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March 14, 2017

Wesley Iwundu

D.J. Johnson

Bruce Weber

Dayton, Ohio

Kansas State - 95, Wake Forest - 88

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by K-State coach Bruce Weber and student-athletes D.J. Johnson and Wesley Iwundu.

COACH WEBER: I think we believed we could win, I'm not sure anyone else did. I know we talked a lot about nationwide, the networks, everybody had them moving on. We felt if we guarded and took care of the ball and moved the basketball we'd be able to score.

I didn't know that we'd get 95. 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.

And then the second half Kamau Stokes settled down, made some big shots. Wes was big time the entire time.

When we were able to get to D.J., you know, he played well. D.J., 18; Wes, 24; and Kamau, 22.

So and then even Barry made big shots. But I thought the bench was important. And then I thought start of the second half we were good. They got us a few times, and then we had a great stretch of defense. We talked about it at those timeouts around five, six minutes. We couldn't break down defensively. And I thought we had enough stops there, came down and made some plays and found a way to win.

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.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.

Q. Wes, you just seemed to have a drive and determination. Do you feel like you were just kind of willing this team to win?
WESLEY IWUNDU: Oh, yeah, for sure. At this time of the season, it's March, good players got to step up and make plays. And I took it upon myself. D.J., Kamau, there's a lot of versatility in this game from all the players. We all contributed to this win. But you know, good players step up and make plays and that was the case here.

Q. This is for D.J., how were you so successful in the paint as a team?
D.J. JOHNSON: Just guys looking to get the ball in the post. They do a good job with spacing it out. And I thought I did an all right job with sealing my man for the most part.

Q. Wesley, just four days ago you guys had a late lead against West Virginia and you kind of crumbled down the stretch. This time, though, you held on to the lead. What did you do different in this one that you didn't do against West Virginia?
WESLEY IWUNDU: I think in the second half we did a better job of executing. Guys stepped up, made big plays down the stretch. We kind of got stagnant a little bit, but Kamau hit, like, three big 3-pointers. I took a few. D.J. hit some good layups. And I think it just helped us, man, keeping the lead and just staying, you know, with it. We did a pretty good job of it in the second half.

Q. For you players, did you feel like things kind of changed after that flagrant foul was called, when the kid reached out grabbed the foot? Did you feel a momentum there because it was still a pretty good basketball them?
WESLEY IWUNDU: Credit to the refs for taking that time and making that call. We don't make the decision on that type of thing. They seen something we didn't.

They did a good job of handling that. You could say what you want about it, but we just stepped up and made plays, and that was the difference in the game right there.

D.J. JOHNSON: Same. I thought maybe we lost a little momentum just because they took a while looking at the film and everything. But still it was a close game. And I thought we came out, even though momentum died a little bit, and we handled business and made free throws down the stretch.

Q. D.J., you guys were getting a lot of fouls up and down the lineup. You guys looked a little frustrated. How did you fight through that and try to keep your composure and persevere through it?
D.J. JOHNSON: Just keeping my hands off my guy. He's a very good guy. He got a quick one on me within the first two or three minutes, so I knew how they were going to call the game. So I just adjusted and encouraged my guys to adjust to it as well.

Q. D.J., John Collins kind of had a rough first half. You did a good job containing him, but the second half he came alive, I guess, I would say. What was he doing different on you?
D.J. JOHNSON: Honestly, the first two or three minutes, I was a little sluggish and he got three quick baskets. Everything else looked like it was from the free-throw line. He got me once on the dunk. We laughed about it going down the court. He's a great player.

Q. Wes, did you say anything to Kamau at halftime or second half to kind of pick him up, because he really turned things around the second half?
WESLEY IWUNDU: I think he just needed to shake off his jitters, first NCAA Tournament game. It's normal for a player like that in the first NCAA Tournament game to have some jitters. But in the second half he got back to doing what he do best, hit some big shots, ran the team, found some guys on the offensive end. So it was good to see him get back to himself and helped us out a lot.

Q. Do either of you guys know much about Cincinnati?
WESLEY IWUNDU: We know they're a tough, physical team. 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.

D.J. JOHNSON: No, but we're going to get real familiar with them.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach.

Q. Bruce, you said in the opening statement you didn't know if you would score 95. Had there been any signs that you had seen that this offense might be capable turning the corner doing something like you did tonight?
COACH WEBER: Well, you know if you really followed us closely, we scored points early. And when D.J. went down and Kam hurt his toe we kind of got stagnant. We didn't make -- we didn't have D.J.'s inside presence. Kam was our best 3-point shooter. There's a stretch of five, six games where how do you shoot the basketball?

You've got to put two feet on the ground. You've got to put your toe to pivot. When you have a turf toe you can't make them.

