Wildcat Basketball Column- The Long Road

Kansas State's Dramane Diarra was barely walking, while Jeremiah Massey, Travis Canby, Justin Williams and Mark Frederick were still getting rug burns trying to master the crawl.

That, my reading friends, is how long it's been since the Wildcat basketball team defeated the University of Kansas in a game played in Manhattan.

Twenty-one years of frustration — the last 5 appearances in Ahearn Fieldhouse and a 16-game Kansas sweep in Bramlage Coliseum — is what the Wildcats face Wednesday night in an 8 p.m. start with a sellout crowd looking on.

Massey said it's nothing that he thinks about, but he's fibbing. It's the yearly focus of the media, and the talk of his classmates on the KSU campus giving him little choice but to think of the unbelievable, not to mention dreaded, string.

Twenty-one straight losses to KU in games played in Riley County; 28 losses overall to the Jayhawks.

The media-row talk prior to Saturday's Colorado game gave a sincere "this could be the year" forecast for the Wildcats.

But after a lackluster effort against the Buffs, little reason for realistic hope was left.

Coach Jim Wooldridge says ''The Streak'' is going to be presented to the team matter-of-factly, and since the Colorado game individual meetings and team chat-sessions have taken place.

''I think they're ready to turn the page and get on with the games ahead,'' Wooldridge said. ''We need to learn from the Colorado game. You sit down and talk about it, but then you move on.''

Kansas State has played at a level high enough to defeat a Kansas team that has had off-the-mark shooting nights this season. But simply put, if the Jayhawks play to 80 percent of their ability, the night could be long for the Wildcats.

Eleven of the 21 losses have been decided by 11 points or more, and seven of those were between 15 and 29 points.

Even when Kansas turned in ghastly performances, it has found victory served on a silver patter.

Remember the 62-59 loss in 1997?

A No. 1-ranked Kansas team shot just 29 percent from the field leaving coach Roy Williams to say after the Jayhawks' win, "Life's not fair; I'm totally flabbergasted."

In 1992, a No. 3 KU team trailed by six at the half, shot just 31 percent for the game, yet won 54-52.

And even when Kansas tried its best to present K-State a win, the offer was declined.

Remember the 1987 double-overtime 80-75 loss?

Norris Coleman was at the foul line with three seconds left in a tie game at the end of regulation play. "Sarge," who had scored 20 points in the second half, missed the first, and then the second.

Other painful home losses came in 1989 when K-State won over Kansas in games at Lawrence and the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City ... but not Manhattan.

And, in 1988 when both teams arrived at the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. K-State won that season in Lawrence snapping a 55-game home court KU winning streak, and later in Kansas City. But, K-State lost in Manhattan and Pontiac, Mich. The Jayhawks went on to win the national title.

And, not even the emotional factor could lift the Wildcats over the hump during this two-decade period.

•In 1986, K-State lost 64-50 only days after Jack Hartman announced that he was going to resign.

•In 1987, Lon Kruger lost in his initial year of coaching at his alma mater.

•In 1988, K-State lost 64-63 in the last season in Ahearn Fieldhouse.

•In 1989, K-State lost 75-74 in overtime in the first season in Bramlage Coliseum.

•In 1991, Dana Altman lost 78-69 in his first try against the Jayhawks.

•In 1995, Tom Asbury lost 78-67 in his first attempt against KU.

•In 1999, Manny Dies scored his 800th career point and snared his 500th career rebound, but in a 23-point, 69-46, loss.

•In 2001, Jim Wooldridge lost in his first coaching try against KU, 77-65.

So will it be this year?

Maybe so ... when it's least expected.

Not to mention, most needed.

Is it fair to say the Wildcats are due?


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