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December 9, 2011

Bob Lutz: Thoughts on KSU-West Virginia

What a game. And what a Wichita Wildcat Classic debut Thursday night at Intrust Bank Arena.

This is why we built this arena, fine people of Sedgwick County. For moments and nights like this. For a double-overtime, nationally-televised game between two of the toughest, most-smashmouth teams you’ll ever see.

West Virginia won, 85-80. Nobody wanted this one to end. A sellout crowd of 15,004, many of whom were getting a rare chance to see the Wildcats in person, had to be thrilled with the atmosphere if not the result.

When I asked K-State coach Frank Martin if he wanted to continue to bring his team to Wichita annually, he didn’t hesitate with his answer.

“How could I say no after the way that this city embraced this game?” he said. “The mayor (Carl Brewer) and the hospitality were great and the whole ‘Paint Wichita Purple’ thing. And then going out and playing in a game that had every seat filled.”

Martin said he and K-State athletic director John Currie have already discussed keeping the Wichita game alive. The appeal is obvious: A lot of Kansas State fans who live in southern and western Kansas get an opportunity to see the Wildcats play when they otherwise would not.

“We’ve just got to figure out how to make it work,” said Martin, who also enjoys playing in Kansas City’s Sprint Center, where the Wildcats will meet Alabama on Dec. 17. “I don’t know if we alternate between Kansas City and Wichita or what we do I just know this: After what I just experienced tonight we need to continue to come to Wichita and play in front of our fans in this great building.”

Quick hits:

* Wichita will absolutely host first- and second-round NCAA Tournament games in the future at Intrust Bank Arena. Take that to the bank (pun intended). I have no inside information. But when word gets around about what a fantastic basketball facility this is, the NCAA will not be able to resist.

* Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall and Martin both love playing games at IBA. Hey, here’s an idea – perhaps they should play one another.

* And how about Kansas playing a game at IBA? What’s keeping that from happening? Hey Jayhawks, you have a ton of fans in this part of the state, too. We might not be as sexy as the Johnson County folks, but we clean up well.

* I think Martin is doing a great job so far with this K-State team, now 5-1 after Thursday night’s loss. But there are holes. K-State is not a good-shooting team yet and that was glaring against West Virginia. The Wildcats were just 14 of 26 at the free throw line and made only seven of 15 attempts in the second half.

* West Virginia senior Kevin Jones is a fantastic player, as his 30 points and 12 rebounds would indicate. He played 49 of a possible 50 minutes. Senior guard Darryl Bryant (24 points) played all 50 minutes. Given the pace and brutality of the game, what an amazing accomplishment.

* Bob Huggins, West Virginia’s coach, is a reporter’s dream. Such a smart, witty guy. I encourage everyone to find his post-game news conference – perhaps on the West Virginia basketball website? – and give it a listen. He’s classic.

Thanks for reading, as always. Been a busy couple of days. I’m going to bed now.

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