Finally he's back going, D.J.'s back going. When we watched film we really felt like they're a great offensive team but we thought we could score. And we thought if we could move the basketball, I thought one of the keys, I told Westwood One, or whatever it's called, the radio, I told them points in the paint and assists.

We had 18 assists and we won the battle of points in the paint. And I didn't think we would win by that much of a margin because John's a really good player.

But we've scored -- go back to our Kansas game at Kansas, I don't know what that final was, 92-88 or 90-88 or something like that. So we scored some points.

Our league is very physical. We have to play everyone twice. We had to play West Virginia, Baylor three times. You know everything about them. You take it away, it becomes a slug match. Now you're playing somebody new and maybe you can get some of the little looks that you haven't gotten in probably like the last six weeks.

Q. I wonder if you heard the chants of your name coming off the court and from fans and just your sense of accomplishment in winning this first NCAA game at K-State?
COACH WEBER: I'm just happy for our guys. It's just great for them. Like I said earlier, they persevered. We had a lot of things happen from injuries to tough losses, to heartbreaking losses to questionable calls that ended games, and all that stuff. And they stuck with it.

And they believed in us. And we believed in them. And they came through. And so I'm just happy for them. For D.J. to come back after 16 months of not playing basketball and do something like this, and he broke his foot in an NCAA game against Kentucky, to come back and have this opportunity it's a thrill for him.

And for Wes, I talked about one group went this way off the beaten path and did things that they shouldn't be doing, and Wes stayed with us and stayed on the straight path.

Again, to have him -- look at that line, 24, 6, 7. It's big time. And even Carlbe Ervin, he's almost been my positive force. Every day he would text me, Coach, we're going to get you in the NCAA. We're going to get in the NCAA.

And Carlbe in the first half, he gets rebounds. He plays hard. He made plays. You know, you feel really good for those guys, and even the other two walk-ons. So I'm just happy -- Austin Budke and Zach -- just great kids and they deserve it, and I couldn't be more prouder of the group.

Q. What did you sense from Kamau's turnaround in the second half? Was he nervous in the first half?
COACH WEBER: I think he was trying to do too much. You know, you make one mistake -- and he has a tendency, he's got that little competitive fire in him. And he'll make one mistake and then he tries to go to make a big play.

And we just told him at halftime settle down, let things come. You've got to roll on a couple of those 3s, started feeling good. Then he started making some plays. And he hasn't shot the ball from 3 very well the last, whatever it is seven, eight games. I think it was 20 percent or something like that.

So for him to get loose, that definitely helps. And you look at -- we're 66 percent field goal. I don't know if that's a record, but that's pretty good for any game, especially in an NCAA game on a neutral court.

Q. Since the First Four was created, every year without exception, one of the at-large winners two days later has gone on to upset somebody. Does the experience of going through this, can it mean something in getting you settled in the tournament?
COACH WEBER: I started talking to our guys about it about three weeks ago. And I told them -- I told them the VCU story and Coach Smart, and if I remember right they didn't even meet for the Selection Sunday. And then they got in and they won and then they kept going, went all the way to the Final Four. I brought that up several weeks ago.

And after we lost to West Virginia I said, guys, if we get -- I told them it was an advantage. We got beat by LaSalle who came through here, and we were the Big 12 champs. And they came to Kansas City. You would think everything was on our side and they just -- they shot lights out.

So I'm telling them it's an advantage. Right now we've got to get back there. They've got us flying at like 9:00 in the morning to Sacramento. So we've got a long day ahead of us.

We've just got to stay positive. D.J. said, well, Coach Frazier has already started to scout. By tomorrow afternoon we've got to have a good game plan and start, and probably have an hour just on the court talking, get a good dinner, get a good rest. I don't know what time we play Friday, but we'll make it a go.

I know Cincinnati is really good, really tough. I've watched them, and them and SMU really dominated that league.

We've played West Virginia. We've played physical teams. We've played teams that go up and down, Kansas. So we can adjust. And it won't be easy but I know our guys will come ready to play.

Q. Just along the same lines, what I asked Wesley, what do you think it says about the players that they were able to fight through all that late rally by Wake Forest and send them off?
COACH WEBER: I think the one thing I talked about at five-, six-minute mark West Virginia, just like you said it. We broke down defensively. And I said, we got bad body language.

We got tentative on offense. I said we cannot do that. We've been through it. All these lessons and close games and competition we've gone about against in our league, learn from it. Now we've got to keep our body language -- let them be the ones to make a mistake.

They took a quick 3. I thought that helped us. They had another play in those two, three plays. We came down and executed, made shots, made plays, got D.J. for a couple of layups.

Hopefully when I said they listened, I don't know, they didn't bring it up. But it was one thing we definitely talked about -- keep your body language, keep your head up, finish the game, execute. We've been through so many of these, and I, just like I said, I'm happy for them.


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