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Archive for Sunday, March 5, 2006

KSU faithful wanted sweep

March 5, 2006

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— Less than 11 minutes showed on the clock, and a sellout crowd had to be thinking of a historical sweep Saturday in Bramlage Coliseum.

Willie The Wildcat did, as he led the louder-than-usual KSU cheer while waving a broom.

K-State fans already held in their hands a Sunflower Series victory over the Jayhawks from January - the first victory over their in-state rivals in 31 tries since 1994.

So when KSU faithful saw Cartier Martin's three-pointer cut KU's lead to three for the second time in two minutes with 10:56 to go, people wearing purple had to be envisioning the first K-State series sweep since The Police's "Every Breath You Take" was topping the charts in 1983.

But just as in every game between these two squads played in Bramlage since it was built in 1989, Kansas found a way to win, 66-52, on Saturday.

It actually was quite easy for the Jayhawks. K-State didn't hit another field goal after Martin's basket, and KU closed out its 18th straight victory in Bramlage with a 17-6 run.

"It's not about beating KU, it's just the fact that we didn't win tonight," said a disappointed Martin, obviously downplaying a streak that reached 23 straight setbacks in Manhattan (KSU lost five games in old Ahearn Fieldhouse before moving to Bramlage).

"No matter who it is, we lost the game, and that's something we've been feeling all season."

While Saturday's setback wasn't as heartbreaking as the school-record nine losses by five or fewer points K-State (15-12 overall, 6-10 Big 12 Conference) has suffered this season, it was emotional in its own way.

Yet another senior class - made of five Wildcats, including former KU athletic director Bob Frederick's son, Mark - passed through Bramlage having never known the feeling of beating the Jayhawks on K-State's home floor.

More importantly, the setback likely will be the last game in Manhattan for KSU coach Jim Wooldridge unless KSU plays host to an NIT game.

Speculation this season surrounding the sixth-year coach was that he had to get to the NCAA Tournament to get a contract extension.

Wooldridge dodged talk about his status.

"I think the important thing for all of us in this program - the players, the other coaches - from my perspective, the best thing to do is leave that issue dormant," said Wooldridge, who also declined to discuss the referees' decision to issue Wooldridge a technical in the first half, but did not give one to Self who adamantly argued with head referee Steve Welmer.

"We're going on into Monday and Tuesday of next week to do something in the tournament."

It appeared the Wildcats didn't want to wait until the Big 12 tourney to make a move when KSU sliced KU's 15-point halftime lead in half in the first minutes of the second half.

Just before the midway point, a pair of free throws by Lance Harris cut KU's lead to just three, 46-43.

KU's Brandon Rush responded with a three-pointer, but Martin answered with his bomb.

The K-State euphoria was short-lived, though, because Rush nailed another trey that sparked the Jayhawks' closing spurt.

"We got back into the game, but we had some key turnovers down the stretch that kind of put the momentum back on their side," Martin said.

"We can't beat a quality opponent like Kansas turning over the ball 21 times - steals, needless turnovers off the dribble, off the pass," Wooldridge said. "I wasn't disappointed how we played defensively. We lost the ballgame on the offensive end of the floor."

And about that streak :

"Our talent is getting better. We won over at their place this year," Wooldridge said. "We couldn't have done that three or four years ago.

"If the program keeps moving, we get more players, more players and more players, eventually you're going to break a streak as we did back in January. This one will be broken too, sometime, somewhere."

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