Marcus Foster on TBT debut: “I had some flashbacks playing at Bramlage”
Koch Arena had morphed into Bramlage Coliseum South, as thousands of Kansas State fans in Wichita roared in an attempt to urge Purple & Black to just one more defensive stop.
The K-State alumni team was poised for the largest Elam Ending comeback in The Basketball Tournament’s three-year history with the experimental rule, as they had dwindled a 14-point deficit to a single point.
But Team Colorado’s Shannon Sharpe drove to the basket and barreled over Marcus Foster, sending the former K-State star to the ground, en route to the game-winning layup in a 96-93 victory in an opening-round TBT game on Friday.
It was a heartbreaking conclusion for Purple & Black, which had reason to believe it could complete the improbable given one more chance with Foster and his game-high 36 points.
“I really thought we had it after (Sharpe) pushes off Marcus and I’m seeing what everyone else is seeing: an offensive charge,” said D.J. Johnson, a former K-State player and Purple & Black player-coach. “They’ve been calling them all game. But we didn’t get it and they made the basket, so it was a little disappointing ending.”
“I knew (Sharpe) was coming right at me, so I felt like it was a charge but I understand how it goes,” Foster said. “It’s tough, but it’s also a little frustrating because I know I could have kept playing defense. Instead, I tried to take the charge.”
It was a stunning ending to a game that appeared over by halftime when Team Colorado ended the first half on an 18-6 charge to establish a 16-point lead. Purple & Black did nothing to inspire confidence in the third quarter or start of the fourth quarter, falling behind by 20 points.
When the Elam Ending target score was set at 95 with Team Colorado leading 87-73 with the ball, Purple & Black’s fate seemed seal. But that wasn’t the case at all in their huddle.
“We kept telling our guys that it’s a long game and actually it’s tougher for the team that is up in the Elam Ending because now they’re thinking about trying to score,” said Purple & Black’s Shane Southwell, who is also K-State’s current player development coach. “You watch TBT games and a lot of teams take hero shots at the end of the game because there’s pressure on you.
“Usually when you’re up 14, you’re just holding the basketball and letting the clock be your friend. It kind of works out for the team that’s losing, especially when you have the firepower like we do.”
Still, a comeback seemed impossible when Team Colorado took a 93-80 lead and needed just two more points to end the game. They nearly ended it the next possession, but Richard Roby (team-high 23 points) missed the back-end of a free throw.
That’s when Foster took over. He started the comeback with a driving layup to trim the deficit to 94-84. He attacked the rim again the next possession for another basket, then Jevon Thomas leaked out on a rebound and Shane Southwell found him for an easy lay-in to trim the deficit to 94-88.
“That’s when I started having some flashbacks to playing at Bramlage,” said Foster, who started his career at K-State from 2013-15 before finishing at Creighton. “I miss how small it was and how packed in it used to be with all of the fan support. I was just glad to be back out there one more time.”
Thriving off the crowd support, Purple & Black kept producing stop after stop. Justin Edwards poked the ball out from Marcus Hall, then ran the floor, spotted up in the corner and swished a three-pointer following a ball reversal.
Suddenly, Purple & Black was within one score.
Roby settled for a three-pointer to try to win the game, but missed to give Purple & Black another chance. At the other end, Foster charged toward the basket and drew a foul call. He made both free throws to trim the deficit to 94-93.
Foster scored 13 of his game-high 36 points during the Elam Ending, as he finished the game 11 of 13 on two-pointers and just 2 of 10 on three-pointers. He also made 8 of 11 free throws.
“I knew I could get going, but I think early on I was settling for threes and jumpers,” Foster said. “I told myself that I needed to try to get layups and attack more and see what I could do from there to help out the team.”
That set up the kind of crucial possession that only the Elam Ending can create: give up a point and Team Colorado walks away with the win; one more stop and Purple & Black would have the opportunity to steal the victory and make TBT history in the process.
With the loudest roars of the night, Purple & Black thought it had its stop when Foster slid in front of Sharpe and fell for what could have been a charge. Instead, Sharpe bounced off him and finished the lay-in at the rim.
“The crowd was awesome man,” Southwell said. “Marcus and Jevon (Thomas), both of them transferred out, but they were both talking about getting that old feeling back. It was great to be back in Kansas, wear the purple once again and play in a big-time atmosphere like this.
“We were just a little too late to the party.”