While students were on break, three Kansas State sports teams were busy at work. The football team wrapped up their season at the bowl game in Texas, the men’s basketball team started off Big 12 play with some controversy and the women’s basketball team played their way into the top 25.
The Wildcats went to Houston, Texas, in late December to take on an old Big 12 foe, Texas A&M. K-State finished off their regular season strong, but were still underdogs heading into the Texas Bowl. Texas A&M was the bigger and faster team and featured probable top draft pick, junior defensive end Myles Garrett.
However, K-State came ready to play and dispatched the Aggies with the help of some uncharacteristically big plays. In the first quarter, junior quarterback Jesse Ertz connected with sophomore wide receiver Byron Pringle for a 78-yard touchdown pass; it was the second longest pass play in K-State bowl history. Then, in the second quarter, K-State hit pay-dirt again as sophomore wide receiver Dominique Heath ran for a 52-yard touchdown, good for the longest run in K-State bowl history.
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The game eventually came down to a fourth-and-eight at the K-State 23-yard line with just over two minutes remaining. Texas A&M needed to convert to stay alive, but the Wildcats clamped down on defense and Texas A&M’s pass fell to the ground, sealing the 33-28 win for the Wildcats.
The victory was the fifth win of the season against a Texas school for K-State. The Wildcats beat Baylor, TCU, Texas and Texas Tech during the regular season; the victory against Texas A&M completed the Texas sweep and K-State fans showed their pleasure. “We own Texas” echoed throughout the stadium in the game’s final seconds.
After the game, head coach Bill Snyder received a confetti bath instead of a Gatorade bath, Ertz was named the game’s MVP and the team received their Texas Bowl trophy.
“I think it’s the perfect ending for this team,” senior safety Dante Barnett said after the game. “With all we’ve been through with last season and starting off this season (and) the fight that this team had, it was the perfect way to end the season.”
On the court there has been no shortage of drama for the men’s basketball team. But things didn’t start that way. The Wildcats ended their non-conference schedule strong, with victories over Colorado State and Gardner-Webb and started off Big 12 play with an easy victory over Texas.
Then, the Wildcats headed to Lawrence, Kansas, to take on Kansas in another edition of the Sunflower Showdown. The game was a nail-biter. With less than a minute left, the game was tied and the Wildcats had a chance at victory. Sophomore forward Dean Wade missed an open shot and the ball was fumbled out of bounds, giving Kansas a chance to score before the clock expired.
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Junior guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk then drove down the court and made a game-winning layup right before the final buzzer. Mykhailiuk traveled on the final play, but the referees didn’t make the call and the Wildcats left with a loss.
“I saw. I thought a call was going to be made but it wasn’t,” senior forward D.J. Johnson said.
K-State rebounded from the tough loss with a win over Oklahoma and entered the AP top 25 for the first time since 2014 at No. 25, but has since dropped two straight games to Texas Tech and No. 1 Baylor. K-State now sits at 13-4 and 2-3 in the Big 12.
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The Wildcats will try to get back on track, but that will be no easy task with a tough slate ahead. Three out of the next four games are on the road and their one home game is against a very good West Virginia team.
The women’s basketball team didn’t finish off the year and start the new one how they would’ve liked. After a big win over Princeton, the Wildcats dropped their next two games against Northern Iowa and Baylor.
They bounced back nicely with a win over No. 12 West Virginia but then dropped the next game to Oklahoma.
However, the Wildcats have turned it on since losing that game. They have won three straight games since then, including a win over rival Kansas in the Sunflower Showdown. K-State has not lost to Kansas since head coach Jeff Mittie took over.
People are starting to take notice of the Wildcats’ success. K-State first entered the AP top 25 on Dec. 19, dropped out the next week after the loss to Northern Iowa, but returned the next week and has stayed there since. They are now up to No. 22 and will have an opportunity to move up even more as their next two games are against two of the Big 12’s worst teams, TCU and Iowa State.