MANHATTAN — As purple and silver streamers rained down from the rafters of Bramlage Coliseum on Saturday evening, it was officially time.
The celebration could begin.
K-State entered the season finale against Oklahoma knowing it needed a win to claim a share of the Big 12 title, and despite a scrappy first half from the Sooners, K-State put any doubt about whether the Wildcats would be celebrating to rest early in the second half.
A lead that ballooned to 29 midway through the second half proved to be plenty, and the comfortable advantage allowed K-State coach Bruce Weber to give his heralded group of three seniors a curtain call worthy of the moment, which was punctuated by Barry Brown and Dean Wade kissing the hardwood at midcourt before coming out of the game for the final time.
“I just wanted to show my appreciation to Bramlage, honestly,” Brown said of his exit. “The fans, I love everything about K-State. I didn’t know what other way to go out, thanking the crowd and stuff. I just wanted to do something a little extra special.”
K-State’s group of seniors made up the entirety of the double-figure scorers in Saturday’s win, with Kam Stokes scoring 19, Brown adding 15 and Wade chipping in 11.
The three leaders for the Wildcats had a laser focus all day against the Sooners, who struggled to replicate their hot-shooting performance against Kansas earlier in the week.
Once the game was over, K-State could finally exhale as the crowd chanted “Big 12 champions” and the players climbed into the stands to celebrate with the raucous student crowd on hand, despite it being spring break. The celebration continued with a trophy presentation on the court and players and coaches cutting down the nets, which Weber was quick to note was made possible by K-State administrators working to ensure the Wildcats finished the season at home, rather than on the road, as they did the last time they won a conference title in 2012-13.
“Obviously Casey (Scott) knew we didn’t have a home game the last time, and he wanted to make sure it happened,” Weber said. “And it couldn’t have been a better story. To have that group be honored like they were and to win the game like this and to celebrate, it was special.”
With the regular season over, K-State can now shift its focus to the upcoming Big 12 Tournament at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., where they will take the court as the No. 1 seed. Weber said he encouraged the team to not be satisfied with Saturday’s regular-season accolades.
“Coach talked about how we’re going to get a ring eventually, but he talked about now adding to it,” Brown said. “It’s going to say ‘Big 12 Champions’ on the top, but on the side, it could say ‘Big 12 Tournament Champions’ as well, and so on and so forth.
“But there’s more to come. There’s more basketball to be played.”
Brown said the gravity of the situation, playing his final game at Bramlage, didn’t hit him until he saw Weber on the court during the pregame ceremony for Senior Day.
“When I saw coach Weber, because I’m not a crier,” Brown said, “I still didn’t cry, but when I saw coach Weber with tears down his eyes, it kind of just hit me before the game when I was walking over with my family.”
Wade questionable for Big 12 tourney
Weber may have to rethink his approach to the Big 12 Tournament.
His top-seeded Wildcats might be without Wade when they try to add a tournament title to the regular-season trophy they clinched Saturday with their 68-53 victory over Oklahoma.
Weber announced Sunday that the all-Big 12 forward will be listed as questionable for the Wildcats' 1:30 p.m. quarterfinal game Thursday against either TCU or Oklahoma State at Kansas City's Sprint Center.
Wade, who had 11 points, seven rebounds and four assists against OU, reported discomfort to K-State's medical staff and will be treated and evaluated before the next game.
Weber talked Saturday about challenging the Wildcats to add a tournament title inscription to the championship rings they've already earned, but he left himself an out.
"I've got to see how Kam (Stokes) is, I've got to see how Dean is," Weber said. "That will be the determining factor.
"I just every day hope and pray that they (are healthy). We've been able to practice a little bit (lately and) you can see we're a little more efficient."
GateHouse Kansas K-State writer Arne Green contributed to this report.