It didn’t quite play out in the most preferential manner but the Kansas State Wildcats finished in a tie with the Kansas Jayhawks at the top of the final Big 12 Conference. It is the first Big 12 basketball title for the Wildcats, and it’s the first time since 1977 the Wildcats have won a conference basketball championship. K-State also accomplished the rare feat of winning the Big 12 football and basketball championships in the same season.They did so despite losing to Oklahoma State 76-70 in Stillwater on Saturday.
When Kansas State (14-4, 25-6) took on the Oklahoma State Cowboys (13-5, 23-7) on the road Saturday, it promised to be a ferocious match-up in front of a pumped up crowd. It did not disappoint. The game was close throughout the first half without the Wildcats being able establish any kind of upper hand. KSU trailed by six at half, 36-30. When the teams returned to the court after the intermission, the Wildcats went on a strong 20-5 run over the first 7 minutes of the second half to take a 50-41 lead.
The Cowboys weren’t going to go down that easily. They came roaring back to tie the game at 52 due to poor passing by the Wildcats and break downs on defense that led to several OSU dunks. For the next several minutes, the game was hotly contested.With KSU leading 61-57 with just under 5 minutes to go, the Wildcats went cold. They didn’t hit another field goal until the last minute when the game was all but decided. OSU kept the Wildcats at arm’s length by making 13 free throws down the stretch. Only two late 3-pointers in the final half minute by Will Spradling made the final score close.
As usual, Rodney McGruder led the ‘Cats with 22 points, Thomas Gipson scored 15 while grabbing 6 boards, and Angel Rodriguez added 10 points (on a cold 3-16 shooting), 5 rebounds, and 6 assists. Le’Bryan Nash topped the Cowboys scoring efforts with 24, freshman star Marcus Smart added 21, and Markel Brown was good for 16.
Kansas State was able to return to Manhattan with a share of the championship when Kansas fell hard in Waco to the Baylor Bears, 81-58, later in the day Saturday. It may be bittersweet to have to share the title with the Jayhawks but that shouldn’t dilute the Wildcats’ accomplishments this season. KSU was picked to finish 5th in the conference in the preseason, and Coach Weber and his team have been able to show everyone they are deserving of their first Big 12 basketball championship.
The Wildcats will take on the winner of the TCU/Texas match-up on Thursday at 6:00 p.m. at the Spring Center in Kansas City.