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SLATE: Wake me up when February ends

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It’s been a rough couple weeks in Wildcatland.

NCAA Basketball: Iowa State at Kansas State Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball

The Kansas State baseball team finally has a win on the 2022 season after starting 0-5. A 3-run homer by Dylan Phillips in the third inning on Sunday pushed the Cats ahead for good, and the BatCats finally came alive and put up a few more runs while Blake Coresentino pitched 7 23 innings of scoreless relief to earn the 8-2 victory over CSU Bakersfield to end the series.

But it wasn’t all joy in Bakersfield. On Friday night, the Wildcats scored the go-ahead run in the top of the 9th, only to give up the tying run in the bottom, before getting blanked in the two extra innings to fall 4-3. Starter Blake Adams surrendered just two runs in 7 23 innings, and tossed 12 strikeouts to just two walks and four hits. But Tyson Neighbors had an erratic 9th, and Tyler Ruhl couldn’t get any support of his offense in the extra innings.

Saturday was more of the same, as the Cats were unable to muster any real offense en-route to a 2-1 loss. Conner McCollough went a full six innings and gave up just two runs on five hits with 7 strikeouts. Griffin Hassall prevented any further damage to give the Cats a chance with two clean innings to finish the game. And normally that would be enough, but not when the Cats showed lack of plate and base-running discipline.

The 1-5 Wildcats will get a day off before heading to a different Cal State campus, with an 8pm game against Fullerton on Tuesday. That game will be available on ESPN+ (with hopefully better production than the games in Bakersfield because that crew needs some work).

Basketball

Both basketball games on Saturday were marked by standout performances by Kansans. Just not ones that play for K-State.

In the early afternoon game, the Wildcats looked decent to start, but issues on defense and some struggles with ball handling led to 74-73 loss to the visiting Cyclones. K-State held an early lead, but Caleb Grill (from Maize, KS) got hot from outside and sparked the rest of his squad, and the Cyclones held a slim lead at the break after Nijel Pack fumbled on the final possession. The second half was more of the same, though Iowa State stretched a lead before the Cats reeled them back in, but Grill landed just enough daggers with 18 points on 6-8 shooting from deep to lead his team in scoring off the bench. Nijel Pack again fumbled the ball on the last real possession with K-State down just two, but did hit a shot from just past half-court as the buzzer sounded for his 30th, 31st, and 32nd points of the game, giving him three games this season with 30 or more points (all losses for K-State). The loss drops K-State to 14-13 and 6-10 in Big 12 play, and effectively ends any realist chance at making the NCAA Tournament, and could put question into even earning an NIT bid.

Next up is tonight, as the Cats will head to Lubbock to face a Tech team that in undefeated on the season at home, and coming off an upset loss at TCU on Saturday. This could get ugly.

The women’s game in Norman wasn’t any better for the Wildcats. K-State fell behind early, but a strong 3rd quarter gave them a slim lead that they held off and on to the end of the game, but it was a Taylor Robertson (from McPherson, KS) three-point make as the buzzer sounded that put the Sooners ahead and gave No. 20/19 OU the 72-69 win. Laura Mackie had a career night for the Wildcats with 17 points and four assists, including a late three-point make to give K-State their last lead with 22 seconds left, and Serena Sundell dropped in 24 points in the effort.

But Ayoka Lee was stifled on offense, managing just 13 points after exploding for 61 in the first meeting, and the trio were the only Wildcats in double-figures, with really only four MittieCats contributing to the scoring effort. Lee also grabbed 11 rebounds for yet another double-double, and her 13 points put her at 635 for the season pushing her past Nicole Ohlde’s 625 for most by a Wildcat in their junior season.

Overall, K-State played solid defense, registering 7 blocks and 12 steals en-route to forcing 20 OU turnovers. But in the end, Robertson’s three-point make was all that mattered. With the loss, K-State falls to 18-10 and 8-8 in Big 12 play. The Wildcats will wrap up their 2021-22 home schedule on Wednesday they host West Virginia at 6:30pm CST. Being the last home game, it is of course Senior Night, and K-State will honor its seniors – Cymone Goodrich, Laura Macke, Rachel Ranke and Savannah Simmons – in a postgame ceremony. Wednesday’s game will be broadcast on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.

Tennis

After a hot start to the 2022 slate, the Wildcats have slipped since hitting the road, and have now dropped two straight after getting swept 4-0 at No. 28 Washington on Friday. Next up is a return to the Great Plains, with a trip up to Lincoln on Wednesday to face to Cornhuskers.

Track & Field

It was always going to be a rough finish, but the Cats still managed to secure a few medals in several events at the Big 12 Indoor Track and Field Championships. The K-State men’s team earned a total of 61 points and placed sixth and the women’s team collected 56 points and finished in seventh, which is right at where they were projected headed into the event. Perhaps the only disappointment was also the highlight for the Wildcats, as 5th-year senior Tejaswin Shankar jumped his way to just the runner-up spot in the men’s high jump with a height of 2.20m/7-2.50, with the winner clearing 2.23m. The Wildcats will take a week off before sending a handful of representatives to Birmingham, AL for the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships on March 11 and 12.