KANSAS CITY, Mo.—The cliché goes ‘It’s not how you start, but how you finish.’ The Kansas State basketball team started terribly in its second round game against LaSalle and players and fans alike clung to this old cliché, in the hopes that it truly wouldn’t matter how its team started, but how it finished.
There was no way Kansas State, one of the most consistent teams in the nation, would drop its opening game of the NCAA tournament to LaSalle.
Every fan in the building had to be thinking, ‘This can’t be happening. Now way our Wildcats are going to lose.’
For a while, it looked like the Chicago Bulls could have walked in and K-State would have showed them the door. But the ‘Cats didn’t have the Bulls. They had LaSalle.
Kansas State busted out of the gates on fire to start the second half but didn’t grab its first lead until there was just over seven minutes left in the game when Rodney McGruder put in a layup to make the score 57-56.
“I wanted to get the lead to five or seven points,” said Southwell. “But we never got there. We never got to that five or seven I was thinking.”
The largest lead for K-State was two points. The largest lead for LaSalle, a team that hit just three field goals in the second half, was 19. The last field goal made for LaSalle was a Jerrell Wright dunk with 7:55 left in the game.
“It’s the worst feeling in the world,” said McGruder on the team’s 63-61 loss. “It’s the last time I’ll play a game in a K-State uniform, the last time I’ll be on a team with some of my teammates I have now. It just hurts to go out the way we did.”
LaSalle’s Wright put 21 points on the board as he was a perfect 6-for-6 from the field with 8 rebounds and 2 blocks.
K-State was back in Kansas City just a few days after playing for a Big 12 tournament championship, so as it headed into its second-round game, the Wildcats felt more than comfortable. It was a home away from home.
Everything was lined up for K-State. The venue, opponent, fan support. Everything was there in place for the Wildcats to make the tournament run it wanted. But LaSalle didn’t care.
“You’re not going to shake us,” said LaSalle’s Rohan Brown. “We don’t care about the environment we play in. We are just going to worry about ourselves and play against our opponents on the court.”
Kansas State’s Shane Southwell led the ‘Cats with a double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Teammate Jordan Henriquez also scored 17 points.
An anomaly was that of LaSalle’s Roman Galloway. He was huge in the Explorers’ efforts to build a 19-point, first-half lead with 15 points and three assists in the first half alone. Then came the second half. He took four shots, and missed four shots and tallied five turnovers in the second half.
That was the story for Kansas State in reverse. But as the cliché goes, “You can’t spot a team 18 points.”