And I got to write about it!
The reason I am writing today, though, is to tell you about how excited it made me feel to watch such a beautiful game played with such artistic resilience, by both teams, especially K-State. :).
When Kansas State University’s women’s basketball team played undefeated Connecticut earlier this season, they started slow and ultimately couldn’t overcome it. They showed grit in that game, dancer-like determination as they fought back from 25-8 at the end of the first quarter to bring the game to just 11 points later on, but the prospect of an upset never to me seemed realistic after the first quarter. UConn was just too good to give their lead up, and they’ve proven it since, extending their record-setting winning streak to 101 games.
That was a heck of an atmosphere, one I’ll never forget. Bramlage Coliseum, with its 12,528 seats, was completely sold out. Every seat was spoken for, if not actually filled. Friends of mine in the pep-band told me leading up to the game that the band was receiving instructions to be as big as needed to be strong, but to be aware that space would be limited.
Tuesday’s crowd was less-impressive than the one against UConn, 4,377 according to ESPN. The grit shown by the team, however, was not.
If you ever have followed sports for an entire season, regardless of the sport, you can appreciate the value of finishing a season strong. Teams can start rough, but if they finish the season on a winning-streak than they can set themselves up to place well in the standings and enter the playoffs/tournaments feeling confident.
This fundamental truth to competition applies regardless of sport or athletic endeavor. A competitive runner almost-never hears their coach or trainer emphasize starting strong over finishing strong. That doesn’t mean they don’t try to start strong, but they know a powerful push at the end of the race is both the most difficult and most effective way to leave the course, with confidence that you can close the show even if you’re tired.
That applies to dancers too, who try to perform perfectly always but who dream not of opening the show but of closing it. There’s an old sports proverb (from the movie “The Replacements”) that says “Champions always want the ball in their hands at the end of the game.” The same is true for all athletes and performers.
While Tuesday night’s game was not the end of the season for the Wildcats, it was a strong showing by a team which has had its ups and downs this season. Sure, prior to Tuesday’s win they had beaten the No. 12 team in the country in West Virginia, but hindsight is 20-20 and we know now, with just three games left in the regular season, that West Virginia was probably not nearly as good as the No. 12 ranking suggested. They have long-since dropped out of the top-25 altogether.
Oklahoma was a very different story though, and K-State beat them.
The Sooners have lost seven games this season, but only three of those have been to unranked teams (unless you count West Virginia on the grounds of my argument above, who was ranked when they beat Oklahoma last calendar-year but no longer are). K-State was the most recent, but they hadn’t lost to an unranked team since before calendar-2017 started, going 11-3 in that time. They’d lost to Baylor, and Texas, the only two teams ahead of them in the Big 12 conference standings, and to West Virginia, but that was it.
So what the Wildcats did Tuesday night was big. The Wildcats, who have had a much rougher season, ended up busting out to a lead against a much-higher ranked team that was on a five-game winning streak and was playing good basketball at the end of the season.
And despite a furious comeback by the Sooners, the Wildcats held on.
Tuesday’s game likely won’t mean anything to the conference standings, but it should mean a lot to those in purple who were there: both to the fans who watched it, and to the women who played in it.