7:00 PM ET, March 10, 2005
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Jeremiah Massey did not just want the ball. He insisted upon it.Fueling a key surge in the second half, Kansas State's senior leader wound up with 18 points Thursday night and led the Wildcats to a 68-62 victory over Texas A&M in the first round of the Big 12 tournament. "I felt me, being a senior, that I wanted to do something to win the game," Massey said. "I demanded the ball and it went in. Everyone was tired but we had to pull it out." It was the first tournament win since 2002 for the Wildcats (17-11), who suffered through a frustrating regular season, losing twice on last-second shots and twice in overtime. The victory also may take pressure off embattled coach Jim Wooldridge and put Kansas State in line for its first postseason appearance in Wooldridge's five years. "We're not the best team in the league," said Wooldridge. "I never said we would be. I said we'd be a good team and a team that could seize on opportunities, and we did that tonight." Antoine Wright had 28 points for the Aggies (19-9), whose 12-game turnaround in the regular season tied for the biggest in Division I and made first-year man Billy Gillispie a near-unanimous choice for Big 12 coach of the year. The Aggies and Wildcats both figure they should receive an NIT bid. "I would think we're still going to be playing," said Gillispie. "I think we'll be a fun team to watch play. We've never really talked about that stuff. I would assume we're still going to be playing." In Friday's second round, Kansas State will meet Kansas, the regular-season co-champion which has beaten the Wildcats 30 straight times. "I'm sure [Kansas] will be confident," said Wooldridge. "Our challenge is to get these guys to another gear, get them charged-up again." Acie Law sank a 3-pointer -- his only bucket in 13 shots -- that gave the Aggies a 46-41 advantage. But then Massey led the Wildcats on an 14-4 run for a 55-50 lead Texas A&M could never overcome. The 6-7 Massey, guarded by 6-5 Chris Walker, worked inside for six straight points, capping the run with a short jumper over Walker. After Wright put in two free throws for the Aggies, Massey drove the lane, drew Walker's fourth foul, then sank two free throws for a 57-52 lead. When Justin Williams drilled a 14-footer, the Wildcats led 59-52 with 3:51 to play. "We couldn't stop him," said Gillispie. "It wasn't because we weren't trying. Chris did a great job as far as fighting him all day long. He made his biggest plays when the game was right on the line." Texas A&M, still winless in the tournament since the inception of the Big 12 nine years ago, never got closer than five points. Going back to the old Southwest Conference, the Aggies have lost 12 straight postseason games. Lance Harris and Fred Peete each had 13 points for Kansas State and Peete's 14 rebounds were a school record for a Big 12 tournament game. Justin Williams had 12 for the Wildcats and provided solid defense inside against Joseph Jones, the Aggies' standout freshman center who totaled nine points and 12 rebounds. Wright had 19 points in the first half and led a 16-2 run with a pair of 3-pointers and a big dunk that gave the Aggies a 31-27 halftime lead. "We have had close games before, and we knew if we stuck to it and rebounded that we could win," Peete said.
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Team Stat Comparison
|FG Made-Attempted||24-51 (.471)||21-58 (.362)|
|3P Made-Attempted||6-11 (.545)||8-28 (.286)|
|FT Made-Attempted||14-27 (.519)||12-18 (.667)|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||19 (0/0)||22 (0/0)|