Last week was a tough one for the Kansas State Wildcats.
The two hardest road games left on the schedule at that point, and without the services of Ayoka Lee, resulted in the MittieCats first two losses of 2024, and (a brief) falling out of first place in the Big 12 standings.
But the Cats (20-3, 9-2) have had the last week off, hitting the point of the schedule with their bye week. While Ayoka Lee is still unavailable for at least this weekend, the break hopefully gave the rest of the Wildcats time to heal up and get ready for the final 7-game stretch.
And while the schedule eases up somewhat, it’s still going to be a gauntlet to the finish. And that starts this afternoon, as a scrappy Oklahoma State squad visits Bramlage. The Pokes (11-11, 4-7) won four of their first six to start conference play, but have gone on a 5-game losing streak. On paper, this is a team that K-State should blow out, but they will put enough pressure on the Cats to still be dangerous if K-State doesn’t take this game seriously.
This will be a return home for one of the Cowgirls. K-State grad Emilee Ebert joined the OSU team during the winter break to use her COVID season as a grad transfer.
The Cats, hopefully rested and healed up, just need to play their game — lock down on defense and remain efficient on offense — and K-State can get back on track for a shot at the Big 12 title.
This afternoon’s tipoff is at 4:00pm CT from Bramlage Coliseum, and can be seen on Big 12 Now on ESPN+ with Brian Smoller (play-by-play), Missy Heidrick (analyst), and Hannah Whetstone (sideline) on the call. You can also listen to Matt Walters (play-by-play) and Andria Jones (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’s amazing how much can change in a single night.
The Wildcats still weren’t their best, but they played great defense, grabbed rebounds, and were efficient enough scoring to best in-state rival KU for the second-straight year in Bramlage — just the second time all-time that the Cats have won back-to-back games in Bramlage over the Jayhawks.
Now K-State (15-8, 5-5) will hope that momentum can carry them back out on the road, where they’ve struggled significantly of late, against a good BYU team. It helps that Jerome Tang appears to have finally figured out a rotation that works, and that Tylor Perry appears to finally be playing like the “North Texas Tylor Perry” that made him a hot commodity in the transfer portal. Tang continues to show that the players in his program can actually develop as the season goes along, and have added some key contributors in Dai Dai Ames and Jerrell Colbert from that development. They, like the women, have also had nearly a week off with the game against KU coming on Monday. Hopefully the couple extra days of rest have been beneficial.
And they are going to need it tonight against a Top 25 BYU squad that is 11-2 at home this season and 16-6 overall. However, they are just 4-5 in Big 12 play and both home losses this season have come in Big 12 play. They are also a team that actually matches up well with the Wildcats. They don’t force a lot of turnovers, something K-State has really struggled with all season, and aren’t big inside which should help the Cats generate a few more rebounds. Their offense is reliant shooting a lot of threes, leading the Big 12 in 3pt makes per game (12pg) at just 4th in percentage (36%), so hopefully the Cats are planning to deny outside shots, which they have been decently good at this year.
BYU is a heavy favorite tonight, but this is the kind of game that the Wildcats can win if they play smart on defense and attack the basket on offense — basically how they beat KU on Monday.
This evening’s matchup is scheduled for a 9:00pm CT tip at the Marriott Center in Provo and will be aired on ESPN2 (WatchESPN) with Pete Sousa (play-by-play) and Tim Welsh (analyst) on the call. You’ll also be able to hear the game online at K-StateSports.com (and via the Varsity Network app), 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.