This Week In History (2016): Young core shines in victory over No. 1 Oklahoma

Wesley Iwundu and D.J. Johnson contend Buddy Hield's layup attempt in the 80-69 victory over No. 1 Oklahoma. Hield scored a game-high 23 points but was closely followed by Iwundu with 22 points as ell as seven assists and three steals. (Archive Photo by Parker Robb | Collegian Media Group)

By the time the 2015-16 season began, only one member of the highly-recognized 2013 Kansas State Wildcats men’s basketball recruiting class remained: Wesley Iwundu, a 195-pound junior from Houston.

In his first two seasons, Iwundu started 56 of 64 games but never truly broke out. He averaged single digits in scoring, rebounding, steals and assists.

But in 2015-16, with an opportunity to become a full-time starter, Iwundu played his best season to date. He averaged nearly 12 points per game, collecting a career-high in rebounds, steals and assists. 

The Wildcats also welcomed in a pair of exciting and talented young freshmen to the roster in Dean Wade and Barry Brown Jr. Brown contributed with a bench role during the season while Wade started in all but two games.

Still, the Wildcats struggled in conference, despite a 13-9 start entering their Feb. 6 matchup against rival Oklahoma. The Sooners entered the game on a roll with a record of 19-2 under fifth-year head coach Lon Kruger and senior superstar Buddy Hield. Averaging 25 points per game in his senior season, Hield was well on his way to a second straight Big 12 Player of the Year award and an All-American nomination.

The Wildcats needed to win this game to keep their conference hopes alive, plus a victory would deliver confidence to their young roster.

Unfortunately, the game started horribly. Oklahoma jumped out of the shoot on a 9-0 run and took a 14-5 lead in the early stages of the game. Then, Wade caught fire, drilling a 3-pointer and a layup to narrow the Sooners’ lead to four points.

The Wildcats traded baskets with the Sooners throughout the first half. With 5:41 left in the half, K-State took the lead with a D.J. Johnson layup.

With a six-point lead at the break, Iwundu was mostly quiet, with just four shots attempted and six points in total. In order to put the game fully in the Wildcats’ favor, K-State needed Iwundu to step up in the second half, which he did.

Iwundu dropped 17 of his 22 points as K-State took over in the final minutes of the game. Up five at one point, Iwundu buried his fourth 3-pointer of the season, giving the Wildcats an eight-point lead. K-State had taken down the number one team in the nation by the final score of 80-69. 

The victory did not lead to instant success for the remainder of the 2015-16 season as they dropped six of their last nine games; however, the victory over Oklahoma showed that the program could be a winning program going forward. The following season in 2016-17, the team won 21 games and made the NCAA Tournament in Iwundu’s senior season. 

Following Iwundu’s departure to the NBA in 2017, the Wildcats passed the torch to Wade, Brown and sophomore Xavier Sneed. The trio led K-State to an Elite Eight appearance in 2018 and a Big 12 regular season title in 2019.