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SLATE: Kansas State gets up off the mat

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Some sports had great weekends. Others... not so much.

That sudden breeze that washed over Kansas Saturday evening? It was a million exhalations of relief.
That sudden breeze that washed over Kansas Saturday evening? It was a million exhalations of relief.
Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

This was not one of those truly special weekends after which we exult over the awesomeness that is Kansas State athletics. Everything did not, in fact, go right for the Wildcat program.

But enough did to be pretty happy, nonetheless.

The big win, of course, was the men’s 62-54 win over TCU in Fort Worth on Saturday. That ended a 13-game losing streak and allowed the Cats to enjoy the feeling of a win for the first time in 2021. It also meant that Luke Sobba finally got to write a happy recap, as did Kellis Robinett at the Eagle and Ryan Black at the Mercury.

With the win, there’s more worrying about the longest losing streak in school history, or the February curse (K-State’s last win in February was in 2019), and it’s almost implausible that the Wildcats will finish in last place thanks to Iowa State’s even more pronounced ineptitude. There’s still the matter of K-State’s home record this season, and we may be stuck with that agony unless the Iowa State game is in fact rescheduled.

Some thoughts are warranted. As noted in the comments on Saturday, K-State’s schedule in 2021 has actually been pretty brutal, with a streak of 11 straight games against teams which either were ranked at the time or are ranked now. (They get right back to the brutality at home Tuesday against #9/10 Oklahoma). In addition, it’s very much worth noting that many other schools which are freshman-heavy and are normally ranked aren’t — the likes of Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, etc. There’s one other thing K-State has in common with those teams: they’ve all been playing better as the season lurches toward its conclusion.

There’s an obvious takeaway from this; in a year which was partially upended in the preseason thanks to COVID, it’s not just K-State that suffered massive growing pains, and while everyone’s entitled to their opinion of Bruce Weber (including your benevolent despot), this is something which does have to mitigate the criticism somewhat.

The women weren’t so fortunate on Sunday. A look at the box score makes it pretty clear why the Wildcats lost 59-48 at Texas; Ayoka Lee was saddled with foul trouble early and only managed to play 13:22 before fouling out with only five points and four rebounds. Christianna Carr led the Cats with 12, but the Lee-less lineup couldn’t overcome 21 points and 14 rebounds from the Longhorns’ Charli Collier. The ladies will be back home Wednesday to face Texas Tech.

Tennis

Yes, tennis gets the coveted “after basketball” spot this fine Monday, as the ladies had themselves a fantastic weekend at Body First. K-State dropped the doubles point to Wichita State on Friday, but shrugged it off and stormed through the singles to record a 4-1 win. Sunday, they didn’t slip up. K-State took the doubles point and recorded three quick straight-set wins in singles to notch a 4-0 win over Arizona.

The wins push K-State to 4-2 on the season, and they’ll now take a week off before a midweek match on March 3 against SMU. They’re 3-0 against the Mustangs over the last three years.

Track and Field

The Steve Miller Open was held Saturday at Ahearn, and while the guest teams weren’t any real competition and a lot of big Wildcat names either didn’t compete or skipped their primary events, the event did serve as one last chance to tune up and record marks before the Big 12 championships which begin Friday in Lubbock. Aside from graduated Wildcat Lauren Taubert showing up and posting a couple of personal bests as an unattached competitor, the biggest news was Taylor Latimer’s personal best of 16.43m in the women’s shot put. That moved Latimer to the #16 position in Division I on the season.

Baseball

We’re not going to resort to calling it Fortsphere yet. Not after just one weekend which included a win over a ranked team to open the season. But the next two games were... not fun.

We really wanted to blow everyone’s mind with a “K-State beats Gonzaga” headline, but that hope was dashed on Saturday when the Zags crushed the BatCats 17-5. Four of those Wildcats came in the bottom of the third, knotting the game at 4 and giving K-State hope, but Gonzaga put up crooked numbers in four of the final six innings to bury those dreams.

Last night, K-State may have found its #2 starter. Connor McCullough threw a sterling seven innings, allowing only four hits and a lone run on a solo shot by Jared Martin while striking out nine New Mexico Lobos. When he departed, K-State held a 3-1 lead.

The bullpen promptly surrendered it in the bottom of the eighth, and the Lobos broke the tie in walk-off fashion an inning later on an infield single of all things for a 4-3 win. The offense wasn’t helped during the last two innings by throwing away outs on sacrifice bunts; the sacrifice in the ninth was perhaps justified with a mind toward regaining the lead, but it never should have been done in the eighth with a two-run lead, a man on second and nobody out. That’s a situation when you go for broke and try to build a big inning.

Today at 11:00, the Cats will try to get revenge against Gonzaga.

Football

Sports Illustrated offers their scouting report on Harry Trotter; it’s not optimistic.