No one said it better than 19-year-old Shane Southwell following "Big Monday's" 75-70 victory over No. 7 ranked %%MATCH_12%%.
Just listen to the rookie, who stepped up to have an eight-point, four-assist, three-blocked shot game against the Longhorns: "At the beginning of the year everybody thought we could beat everybody. Nothing has changed. We just struggled at the beginning of the year, but isn't this what everybody expected?" Yes, it is, Shane.
"This" is the team that the media positioned No. 3 in the nation back in November; and, "this" is the team that the coaches predicted to win the Big 12 championship.
And without question, "this" is the K-State team that is the best in the league at the end of the season, AND "this" is the team that no other team wants to play in next week's Big 12 Championships in %%MATCH_11%% City, AND "this" is the team that no other team wants to go dancing with in the following week's NCAA tournament.
In the last 15 days, K-State has defeated No. 1 Kansas, No. 7 Texas and No. 20 %%MATCH_9%%, plus won on the road at %%MATCH_10%%, where at the time the Cornhuskers were 16-1 this season.
In coach %%MATCH_6%%'s words, "It's a case of young kids growing up and accepting responsibilities."
Against Texas, it was Rodney McGruder with 22 points, five boards and two steals; and Jordan Henriquez-Roberts with eight points, eight boards and two blocked shots; and Shane Southwell with eight points, five boards, three blocked shots and two steals. Oh yes, seniors %%MATCH_5%% had 15 points, eight boards and five blocks, and %%MATCH_7%% netted 20, with 16 of those coming in the pivotal second half.
Against Missouri, it was Martavious Irving with seven points and an assist; %%MATCH_8%% with seven points and three assists; and, Will Spradling with nine points and a steal. Against Kansas, it was a man named Pullen … Jacob Pullen … with 38 points, five assists, a blocked shot and a steal.
"That's the beauty of having a good team," Pullen said of the trio of wins over ranked teams."
He would add, "Our locker room is stronger. Every day we walk in that locker room it's just us fighting for each other. It's all about each other."
Yes, K-State is back in its comfort zone of "us against the world."
In those three games, "this" K-State team held KU to 68 points, or 16 below its norm; Missouri to 70 points, or 13 below its norm; and, Texas to 70 points, or 6 points below its norm. In those three games, Kansas shot 44 percent, Missouri 41 percent and Texas 34 percent.
That defense packaged with offensive numbers of 84, 80 and 75 points … yes … makes "this" K-State team the best in the league during a 7-1 month of February.
All of this comes after a 1-4 start to the Big 12 season.
"I knew as we went through the schedule there would be days that we would be challenged," said Martin. "How we would handle those emotions would determining who we would become. We're not dwelling on failure, and we're not celebrating wins. We're only moving on to compete to get better."
And consider this fact: It marked K-State's fifth win this season against a ranked team, AND, the three wins over Top 20 teams in a span of 15 days has never been accomplished before, AND, it marks only the seventh time in Wildcat history that two wins over Top 10 teams have been recorded in the same year.
Oh yes, "this" team also has a player excelling to such a high level that there will be a time that "No. 0" will sway from the K-State rafters.
Yes, Pullen has played in more games than any other Wildcat in history, but it's also fact that only %%MATCH_14%% has scored more points, and no athlete in a Purple jersey has enjoyed more double-figure games (101), more 3-pointers (287) and collected more steals (207) than Mr. Pullen. No Wildcat has ever played with the same personality as his coach in terms of grit, controlled anger, spirit and passion than No. 0. Pullen's current run of 136 points in a five-game span has been bettered by only two other Wildcats in history. That's Askia Jones (152 points) in a run that included a freakish 62-point game, plus %%MATCH_13%% multiple times, including a personal high of 170 points over five games.
The result is a five-game Wildcat winning streak entering Saturday's 12:30 tipoff against %%MATCH_15%% in Bramlage Coliseum with K-State playing as well as any team in the country. "Everybody wrote us off. They cast our season down the drain," Pullen said of the Wildcats' 1-4 start in the conference. "People say we're a good team again, but we can't let things like that get into our locker room, and we can't let down our guard."
But he added, "Our morale is to the sky." And he added, "At the end of the way, we're going to write our own future."