It started in bizarre fashion. A pregame dunking foul on K-State's Brian Rohleder and Kentucky tipped off the game with a one point lead. The KSU Wildcats' success has relied on their shots falling. That's what they are used to. But against Kentucky, that was not the case.
"We just couldn't find a rhythm on offense but I give my hats off to Kentucky," said Wesley Iwundu. "They really locked in on defense."
Both teams were locked in on defense. It was a defensive and low scoring affair. K-State did what they needed to, but still two Kentucky players were able to carry the load. Freshman Julius Randle posted 19 points, followed by Aaron Harrison with 18. There was just no stopping those two.
"We did a great job of doing what we wanted to defensively against them and really controlling it," said Will Spradling. "I mean they were able to get out into transition and make plays there."
Transition offense killed K-State, but that wasn't the only thing. Two critical components caused the purple Wildcats to stumble. Just as the Wildcats were able to claw back within two points in the second half, a combination of fouls called on tightly against K-State messed with it's rhythm. Plus, losing big man D.J. Johnson with an ankle injury dashed K-State's post presence.
"This year I've always been stepping up during the big games," Johnson said. "Kansas, Iowa State at home and I'm always trying to step up and help the team the best way I can. Me staying in is a big difference maker."
This NCAA tournament appearance has been bittersweet for this group of KSU seniors. They have made it to the big dance the last four years in a row but have fallen short off their expectations. But they can be proud of the legacy they've left behind in the young Wildcats that will continue to carry this Wildcat team.
"I gave them a lot of talks as their bigger brother," said Shane Southwell. "I'm sure they are probably sick of hearing me. But I think hopefully they will miss me next year."
They want for their successors the postseason run they never had.
"I think we've built a solid foundation," said senior Will Spradling. "Every year we've gotten better and it's gotten bigger. Next year they have a great core group of guys coming back and the coaches have recruited great players that will fit this system."
It may be the end for the KSU Wildcats in the 2014 NCAA tournament, but the future is bright for them.