March 9, 2007

K-State gets needed win and date with KU

OKLAHOMA CITY - When the Kansas State basketball team came out of the locker room clanking shots in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament against the Texas Tech Red Raiders, playing the Kansas Jayhawks in the semifinals was the last thing on the Wildcats' minds. Finding a way to survive their first game at the Ford Center to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive was the only important task facing Bob Huggins' Wildcats.

K-State missed its first six field goal attempts of the game against Tech and scored just one point in the game's first five minutes. Furthermore, junior forward David Hoskins severely sprained an ankle. It was hardly indicative of how the game would go for the Cats.

K-State hit 13 of its final 19 field goals in the first half as it built a 33-26 halftime lead and then pulled away from the Red Raiders for a 66-45 victory that probably will land the Wildcats in the NCAA Tournament. It certainly puts K-State in the semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament to play Kansas in Saturday's 1 p.m. contest. The winner of that game will play for the Big 12 championship Sunday at 2 p.m.

"As crazy as it may sound, we came down here to win this. I said to them, 'You know, we are not going to do things to play for second or third'," Huggins said. "We won; we had the plan to come down and play on Sunday and win on Sunday."

That's Bob Huggins' way. He doesn't want to ease into the NCAA Tournament by the narrowest of margins. He wants to charge the fort and scale the walls.

That was how his Cats played Friday in avenging a 62-52 loss to Texas Tech on Jan. 8 in Bramlage Coliseum. K-State shot a dreadful 30 percent in that game, but connected on 48 percent of their shots in this meeting despite that slow start from the field.

"We had open shots and we weren't hitting them and it reminded me of the first time we played them," said junior guard Clent Stewart, who fought through a stomach virus to play. "I'm glad the guys stuck in there and starting hitting those open shots."

Most certainly, because this was a game most regarded as a "must win" for the Cats' NCAA hopes. Now, despite what some pundits might say, there was little doubt in the media areas of the Big 12 Tournament that the Wildcats belong in the field of 65 and there was no doubt in the K-State locker room.

"Definitely, No doubt," was how Stewart answered the question.

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