Survive and advance. Survive and advance.
The Wildcats survived a tough Washing State team in their opening game of the 2022 NCAA Tournament, and advanced to the Round of 32. It’s the 13th time in school history that the Cats have advanced out of the first round of the NCAA Tournament (since the tournament’s creation prior to the 1981-82 season), and the third time in four tries under Jeff Mittie.
They face today a not unfamiliar foe, as the Cats and Wolfpack tangled way back in November, even before the Thanksgiving break. NC State, who has lived in the Top 5 all season, won that game 90-69.
But it was closer than the final score would indicate. K-State and NC State were actually tied 19-19 through the first period. Then Ayoka Lee ran into foul trouble, and sat for several minutes, allowing the Wolfpack to pull out to out to 42-32 halftime lead. The Cats then held basically even after halftime, trailing the Wolfpack 61-50 after three periods. But again, NC State pulled away in the fourth, and, like they had in the 2nd, scored 10 more points than the Cats while Ayoka Lee did her best to not foul out. Lee still managed 19 points and 11 rebounds, but she and Serena Sundell combined for 40 of the Cats 69 points, which was often the result of their doom in conference play (not getting enough contributions from elsewhere).
If the Cats have an advantage today, it’s that they shouldn’t be “scared” of NC State. They’ve played before, and in this gym, so it’s not something they are unfamiliar with or should be fazed by. but to pull off the upset, the Cats need balanced scoring and tough defense. And for Ayoka Lee to avoid foul trouble early.
It’s not likely K-State wins this game, but it should be closer than it was in November.
This afternoon’s NCAA Tournament game from Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, NC tips at 3:00pm CDT and can be seen on ESPN with Sam Ravech (play-by-play) and Kelly Gramlich (analyst) on the call. The game should also be available streaming via ESPN/ESPN+ for those that have that subscription.
If you don’t get ESPN, or can’t access the stream, you can listen to Brian Smoller (play-by-play) and Kristen Waller (analyst) call the game on potentially some of the K-State Sports Radio Network, and also available on XM channel 373 & 380 and online on the The Varsity Network app and at K-StateSports.com.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
Kansas State Wildcats (20-12, 9-9 Big 12)
G: #3 Jaelyn Glenn
G: #4 Serena Sundell
G: #5 Brylee Glenn
G: #24 Emilee Ebert
C: #50 Ayoka Lee
NC State Wolfpack (30-3, 17-1 ACC)
G: #2 Raina Perez
G: #3 Kai Crutchfield
G: #11 Jakia Brown-Turner
G: #25 Kayla Jones
C: #33 Elissa Cunane