Best of 2010: Kansas State's win over Xavier was one for the ages

12/25/2010 12:00 AM

12/26/2010 8:43 PM

The Eagle's sports staff looks back at the Best of 2010. Each writer shares a memorable moment from his or her beat.

Years from now, when Kansas State fans think back to the Wildcats' breakthrough basketball season of 2009-10, they will probably remember where they were on March 25.

That was the day K-State went toe-to-toe with Xavier for 40 minutes and two overtimes, and walked away winners of the game of the NCAA Tournament, 101-96.

Those involved would later say they thought a movie could be made about the victory, and there was no kidding involved. While I'm not sure who Hollywood could cast to accurately portray Frank Martin (seriously, who could do it?) the epic game definitely deserves to be relived in some form.

It had everything. Star players, big shots, bad blood, questionable officiating, an enormous stage and Gus Johnson.

The two teams met in Salt Lake City in the Sweet 16, and everyone predicted a close, hard-fought game. K-State had beaten Xavier in the regular season rather easily, but the Musketeers pounded the Wildcats two years earlier in Cincinnati. Trash talk was exchanged, and feelings were hurt. Both sides wanted to advance to the Elite Eight, and get some revenge.

They played like a lot was on the line.

Jordan Crawford, the guy who famously dunked on LeBron James in a summer pickup game, made some of the longest three-pointers I've ever seen a player attempt without a buzzer to beat. He scored 32 points, and continually made amazing plays when Xavier needed them most.

His step-back three over Curtis Kelly to force a second overtime was so incredible that an official walked to the side of the court and mouthed the words, "I can't believe this," at the next dead ball.

Terrell Holloway scored 26 points and also made a memorable play. With K-State leading by three points in the closing moments of regulation, the Wildcats tried to intentionally foul Xavier players before they could attempt a game-tying shot. But officials ignored those efforts until Holloway drew a foul while shooting a three. The entire arena gasped at the call, and when Holloway made all three free throws to force overtime, the gasps kept coming.

Somewhat lost in everything else were the efforts of Jason Love (11 points and 15 rebounds) and Dante Jackson (11 points).

Rarely do you find such well-rounded performances from a team that doesn't win, but that shows how good K-State was that night.

Jacob Pullen wowed a national television audience with a 28-point effort that featured six three-pointers. Kelly looked like a NBA center inside, scoring 21 points, grabbing eight rebounds and blocking five shots. And Denis Clemente was ferocious. He scored 25 points and pushed himself so hard while leading the Wildcats' offense that he needed an entire six pack of Vitamin Water to rehydrate before arriving at the team hotel.

The performances from that game were a large reason why K-State entered the 2010-11 season with such high expectations, and why it will go down as the best Wildcats sporting moment of the year.

Players walked away exhausted, and so did Johnson, the eccentric CBS announcer who called the game.

He shouted after big plays and got so caught up in the spectacle that he jumped out of his seat between overtimes and bounced around like an 8-year-old on Christmas.

While fans in both Salt Lake City and Manhattan will tell you how they wildly celebrated the game, I will always remember sitting one row behind Johnson at midcourt.

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