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Celebrating a Big 12 championship

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Plus, the track team returns to Manhattan with All America honors but no titles

NCAA Basketball: Oklahoma at Kansas State Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Basketball

Kansas State (24-7; 14-4 Big 12) beat Oklahoma 68-53 yesterday in Manhattan. With the win, the Wildcats clinched this season’s Big 12 title—along with Texas Tech—as well as top seeding at the Phillips 66 Big 12 Tournament. This was Kansas State’s 21st league title and the first since 2012-13.

It was Senior Night at Bramlage, and fittingly, it was seniors Barry Brown, Jr., Kamau Stokes, and Dean Wade who made the most impact in the game, as Luke Thompson noted in the BotC game recap. The trio combined to score 45 of the team’s 68 points and also had 14 of 15 assists in the game. Stokes led the team with 19 points on 7-of-15 shooting, including four from beyond the arc. He also had a game-high six assists. Joining him in double figures were Brown (15) and Wade (11). The Wildcats went 8-0 this season in games where the three each hit double digits in points.

This time around, because Kansas State earned the win on their home floor, the celebration could start right away instead of the delayed gratification the Wildcats experienced back in 2013 (Vahe Gregorian, Wichita Eagle). That year, two days after their final regular season game, Kansas State and Bruce Weber cut down the nets to celebrate. This year, in sharp and welcome contrast, Weber watched as Wade did the honors in full view of an arena full of cheering fans, taking an almost paternal pleasure in the success of this team (Kellis Robinett, Eagle).

It couldn’t be a better story. To have that group be honored like they were and win the game like this and to celebrate, it was special. It’s about them. We win because of the players. I’m just so proud of the seniors, the whole team and their resilience.

The celebration extended into Sunday, as the Big 12 announced its basketball awards. Brown was named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and was also named to the Big 12’s first team. Brown is the first conference defensive PoY for the Wildcats since Rolando Blackman in 1979 and 1980. Wade also made the first team, becoming just the second player (after Jacob Pullen) to be named to the Big 12 first team for two seasons. Stokes and Xavier Sneed each earned honorable mentions from the league’s coaches.

Unfortunately, all the news is not good. The Dean Wade Injury Watch is back on, with Wade being listed as “questionable” leading into the Big 12 tournament. He’s been experiencing discomfort in his foot. Speculation about the extent of his injury and Wade possibly missing the NCAA Tournament is rife, but there is no official word yet on either point.

The women’s team, playing in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Tournament, faltered in the semifinals and lost 88-60 to top-seeded Baylor. This was Kansas State’s ninth appearance in the semifinals of the conference tournament. Although the initial effort from the Wildcats was good (they even briefly led the game in the first quarter), it proved to be not nearly enough. Shooting just 28.8 percent (17-of-59), the Wildcats were thoroughly beaten by the Bears.

Peyton Williams (12), Christiana Carr (12) and Rachel Ranke were all in double figures.

Kansas State is eligible to play in the post-season and will learn its fate on March 18th when the women’s NCAA Championships bracket is announced.

Track and Field

At the NCAA Indoor Track Championships, five Kansas State athletes earned All-America honors, but came home without any individual titles. Overall, the women’s and men’s teams finished in 53rd and 56th place respectively.

Brett Neelly (shot put) and Lauren Taubert (pentathlon) had already earned second team All-America status on Friday. On Saturday, they were joined by Tejaswin Shankar (high jump) who finished in ninth place with a high mark of 2.20 to earn second-team status.

Aaron Booth, competing in just his second heptathlon, scored a total of 5,719 points to finish in eighth place. That was good enough to make him a first team All American for the first time in his collegiate career.

Saving the best for last, Shardia Lawrence earned her second career All American award in the triple jump. The Big 12 indoor champion, she finished sixth overall in the NCAA field with a leap of 13.31 m.

The Wildcats will get the outdoor season off to a start next weekend at the TCU Invitational in Fort Worth.