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SLATE: The gap juggernaut rolls on

The MittieCats are still putting up eye-popping defensive stats; plus we officially have a new football assistant coach.

Laila Blair #14 of the Houston Cougars drives to the basket against Ayoka Lee #50 of the Kansas State Wildcats in the second half at Bramlage Coliseum on January 3, 2024 in Manhattan, Kansas.
As was pretty standard Wednesday night, this shot didn’t go in.
Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

Basketball

At this point, it appears that there is not stopping the defensive juggernaut that Kansas State women’s basketball team has become. In game two of the Big 12 slate, the MittieCats turned a close-ish first half into an absolute beating in the second half, as they ran away from Houston with a 78-38 victory on Wednesday night in Bramlage. The Cats offense was a little slow to start, and K-State was up just 29-24 at halftime, but a 22-9 3rd quarter was followed by a 21-5 fourth quarter for the final margin. Yeah, 5 points from Houston in the 4th quarter, and three of those points came at the free throw line — the Cats gave up just one made basket, in the last minute, in the final period. K-State has made a pretty big deal about the “gap” (stacking possessions where the opponent doesn’t score), and had two very sizable gaps in the second half, going on runs of 13-0 and 14-0.

With the win, the Cats improve to 14-1 and 2-0 in Big 12 play. Next up for your #11 Wildcats is a trip to Florida to face new conference mate UCF (9-3, 0-2) on Saturday afternoon at 1pm CT, and you can catch the action on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.

Though it was much, much uglier, the TangCats also needed a second half surge to down Chicago State in their final non-conference tilt of the regular season. K-State (10-3) actually trailed the Cougars (7-13) at halftime, but managed to bounce back with an 11-2 run to open the second period before hanging on for a 62-55 victory. Cam Carter led the Cats with 19 points, and did a little bit of everything for K-State with 7 rebounds, 4 steals, and 3 assists to go with his scoring effort. Arthur Kaluma grabbed his sixth career double-double, including his third as a Wildcat, with 14 points and a season high-tying 13 rebounds, and David N’Guessan just missed out on a double double (again) with 12 points and nine rebounds.

It doesn’t get any easier from here on, as we are now fully in Big 12 action until mid-March (assuming the Cats can pull it together enough to earn the right to play games beyond the conference tournament). While the women are in Orlando, the men will be hosting UCF in Manhattan later on Saturday afternoon. The Knights (9-3) have losses to Miami, Stetson, and Ole Miss, with the last two losses coming in Orlando. This will be the Knights first trip outside the state of Florida this season, and they’ve played just three games away from their home gym. That game with be on ESPN2 at 5pm CT.

Included in “it doesn’t get easier” is also the news that guard Ques Glover, who was expected to be a significant contributor, will be out for even longer than expected, and might even miss the whole season, after re-aggravating a knee injury just a few days after being cleared for action. The K-State staff had tried to play it safe, and in the end it didn’t seem to matter. Glover was seen with crutches during K-State’s win over Chicago State, which is never a good sign for a quick recovery.

Football

K-State announced the official promotion of Conor Riley to offensive coordinator, as well as the addition of Matt Wells as co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach/associate head coach. Riley has been with K-State since following Chris Klieman from North Dakota State in late 2018, and was the interim coordinator for the Wildcats’ Pop Tarts Bowl victory over NC State. He will retain his o-line responsibilities, while overseeing the whole direction of the offense.

Wells comes to K-State after spending the last two season as a analyst at Oklahoma, following his brief stint as head coach at Texas Tech. But his real accolades come from his six year run as the head coach at Utah State where he tutored Green Bay starting QB Jordan Love. Wells was considered as an option at the end 2021 for the OC role after he was released from Tech, but Collin Klein knocked his own audition out of the park before being promoted after K-State’s Texas Bowl victory over LSU.

The announcement of Wells as QB coach also gave the opening for offensive analyst (and QB assistant) Josh Buford to follow Collin Klien to Texas A&M. Buford joined K-State after Klein got the top gig and primarily focused on helping the QB room. Buford coached the QBs through the bowl game, but was (obviously) not promoted to the full role.

Will Howard has announced his final collegiate stop, committing to Ohio State for his final season of eligibility. Howard left K-State after setting both the career and single-season school passing TD marks, supplanting Josh Freeman atop the career list and Ell Roberson’s 2003 season for the other. Best of luck, Will; just remember to say “Kansas State” or “K-State” when you announce your name for NFL games!