|Purple pride: Kansas State finally stops Kansas at home|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 31 January 2008 11:26|
Beating the No. 2 team in the nation can do that. Beating Kansas can do that.
``My ears were ringing when I finally got back into the locker room,'' Kansas State freshman Bill Walker said after the 84-75 victory over Kansas on Wednesday night. It was the Wildcats' first home win against their archrival in 25 years.
Bramlage Coliseum has been home to a lot of small, drab gatherings. But the jet enginelike roar by the sellout crowd from the opening tip to the final buzzer was crushing, probably the loudest, most sustained noise in the building since it opened in 1988.
Walker was hardly the only freshman to excel. Michael Beasley scored 25 points while Jacob Pullen had 20 to go with four assists and just one turnover.
``I just remember going on those Catbacker tours and listening to those people in Garden City, Kan., and all the other places I went,'' Walker said, referring to the offseason rallies across the state. ``All they wanted was to beat KU.''
With a little more than 10 minutes left, Kansas State's lead rose to 12 points. Purple-clad fans, hugging and high-fiving, their faces flushed with excitement, inched closer to the court. With about two minutes to go, security guards warned courtside reporters to grab their laptops and scurry to safety.
``For us to be able to provide relief from that streak to our people of Kansas State, I'm proud of our guys for doing that,'' Kansas State coach Frank Martin said.
Martin was promoted from his assistant's job last spring when Bob Huggins left for West Virginia. He became the first Kansas State coach in 87 years to beat the Jayhawks (20-1, 5-1 Big 12) at home on his first try, ruining their perfect season no less.
``For me, I was just happy to be able to beat these guys,'' he said. ``Last year we lost to them three times, and not being able to beat them kept us out of the NCAA tournament.''
Being shut out of the NCAA tournament this year seems highly unlikely. The Wildcats (15-4, 5-0 Big 12) have seized the conference lead and have a legitimate player-of-the-year candidate in the 6-foot-10 Beasley.
He had predicted a breakthrough win for the Wildcats and backed his words with a gritty 25 points despite being double and triple teamed.
``As soon as I touched the ball, as soon as I stepped in the paint, there were two or three guys around me,'' he said. ``It was tough, but I had some help from my teammates knocking down open shots, cutting and getting open.''
Nobody was more helpful than Pullen, who was 10-for-10 from the line and neutralized the Jayhwaks' perimeter game.
The Wildcats, winners of 10 of their last 11, could be headed to their greatest season since the 1987-88 squad made it to the quarterfinals before losing to eventual NCAA champion Kansas.
There is this to consider, however. Beasley could be one of the first players drafted if he turns pro after one great freshman season, as Texas' Kevin Durant did a year ago. Walker, too, will be tempted by NBA riches.
So will this be a one-year ride and then a return to mediocrity? Or will Martin and his staff be able to seize the momentum and keep recruiting players who are good enough to compete with Kansas every year - instead of every quarter-century?