The Kansas State Wildcats and Wake Forest Demon Deacons had something to prove on Tuesday night in Dayton.
The Demon Deacons were in their first National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament game since 2010, and the first under former Kansas superstar and NBA Sixth Man of the Year, Danny Manning.
The Wildcats were looking to claim Bruce Weber's first NCAA tournament win in his five seasons at the helm of a Kansas State program constantly overshadowed by the instate rival Kansas Jayhawks.
And while the game went back and forth, with the lights out shooting of the Wildcats going pound for pound with Wake Forest star forward and projected NBA lottery pick John Collins, Kansas State came out the winner, taking the game 95-88.
Now their journey continues, as the 11 seed travels west to Sacramento for their Round of 64 meeting with the Cincinnati Bearcats.
And Wake Forest will return home to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, feeling like too many defensive lapses ended their season earlier than they hoped.
Collins averaged 16.6 points and 8.8 rebounds per game throughout the season for the 19-14 Demon Deacons. A number of projections have Collins going in the top ten of the 2017 NBA Draft.
But in the first half against Kansas State, Collins struggled to make an impact as the Wildcats' gameplan was built around shutting him down in the post.
"Yeah, they were definitely making a concerted effort to try to deny me the ball, try to force me to catch the ball as far away from the post as possible," said Collins. "Obviously, like you said, we got some chances in the second half, but it was definitely an effort on their end to deny me the ball."
However, Collins dominated offensively in the second half, using his length and athleticism to beat Kansas State's D.J. Johnson down low.
"I thought he was much more active in the second half," said Manning on what changed for his star forward in the second half. "D.J. Johnson is a very talented basketball player. He works extremely hard. He has a high motor. And he's very physical and very strong and we wanted John to take advantage of finding open spots, using his athletic ability, using his quickness, beating him to the spot. I thought he did a much better job of that in the second half."
But while Collins picked it up in the second half, so too did the Kansas State shooters, who were lights out down the stretch.
Led by Wesley Iwundu, who had 24 points, and Kamau Stokes, who scored 19 of his 22 points in the second half, the Wildcats surprised even their head coach with their offensive performance.
"I didn't know that we'd get 95," said Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber. "But I thought we'd be able to score. I thought the big key was when we had all the foul trouble, the bench did a great job maintaining and we went in the halftime with a little bit of a margin of a lead there."
Now the Wildcats move on to face the Cincinnati Bearcats, a team known for its defensive intensity.
It will be a battle of contrasting styles. But while on paper they'll be the underdogs, the Wildcats know that if they match their offensive efficiency from Tuesday night, a deep tournament run could be a real possibility.
"We know they're a tough, physical team," said Iwundu about the Wildcats upcoming game against Cincinnati. "They're just like any other team in this tournament, it's going to be a good challenge. You gotta bring your game, once again, night in night out. And we're just ready for any challenge that comes our way. So it will be a pretty good game."
The Wildcats won Weber his first tournament game at the school. Now it's on to the next accomplishment for the coach and his program.