K-State advances to first round after victory over Wake Forest

Head coach Bruce Weber yells during the basketball game between K-State and Baylor in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship in the Sprint Center on March 9, 2017. (Emily Starkey | The Collegian)

The Kansas State men’s basketball team was the last at-large team selected for the NCAA Tournament. They were forced to play in the First Four play-in game in Dayton, Ohio, Tuesday night against Wake Forest. K-State proved they were worthy of the selection with a 95-88 victory over the Demon Deacons.

The 11th seeded Wildcats now advance to the first round where they will take on the sixth-seeded Cincinnati Bearcats Friday in Sacramento, California.

The win was not easy for the Wildcats. The game was a high-scoring affair that was also somehow an ugly contest that featured 51 fouls between the two teams.

K-State’s balanced attack helped off-set the never-ending foul trouble. Four Wildcat starters scored in double-digits, including 18 from senior forward D.J. Johnson and 22 from sophomore guard Kamau Stokes.

The best performance however might have came from Wesley Iwundu. The senior forward played arguably his best game of the season in the win-or-go-home contest. Iwundu finished with 24 points, six rebounds and seven assists. He scored efficiently all night, finishing six of nine from the field and 11 of 13 from the free-throw line.

It was not just Iwundu, K-State shot the ball well as a team. The Cats were an astounding 66 percent from the field, allowing them to make up for the foul trouble; seven Wildcats ended the game with three or more fouls.

However, even the hot shooting did not allow K-State to pull away with ease. After trailing by as many as nine early in the second half, the Demon Deacons made their run. They pulled to within 72-70 with 5:28 remaining; it looked like the game would be a back-and-forth battle down the stretch.

But just when things started getting interesting, K-State made a 7-0 run to take a 79-70 lead.

The game was never really in doubt after that. K-State made their free throws and saw the game out to the final whistle.

The win was the first for the Wildcats in the NCAA Tournament since 2012 when they beat Southern Mississippi in the first round.

K-State will now have a few days off before they take on Cincinnati on Friday. That game will tip off at 6:27 p.m. in the Golden 1 Center.