MANHATTAN — Xavier Sneed enjoyed a senior moment, and he took the Kansas State Wildcats along for the ride.
Sneed celebrated senior day with a career-high 31 points — he eclipsed his previous high of 23 by halftime — and the Wildcats broke a 10-game losing streak with a 79-63 victory over Iowa State on Saturday at Bramlage Coliseum.
It was a special ending to what had been a trying regular season for Sneed and K-State, which finished at 10-21 overall and 3-15 in the Big 12 heading into the conference tournament this week in Kansas City, Mo.
As he left the Bramlage court for the final time to a rousing ovation with 1 minute, 40 seconds left, Sneed first dropped to his knees at center court, tapped the floor several times and kissed the Powercat logo.
"I just reflected about everything that I've been through and the banners that we have put up there — I was looking up at those, and it just meant a lot to me," Sneed said. "It was a surreal moment."
Perhaps not as surreal as Sneed's first half, in which he scored 26 points on 8-of-11 shooting with four 3-pointers in leading K-State to a commanding 41-23 advantage at the break.
"I just had a good feel out there. I was red-hot today," Sneed said. "I had a good feel for it all, had a good shootaround this morning and last night, so I had to go out at Bramlage in the right way."
His first 3-pointer, from long distance, gave K-State the lead for good and served notice that Sneed was in for a good day.
"The first one was a bomb," K-State coach Bruce Weber said.
Fellow senior Pierson McAtee, a former walk-on who made his first career start in his final home game, agreed.
"I knew it was over after you hit that one. They were going up," McAtee said with a smile.
McAtee also had a memorable day, opening the game with a dunk off a nifty pass from senior forward Makol Mawien and tying a career high with six points while breaking his career best in rebounds with a team-high five.
Credit freshman guard DaJuan Gordon for making McAtee's starting assignment possible.
"First I've got to compliment DaJuan for his text message, just as a freshman to say, hey, 'Pierson should start for me,' and it's unbelievable," Weber said. "It shows his character, his selflessness, shows how much cares and respects Pierson.
"That was really important and Pierson obviously did some really good things for us, so that was positive too. For him, he took advantage of his opportunity, too."
McAtee, who has appeared in 19 games this season, appreciated the gesture.
"It's just a true testament to who DaJuan is as a person. I had no idea that he was going to do that," McAtee said. "He showed me a text that he'd sent to coach.
"He said, 'I'm going to help you out,' and I said we're just going to win this game and then that will be really special."
K-State honored its three seniors — Sneed, McAtee and Mawien — in a pregame ceremony. Mawien, who started every game in his three seasons with the Wildcats, was limited to 15 minutes, fouling out with one point and three rebounds.
In addition to Sneed, K-State got 14 points and five assists from Cartier Diarra and 10 points from Mike McGuirl.
Solomon Young led Iowa State (12-19, 5-13) with 17 points, while Terrence Lewis had 11 and Michael Jacobson nine, plus 11 rebounds. Iowa State outrebounded K-State 24-10 in the second half to finish with a 37-28 advantage of the boards, but still couldn't make a dent in the Wildcats' 18-point halftime lead.
The victory was the first for K-State since they beat Oklahoma at home, 61-53, on Jan. 29.
"It definitely means something for us right now, just to get one back in the winning column to get some momentum going," Sneed said. "The good energy and positive vibe we have in the locker room now, today, keep that going right now for us and hopefully we can get four in a row."
K-State is the No. 10 seed for the Big 12 Tournament and will face No. 7 TCU in Wednesday's 8 p.m. game. The Wildcats would need to win four games in as many days to extend their season.