KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Saturday night had a familiar feel to it, and there’s a reason for that.
The last time Kansas State met Kansas in the Big 12 Championship final was in the 2009-10 season, the freshman year for Wildcat seniors Rodney McGruder, Martavious Irving and Jordan Henriquez.
The Wildcats lost 72-64 in the title game that season, marking their third loss to the Jayhawks that season as well.
But K-State responded to the loss, winning its next three games in route to the Elite Eight.
Irving said that season proves there is more to look forward to.
“It basically just doesn’t matter anymore, you cant get it back,” he said. “It’s about the big one and going after that, because that’s all that matters anymore. Next time we lose, it’s over. We can’t dwell on it.”
The last time the Wildcats lost to Kansas, it sparked a six-game winning streak leading up to K-State’s loss in the regular-season finale at Oklahoma State.
Henriquez said there’s no reason to believe that can’t happen again.
“Right now, it’s going to hurt, it should hurt,” he said. “We’ve got six more games, we’ve just got to wait our turn.”
The Wildcats will find out their NCAA tournament fate tonight, and then they will begin focusing on the next task ahead of them.
Looking back at the 2009-10 season, Henriquez said he sees a lot of similarities in the way things played out.
“It’s very equivalent to three years ago,” he said. “Even though we didn’t win the league, we definitely were close. We’ve just got to stay focused and take advantage of what’s in front of us.”
The Wildcats went on to win 29 games that season, two more than this team has right now. The finish to that season also launched the run for K-State’s seniors which currently has them with 100 wins in their Wildcat careers — a school record.
That K-State team featured a much different offensive attack, led by 3-point shooters Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente, as well as forwards Jamar Samuels and Curtis Kelly and a strong, slashing guard in Dominique Sutton.
The makeup of this team might be different than that one, but Irving said the best quality that season was the way the team was able to tap into that final loss to KU, and use it going forward.
“They took it personal,” he said. “They didn’t want to feel it anymore, they did what they had to do to make a run in the tournament.
“They were great leaders that year.”