January 31, 2008
Barrett, Cats celebrate huge victory
As the final three minutes rolled off the clock, Ernie Barrett, "Mr. K-State," hardened by the atrocity of the infamous streak, stood high in section five at Bramlage Coliseum, wearing a collared shirt that matched Kansas State's famed old-school lavender jerseys, and attempted to put it all into words. Little by little, the Wildcats' icon with broad shoulders and an iron handshake slowly melted into butter until his eyes, the ones that thought they had seen it all, finally became watery.
"We did it tonight, buddy," he said.
A friend turned around. "Still two minutes left."
"Oh, bull," he countered. "We're going to win it."
Then the 77-year-old former All-American who led K-State to the 1951 Final Four and spent nearly 60 years at the school as a player, assistant coach and administrator until his retirement last June, launched a granite fist into the air as the deafening sellout crowd of 12,528 reached peak levels and time continued to dwindle on the historic night Manhattan would never forget.
Twenty-five years and one day had passed since K-State last tasted victory against Kansas in Manhattan and the Wildcats had never beaten the Jayhawks in Bramlage. But it had been much longer since the in-state rivals clashed when both were nationally ranked (March 8, 1958) and K-State had only beaten Kansas one other time in Manhattan when the Jayhawks were ranked second in the nation. That was Jan. 26, 1952 - one season after the Barrett-led Wildcats fell to top-ranked Kentucky in the NCAA Championship Game. It also had been nearly 87 years to the day since a first-year K-State head coach toppled Kansas in his series debut.
So many milestones. So much to absorb.
The final minutes seemed like years and seconds seemed like hours. Together, the Wildcat Nation silently counted down the ticks until No. 22 K-State dethroned unbeaten No. 2 Kansas, 84-75, handing the Jayhawks their first defeat in 21 games this season and making the Wildcats the national story. Off to its best conference start in 20 years, K-State at 5-0 sits atop the Big 12 Conference. After going winless against their previous eight Top 10 opponents over the last three seasons, the Wildcats beat two in 11 days.
Still, as time crept, Barrett's memories continued to flow as Nichols Gymnasium blurred into Ahearn Field House and the Old Barn blurred into the spectacle on display. The air of familiarity sent chills up his spine. He could feel it.
The magic was here. Again.
"You know, the thing that I really admire is the students' reaction to the game tonight," Barrett said. "Everybody told me a long time ago (Bramlage opened for the 1989-90 season) that the noise here wasn't like Ahearn. I said, 'Listen, you fill this damn thing and it will be.' Sorry, but I've got to express my enthusiasm. It's a credit to K-Staters to believe in this.
"That streak thing shouldn't have ever happened to begin with."
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