If Mike Wroblewski could get into Kansas State’s locker room before the Wildcats’ game Saturday afternoon against Kansas in Lawrence, here’s what he’d tell those players.
“Don’t get uptight about it, don’t worry about it,” said Wroblewski, a former K-State player (1959-61). “Let the atmosphere of that grand old Allen Fieldhouse spur you on.”
Who is this Wroblewski guy, anyway? And doesn’t he realize that Allen Fieldhouse is a house of horrors for visiting teams, especially Kansas State?
Wroblewski has some nerve.
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He sure did back on Feb. 7, 1962, when he poured in 46 points at Allen Fieldhouse to lead Kansas State to a 91-72 win.
It’s the most points ever scored by a visiting player against Kansas inside the 60-year-old building.
Wroblewski, who is 74, retired and lives in Atlanta, admits the Jayhawks (7-18) weren’t much of a team that season. And K-State was in the midst of a 22-3 season, with Wroblewski’s 19 points and 8.5 rebounds per game leading the way.
Still, 46 points is 46 points.
“That was one of those games where you get into the zone,” Wroblewski said. “You’re just playing in the moment and everything is flowing. Things come easily and you don’t even know what’s going on around you. You don’t hear the crowd. If I was open that night, my teammates were going to get me the ball.”
It’s a game at Allen Fieldhouse two seasons earlier when Wroblewski was a sophomore, that he remembers more.
KU built a big first-half lead before Kansas State coach Tex Winter decided to put Wroblewski in the game in place of junior Cedric Price, with whom Wroblewski had been vying for playing time.
“I score a basket or two and then Tex starts me in the second half,” Wroblewski said. “I think I scored 18 and we actually went ahead.”
Then comes the part Wroblewski vividly recalls.
Instead of protecting the ball with a slim lead late in the game, as Winter had instructed, Wroblewski took an errant, ill-timed shot.
“As soon as I let it go, I realized I shouldn’t have,” Wroblewski said.
Kansas went on to win 64-62, and Wroblewski has never forgiven himself.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t think of that game,” he said.
Wroblewski came to K-State from South Bend, Ind., where he was a football and basketball player in high school. He wasn’t really sure basketball was his game when he stepped on the court for a freshman game against KU in – you guessed it – Allen Fieldhouse.
“The first thing I learned when I got to Manhattan was about the rivalry with KU,” Wroblewski said. “It was in the air, you just felt it.”
Against the KU freshman team, Wroblewski was matched against future Jayhawks star forward Wayne Hightower.
“I never thought of myself as being at the top level of high school kids as an athlete,” Wroblewski said. “But in that freshman game, I had 24 points and Hightower had about the same and we both fouled out in double overtime but we won.
“That kind of set the precedent and I always felt good in Allen Fieldhouse. I would take that very negative crowd noise and not let it bother me. It was a motivational thing.”
Oh, those were the days.
Nowadays, K-State would be better off staying on the team bus after it arrives in Lawrence and watching movies.
Since 1994, the Wildcats have won one of 20 meetings against the Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse. It hasn’t been much better at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan or on neutral courts, for that matter.
Overall, KU is 48-4 against Kansas State since a 68-64 Wildcats win in Lawrence on Jan. 17, 1994.
Kansas coach Bill Self is 184-9 at Allen Fieldhouse. But before you become light-headed from such an astounding record consider that his predecessor, Roy Williams, was 201-17. And the coach before Williams, Larry Brown, was 71-5.
KU has lost 31 games at Allen Fieldhouse in the past 32 seasons. OK, now you can faint.
Thing is, this is that rare moment in time when Kansas State is actually carrying a winning streak against Kansas.
OK, it’s just a one-game streak – the Wildcats won 85-82 at Bramlage Coliseum on Feb. 10 of last season – but it’s something.
K-State has been playing with a lot of grit, but could be without senior forward Nino Williams today.
Kansas is coming off a poor performance in a win at TCU. The Jayhawks are one of those teams that can play poorly and still win, as they’ve done a few times this season.
As they’ve done a few times during this stretch of domination against Kansas State.
“I’m not happy about it,” Wroblewski said of his alma mater’s problems with the Jayhawks. “I try to watch as many games as I can on television and I’ve been back to Manhattan for a number of reunions and things like that. I follow them, but I’m not too happy when they don’t do well against KU.
“In many cases, we’ve just been out-manned. So no, I’m not happy. But I’ll be watching this game (Saturday) and hoping for the best.”