On Friday night, the 9-seeded K-State Wildcats lost to the 8-seeded Kentucky Wildcats, 56-49. The first round matchup was an ugly game, that most likely no one outside of Big Blue Nation really enjoyed watching.
Neither offense was on their game. But Kentucky’s rebounding provided an edge. The Wildcats from Lexington out-rebounded the ones from Manhattan, 40-28. That 12 rebound margin was expected, though. K-State’s tallest starter is Thomas Gipson, who is listed at 6-foot-7. UK’s shortest starter is 6-foot-6. The size difference paid dividends for Kentucky on the boards.
Freshman guard Marcus Foster carried the Kansas State offense with 15 points. But it still didn’t feel like enough. Foster never got it going from beyond the arc, converting on just one of seven attempts. Senior Shane Southwell had 11 points in his final game as a Wildcat, and Will Spradling had just three. Gipson put in 10 for K-State.
There was one noteworthy things for K-State in this game. It happened 19 minutes and 58 seconds before the opening tip. Walk-on Brian Rohleder dunked–which is exciting in itself–but two seconds to late. Dunks are fine in pre-game before the 20 minute mark, but after that the NCAA allows no fun. Rohleder’s dunk was called a technical, so Kentucky shot two free throws before tip-off.
There wasn’t much to talk about in this game. K-State just wasn’t at the same level as Kentucky. So let’s take a stroll down memory lane and paint a first-round exit season in a good light.
In November, the K-State Wildcats lost their second straight game against a team that didn’t make the NCAA Tournament, and third in their last five games. At that point, some fans were questioning if K-State could make it to the NIT. 10 straight victories later, the Wildcats found themselves with a great tournament resume and at the top of the Big 12. They went .500 for the rest of the season, but earned a 9-seed in the Big Dance.
The highlight of the season for Wildcat fans was February 10th in Manhattan. The Kansas Jayhawks rolled into town after winning 9 of their 10 previous games. K-State played a very gritty game, and pulled out an upset overtime victory. Students stormed the court after making Bramlage lived up to its nickname that night.
Freshmen were the key catalyst for K-State success this season. While Will Spradling could be missed, the Wildcats aren’t losing much heading into next season. If the young players can continue to improve, this is a dangerous team next season. K-State fans should be excited about 2014-2015.