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Wisconsin losses still sting Wildcats

By Joel Jellison

When Kansas State watched its name pop up as the No. 4 seed on Sunday, it was a little surreal for a few of its players.

No, not because the team is playing in the NCAA tournament, but because a potential opponent joining them in Kansas City — the Wisconsin Badgers.

For the players that were on the team during the 2010-11 season, it’s still hard to forget the 70-65 loss to Wisconsin that ended their season. And the career of Jacob Pullen.

Martavious Irving said he still remembers that night.

“I was in that locker room with Jake and I seen the tears, I heard the words that he said, and it hurt,” he said. “His exact words were, ‘I don’t get to wear a K-State uniform anymore,’ and he was just crying there in the shower.

“He was on the floor crying in the shower and it was hurtful because he was one of the guys I was closest to here in those first two years.”

For this senior class of Irving, Rodney McGruder and Jordan Henriquez, their entrance into K-State came two years after Wisconsin ended the run of Michael Beasley and Bill Walker in the second round of the 2008 tournament.

In their freshman season, they were a part of the most successful season in school history, which ended with a loss to Butler in the Elite Eight in 2010.

One year later, as a No. 5 seed, the hot shooting Pullen wasn’t enough to take down the Badgers. McGruder said it’s something he hasn’t forgotten since his sophomore season.

“That’s the team that ended one of my good friend’s careers, Jake, and they also ended Clent Stewart’s career and Michael Beasley’s,” he said. “A lot of my friends have a bad taste leftover from Wisconsin, and I do too.”

The Wildcats have met Wisconsin six times in program history, with the Badgers owning the series record 4-2. Wisconsin has won the last two games.

K-State coach Bruce Weber hasn’t exactly seen a lot of success against Wisconsin, either. In 21 games against the Badgers during his time at Illinois, Weber was 9-12. He lost five straight games to Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan at one time, and had lost the last three at the time of his firing at Illinois.

But Weber said he does think the familiarity with Ryan’s teams could help him prepare this team, if that game were to happen.

Weber said he would expect a tough matchup with the Badgers too, as they played well down the stretch and made a run to the Big Ten Championship game, nearly winning it.

“I know Bo really well, we played against Wisconsin many, many times,” he said. “They had a real struggle at the end of the season and made a big push in the tournament.”

Playing against Wisconsin on Friday will be Ole Miss, led by much talked about forward Marshall Henderson. The Rebels are coached by long time Bob Huggins assistant Andy Kennedy.

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