March 20, 2008
Walker, Wildcats toss aside USC
OMAHA, Neb. -- It was dubbed the hottest matchup for a first-round game in years, a summit of young star power and Kansas State wasn't supposed to win it. But the No. 11 seeded Wildcats ran away from sixth-seeded Southern California, 80-67, for their first NCAA Tournament win in 20 years and to keep alive a season that behind their pair of stars and a couple gifts from their supporting cast regained its swagger inside the Qwest Center on Thursday night. The truth: The result was an upset by seeding only, and because Bill Walker stated nobody predicted the Wildcats to live to see Saturday.
Then again, in a contest preceded by plenty of Michael Beasley versus O.J. Mayo hype, nobody predicted Mayo's hometown buddy to be the star. Just a sidekick for Beasley, the Big 12 Player of the Year.
Walker used an us-against-the-world chip on his shoulder to help fuel himself and his team. The result? The 6-foot-6, 220-pound forward scored as many points (12) as the Trojans in the first 10 minutes, busted a trio of 3-pointers and scored 17 of his 22 points in the first half for the Wildcats, who captured their first win in an NCAA Tournament game since 1988.
K-State became the first lower-seeded team to knock off a higher-seeded team so far in the tournament.
"We stopped wishing for things," Walker said, "just went out there and made things happen."
Interesting terminology given an allegiance of several thousand purple fans that made the trip here put their tournament wishes on the shoulders of a pair of freshmen stars that have proven time and time again that they can make things happen - often creating on-court beauty most teams can only dream about.
After overcoming foul trouble that plagued the first half, Beasley - seemingly a crowd favorite among city locals - finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds to break another couple records, extend a few others, and did so most of the game with a Trojan arm lassoed around some part of his upper body. Beasley went 7 for 12 from the floor -- identical to Walker -- and went 8 for 10 from the line.
"I just came out in the second half and played the game," said Beasley, who had just five points after playing just 11 minutes in the first half. "I didn't try to force anything. I didn't get too anxious. I just played within the team."
Although Walker and Beasley combined for 12 of 24 shooting from the floor -- K-State grew more accurate as the game went on, hitting 51.7 percent in the second half and 48.3 percent overall -- team play, including efforts by Ron Anderson (10 points and eight rebounds), Jacob Pullen (11 points and five assists) and Blake Young (seven rebounds) provided the ingredients for an all-or-nothing victory on the big stage.
"(Anderson) played like I'd never seen before," Beasley said.
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