The 2009-10 Wildcats will go down as the winningest team in school history with their 29-8 record this season and the postseason run through the NCAA Tournament was one Wildcat fans will not soon forget.
Despite trailing almost the entire game, K-State rallied as Denis Clemente made a three-pointer with 4:49 left to cap an 8-0 run and give the Cats their only lead of the game, 52-51.
Butler’s Gordon Hayward then got fouled going to the hole and made two free throws to take the lead back, and teammate Matt Howard made one more free throw to make it 54-52. Clemente dribbled for a layup to tie the score at 54, and that was the last significant basket the Wildcats would make.
Clemente led the Wildcats with 18 points in his final collegiate game, while Curtis Kelly and Jacob Pullen each had 14. K-State was out-rebounded by Butler, 41-29, while the Bulldogs held the edge at the free throw line as well (14-of-20 to 7-of-14).
Down seven at the half, Clemente hit a free throw and connected on the team’s first three-pointer of the contest to pull within three at 27-24. Two Pullen free throws capped a 6-0 Cat run to open the half before Butler answered with seven straight to go up 34-26. The Bulldog lead would then grow to as many as 10 on two occasions before the Wildcats made their late charge.
Hayward paced Butler with 22 points and nine rebounds en route to Most Outstanding Player honors in the tournament, while Shelvin Mack added 16. Pullen and Clemente were also named to the All-West Region squad.
Butler grabbed the early 10-4 lead in the game as K-State hit just two of its first eight shots from the field. The Bulldogs hustled their way to a 20-10 lead as the Cats connected on just five of their first 20 shots. But, Kelly answered with four straight to pull within six before Butler scored five in a row to go ahead 23-14. Down 27-16, the Cats closed the half with a Luis Colon tip-in and a Clemente layup to get back to within seven at the break, 27-20.
The 20 points were the fewest in a half this season for the Wildcats, while K-State hit on 35 percent of its field goals in the opening 20 minutes. Clemente and Pullen combined for just two points in the first half and K-State was 0-of-4 from the free throw line and committed eight turnovers. Kelly carried the Wildcats in the first half by scoring 12 of the team’s 20 points.