It’s been 18 months since we’ve seen All-American center Ayoka Lee on the court for the Kansas State Wildcats. A year ago we were bummed that a season with a ton of potential, especially after the addition of star guard Gabby Gregory in the offseason, was derailed after Lee opted to have season-ending knee surgery to finally fix a long-running issue.
But Gregory still led the Cats to a run into the WNIT against a schedule made to showcase Lee against the best. And now Ayoka is set to return along with Gregory and the junior trio of All-Big 12 guard Serena Sundell, and Jaelyn and Brylee Glenn, looking to take the Wildcats on a deep run into the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats are loaded, even before the return of Lee, and return 84% of the scoring from last season, and were picked accordingly by the Big 12 coaches, as they earned a 4th place preseason prediction.
Nothing big to look for tonight. Despite a 20-point performance in the exhibition, expect Lee to still look a bit rusty as she gets back into game action. But this is a matchup, against Presbyterian, that the MittieCats should be able to sleepwalk through, get some action for the younger players, and start the season 1-0.
This evening’s tipoff is at 6:30pm CST from Bramlage Coliseum, and can be seen streaming on Big 12 Now on ESPN+ with Brian Smoller (play-by-play), Kristin Waller (analyst), and Sophie Smith (sideline reporter) on the call. You can also listen to Matt Walters (play-by-play) and Kindred Orpin (analyst) call the action online at K-StateSports.com and via the Varsity Network app, as well as over-the-air in the Manhattan area on Sunny 102.5 FM.
It gets real in a big hurry tonight for Jerome Tang as he opens his second season at the helm of the Wildcats.
The Cats open the 2023 in Las Vegas as part of the Hall of Fame Series Las Vegas. It’s the first time that K-State has opened the season away from Bramlage since 2002, and it will be a chance for K-State to snap a three-game road-opener losing streak that dates to 1994. It will also be just the fourth time that K-State has opened the season against a ranked foe, as tonight’s opponent, USC, starts the season at #21 in the AP poll.
And this will certainly be a huge challenge for the Cats. The Trojans are loaded, featuring a highly-rated recruiting class as well as a bunch of returners of a squad that went 22-11, falling to Michigan State (yeah, the one the Cats beat in the Sweet 16) in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
K-State could win this game, it’s possible. But it’s going to be exceptionally tough, and a great benchmark for the season. If you want a full breakdown, be sure and check out Drew’s preview.
Tonight’s match-up is set for a 9:00pm CST start from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and will be aired on TNT with Spero Dedes (play-by-play), Grant Hill (analyst), and Allie LaForce (sideline reporter) on the call. If you don’t get TNT in your TV/streaming package, you can also catch it streaming on Max. You’ll also be able to hear the game online at K-StateSports.com, plus parts of the K-State Sports Radio Network and on SiriusXM 375 with Wyatt Thompson (play-by-play) and Stan Weber (analyst) calling the action over there.