Senior guard Wesley Iwundu scored a career-high 24 points to help guide Kansas State to a 95-88 win over Wake Forest in the First Four game before 11,855 fans on Tuesday at the University of Dayton Arena.
The Wildcats connected on 66 percent from the field, including 69.6 percent in the second half, to post their first NCAA Tournament win since 2012. It is the highest field goal percentage by a K-State team in a postseason contest and ties for the ninth-highest percentage in a game in school history. It is the highest field goal percentage since also shooting 66 percent against Coastal Carolina on Dec. 6, 1997.
Iwundu paced four Wildcats in double figures with his career-best 24 points, which came on 6-of-9 field goals, including 1-of-2 from 3-point range, and an 11-of-13 effort from the free throw line. It was his sixth career 20-point game, including his third season. He also added a team-high 7 assists and 6 rebounds in 35 minutes.
Sophomore guard Kamau Stokes also registered a 20-point game, scoring 19 of his 22 points in the second half on 4-of-5 field goals, all from 3-point range, and knocked down 7-of-8 from the free throw line. Senior forward D.J. Johnson scored 18 points on 8-of-9 shooting to go with 6 rebounds and 3 blocks, while sophomore guard Barry Brown added 14 points on 6-of-10 field goals, along with 5 rebounds and 3 assists in 38 minutes.
“We believed we could win,” said head coach Bruce Weber. “I’m not sure anyone else did. We felt if we guarded and took care of the ball and moved on offense we would be able to score. I didn’t know that we would get to 95, but I thought we would be able to score. I thought the big key was when we had all the foul trouble. The bench did a great job of maintaining and we went into halftime with a lead. In the second half, Kam settled down and made some big shots. Wes was big time the entire game. I couldn’t be more thrilled for these guys. They’ve persevered. They’ve believed. They’ve kept the faith and now we get to move on to Sacramento.”
Kansas State will now travel to Sacramento, Calif., to take on No. 6 seed Cincinnati at 6:27 p.m. on Friday in the South Regional First Round at the Golden 1 Center. The game will be broadcast nationally on TruTV. This will be eighth all-time meeting between the Wildcats and Bearcats on the hardwood, including the fourth in the NCAA Tournament.