Kansas St. 59, Vermont 57

Thursday, March 15th 2007, 8:06 am
By: News On 6

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) _ David Hoskins drove for the go-ahead bucket with 33 seconds left, but Akeem Wright got the game ball from coach Bob Huggins for Kansas State's 59-57 victory over Vermont on Wednesday night in the NIT.

Scoreless the first half, Wright had 12 points in the second half and played great defense on Vermont's Mike Trimboli, holding him to five points on 2-of-14 shooting.

``Akeem was fantastic. Akeem was very, very good at both ends of the floor for us,'' Huggins said. ``It's nice that we can shoot it as poorly as we shot it and still be able to win. (Akeem) was without question the MVP of the game.''

Vermont led 51-39 with about 10:30 left after trailing by as many as eight in the first half. But the Catamounts missed eight shots and had three turnovers in the final 5:09, allowing Kansas State to go on a 9-0 run.

The Wildcats will play a second-round game at home on Monday night against DePaul, which beat Hofstra 83-71.

``My goal for these guys from day one is I want them to be remembered as the people that got this thing going, the people who turned K-State basketball around,'' said Huggins, who in his first season took the Wildcats to their first postseason since 1999.

``For us to have the year we had, and then turn around and lose in the first round of the NIT, that's hard. That's not the way they want to go out. That's not the way they want to be remembered.''

Kansas State (23-11) went 5:41 without a field goal early in the second half while the Catamounts (25-8) began getting inside for easy buckets. A 3-pointer by Kyle Cieplicki followed by a layup from Chris Holm put Vermont on top 51-39.

After Blake Young tied it at 55 with a pair of free throws, the Catamounts inbounded the ball with 51 seconds to go. But Holm lost the ball in traffic and Hoskins connected on the other end.

Martin Klimes led Vermont with 16 points, while Cartier Martin had 19 and Hoskins 13 for Kansas State.

``I think the crowd really hurt us,'' said Vermont coach Mike Lonergan. ``I think it's a classy crowd, too. I've never had a crowd cheer for me after the game like that. That was pretty classy. It was so loud that our players couldn't hear the bench and couldn't hear us trying to get the timeout against the trap.''

Kansas State, furious at being snubbed by the NCAA tournament, seemed destined to go out in the first round. But suddenly the Catamounts, whose rebound margin of 9.7 was tops in nation, reverted to the shooting form they had early in the game when they missed 13 of their first 16 shots.

Martin, after Cieplicki went to the bench with his fourth foul, sank a pair of free throws after the Wildcats had missed six of seven, then Wright connected for two quick buckets.

Klimes got inside for an easy bucket that made it 57-50 with about 5 minutes left, but that would be the final points for Vermont, which had won 22 of its last 24 games and tied the school record with 25 victories.

In his final game for the Catamounts, Holm had 10 points and 14 boards, boosting his school single-season record to 401 rebounds.

Huggins sparked the crowd to a deafening roar late in the second half when Martin got called for an offensive foul while driving into the lane with Vermont leading 57-53.

Screaming, ``Awful, awful,'' Huggins walked almost to the free throw lane and then stood silent for about 20 seconds, giving the official who made the call an icy stare as the coliseum thundered with a chorus of boos.

``I knew we weren't going to let up and quit,'' Wright said. ``We had some great shots, but we just didn't make any. We just needed to step our intensity up on defense. We pressed a little bit and made these guys play fast and forced some turnovers.''