Kansas State University

Why Ernie Barrett's history with Kentucky motivated K-State before Sweet 16

Former K-State great Ernie Barrett, now 88, celebrates K-State win in Elite Eight

K-State beats Kentucky 61-58 in NCAA Tournament and former K-State star Ernie Barrett is on hand for the win.
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K-State beats Kentucky 61-58 in NCAA Tournament and former K-State star Ernie Barrett is on hand for the win.

Ernie Barrett was on the Kansas State basketball team that lost to Kentucky in the 1951 national championship game, and he's wanted revenge ever since.

So much so that his story helped motivate K-State's current players before they upset Kentucky 61-58 in the Sweet 16 on Thursday at Philips Arena in the NCAA Tournament.

It was K-State's first-ever win over Kentucky. The K-State program had been 0-9 against Kentucky.

"This meant something to us, because of Ernie Barrett," K-State guard Mike McGuirl said. "This isn't a regular postseason matchup, even though it was a game to advance to the Elite Eight. It meant something extra, because it was K-State vs. Kentucky. We had never beaten them all-time."

Barrett was the happiest person in K-State's locker room when it was over.

"He didn't say much. It was just excitement, hugging and jumping around with us," K-State senior Mason Schoen said. "Every one of us on the team knows the story, because he talks about it all the time. I know he was super pumped when we won the game. I'm happy we could do that for him. He definitely motivated us and got us going."

The former K-State basketball player and athletic director in Barrett still has passion for his alma mater, regularly attending practices and calling coach Bruce Weber.

He wanted K-State to beat Kentucky so badly that he joked he might storm the court and celebrate before the team won.

There's a reason his nickname is "Mr. K-State."

"Obviously, it was a special moment for Ernie Barrett," Weber said. "He almost choked us all with his hugs. He was just about in tears. He felt good about it."

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