moment to finish off my career at Bramlage.”

Senior day aside, the game had major implications on K-State’s NCAA tournament chances. The Wildcats looked like a team that needed to win at all costs from the start. The Cats came out of the gate hot taking a quick 9-0 lead to start the game.

Texas Tech then went on a 16-2 run to pull ahead early on. K-State has struggled to limit the effects of opposing teams’ runs all season. But the Wildcats were different today and did not let the run decide the end of the game.

“I think we responded well to that run throughout the whole game,” Iwundu said. “We did a good job of keeping the lead in the second half — we came out with the same energy in the second half. That’s what we have to do if we want to win some games.”

K-State responded with their own 9-0 run after Texas Tech pulled ahead. K-State then built up a 34-22 lead at the half.

The Wildcats’ second half was nothing special, but they were able to build a lead and never relinquish it. Texas Tech made a few pushes but could only pull within 12 at any time in the half.

K-State’s defense played a big role in the win. They allowed the Red Raiders to shoot just 36 percent from the field and 32 percent from behind the arc. The Wildcats also blocked six shots and forced four Texas Tech shot clock violations.

“Today was one of our better defensive efforts and I think we played smart,” head coach Bruce Weber said. “We did not play pretty, but we played smart.”

Offensively, Johnson led the way for K-State. The senior came out of the gate hot, recording 12 points in the first half. Johnson would finish with 19 points on eight-of-11 shooting.

K-State will now look ahead to the Big 12 Championship next weekend in Kansas City. The Wildcats secured the sixth seed and will play Thursday at 8 p.m. in the Sprint Center.