I know folks in Manhattan, Kan., don't want to hear about it but, sorry, folks, you can't deny that the Wildcats looked positively gassed on many possessions.
Sure, at times KSU looked poised to steal this game away from Butler. We've all seen it play out before. Mid-major team plays well but can't hold its composure for 40 minutes. The Wildcats rallied and went on a 13-2 run with less than five minutes to go to take a 52-51 lead.
But Butler isn't really a mid-major program anymore.
And in grabbing back the lead in the late minutes, Butler made sure K-State lost in a similar fashion its in-state, in-conference rival, Kansas, did.
Here's what Kansas State head coach Frank Martin had to say about his team's stamina and whether it played a factor in the 63-56 loss in Salt Lake City.
"I don't think physical fatigue did," Martin said. "But I think mentally we looked tired. We were sluggish. But, like I said, I don't think it was about our wrongdoing as much as it was about Butler's right-doing. They annihilated us on the glass. Every time we made a couple shots, they stepped right back up and make a shot or make a play. It's a lot of credit goes to their kids. We didn't play real well. A lot of it had to do because of them, not so much because of our wrongdoing."
We'd consider that as much of an appraisal of Butler's play as an admission to his team's tired legs and overworked arms.
I know these are still growing young men, but playing basketball at this level can tire you out. That's not an excuse; have we all forgotten just how entrancing and fatiguing that Xavier-Kansas State double-overtime game was?
"You know, when the adrenaline start pumping, I don't really think people worry about being tired or fatigued," Jacob Pullen said. "Or the last game we played. I think we was trying to focus in on this game."
Pullen was a non-factor in the first half, and as most college basketball experts expected, with Pullen and Denis Clemente pretty much shut out in the first 20 minutes, the Wildcats could not operate like they had against Xavier, BYU and other legitimate opponents this season. The elite guard combo combined for 11-for-30 shooting and finished with 32 points — they averaged 37 this season.
Curtis Kelly said the team tried to rely on adrenaline in the opening minutes to get over the mental and physical challenge of playing the late-night game on Thursday and then being assigned an early-afternoon game in a high-elevation city like Salt Lake City.
"I don't know. They just -- I was OK. I felt good. Adrenaline, like Jake said, helped me out," Kelly said. "This game was more emotionally draining I think than the last game. The reason why that is, because the game yesterday, I felt like we was in control of the game the whole game, and today, I didn't feel as in control. I felt like we kept having to fight back."
I did really, really like how Kansas State came back. Frank Martin got his team to get Butler playing unlike it had for most of the season for about a five-minute stretch. But then Butler remembered who it was and took back the game.
"Things just didn't go our way like it's been going the rest of the tournament," Pullen said.
Butler was the reason for that, but a slow-to-respond K-State team enabled the Bulldogs to be so commanding.
- Kansas State
- Frank Martin