Between a bloody, swollen eye and a foot in a cast, the Kansas State men’s basketball team faced plenty of adversity during the Big 12 Tournament semifinals, but they ended up falling to the Kansas Jayhawks, 83-67.
But then, late Thursday night, news broke out that junior forward Dean Wade had suffered a foot injury. From then on out, the K-State fan base’s confidence hit a brick wall.
As the game was about to tip, the stadium was flooded with blue and red. The game commenced and it seemed like a very sleepy environment for an in-state rivalry game.
Within the first two minutes of the first half, junior guard Barry Brown was hit in the eye by KU’s Devonte Graham, and Brown immediately rolled onto the floor. Soon after, Brown was announced to have a swollen, bloody eye and would not return into the game. K-State had just lost two leading scorers and key players.
From the start, sophomore forward Makol Mawien became a leader. He finished the game as K-State’s leading scorer with a career high of 29 points. Mawien also got four rebounds, two blocks and two steals.
KU head coach Bill Self later praised Mawien and recognized the Wildcats’ struggle against adversity in this game.
“Well, I certainly thought it was unfortunate for K-State and certainly Barry to go down and Dean not being able to play,” Self said. “I thought K-State played hard. I thought they played smarter than us. Certainly their big kid, Mawien, was the best player in the game, without question.”
Even through all the struggle, K-State head coach Bruce Weber talked about how much the Wildcats had given during this game.
“We never quit. We keep battling,” Weber said.
At times, it looked like there would be hope for the Wildcats, like when they were able to reduce their point deficit to only four points. The biggest lead they held was a total of five points in the first half, but the largest lead was KU’s 16-point difference.
K-State ended up shooting 28-60 from the field and 2-13 from the 3-point line, 42 in the paint, six fast breaks and 15 bench points. Kansas ended the game shooting 29-60 from the field and 11-28 from the 3-point, 28 in the paint, 10 fast breaks and 16 bench points.
One drastic difference between the Jayhawks and the Wildcats was the second chance opportunities. K-State ended with two, while KU had a total of 15. With the amount of touches, KU was able to pull ahead fast. K-State was once again out-rebounded by the Jayhawks, 37-30.
The only major foul trouble was freshman guard Cartier Diarra fouling out with 44 seconds remaining in the game. Diarra finished with nine points and four assists. Mawien and sophomore forward Xavier Sneed both finished the game with four fouls, just one short of getting fouled out.
The Jayhawk’s leading scorer of the night was Malik Newman, who finished the game with a total of 22 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals.
During the last minute, Weber took out all of the K-State starters. In their place, James Love, Pierson McAtee, Mason Schoen, Mawdo Sallah and Kade Kinnamon came in to finish off the game for the Wildcats.
Looking at the whole team, their faces were filled with frustration and sadness, and as the substitute players walked off the court, their heads were turned down.
After the game, Sneed further talked about the struggles that K-State faced during the game since they were playing without Wade and Brown.
“Definitely tonight without being with two of our All-Conference players,” Sneed said. “We got a lot of good rotations and got a lot of fight in those guys and hope we can do some damage in the tournament.”
Since K-State has now been eliminated from the Big 12 Tournament, all the Wildcats can look forward to is the NCAA Tournament. While it seems they are extremely likely to have a tourney bid after their win against TCU in the quarterfinals, there’s a dreadful wait until Sunday to find out where their next destination is.
Weber talked about what’s coming next, and what he thinks the Wildcats truly deserve.
“I hope we’re in,” Weber said. “We finished fourth in the best conference. We finished in the Final Four of the tournament. You swept quite a few teams, and, again, we gotta see.
“We came back tonight and I just looked at my phone briefly,” Weber continued. “I had 40, 50 texts, people saying unbelievable effort by your kids and with all your situations you still competed with one of the best teams in the country. I think we had a good showing.”