Did Kansas State women's basketball peak too soon?

The Wildcats went from unranked to No. 2 midway through the season, but did they peak too soon?
Kansas State junior guard Serena Sundell (4) grabs a rebound in the first half of the Sunflower Showdown.
Kansas State junior guard Serena Sundell (4) grabs a rebound in the first half of the Sunflower Showdown. / Evert Nelson/The Capital-Journal / USA

Kansas State women's basketball had just beaten No. 10 Texas and everything seemed to be rolling for the Wildcats. Then everything changes. K-State lost their leading scorer Ayoka Lee to an ankle injury that was going to sideline her for four weeks. The Wildcats were going to have to change their game.

After Lee's injury, K-State was able to keep things rolling with a forfeit win over TCU, and a Sunflower Showdown win over Kansas at home. The first true test without Lee was upon this team, they were about to take on No. 12 Baylor in Waco. It was a close game, but the Wildcats' stellar defense, which was the cornerstone of this team all season long, helped them get the win. That defense is most famously known by their "gap goat" which comes out every time Kansas State gets three stops in a row.

Then came January 30 and a matchup against Oklahoma was on the slate. The Wildcats were on a 14-game win streak and undefeated in the Big 12. Oklahoma was hungry for the upset win over No. 2 Kansas State. This ranking tied for the highest ranking in Kansas State women's basketball history.

The Wildcats dropped the midweek games against Oklahoma, their first loss without Lee, and their remaining schedule did not let up. The Wildcats then had to travel to Austin and take on No. 12 Texas and K-State suffered their second straight loss and this was the beginning of the downfall.

The good news after the Texas game was that the Wildcats were heading home to take on Oklahoma State and Bramlage Coliseum was the best place for the Wildcats to get back on track. Behind junior Serena Sundell, the wildcats were able to scratch out a win and get back on track, or so they thought.

All seemed great for Kansas State, Lee was returning from her ankle injury and this team could truly get back on track. March Madness projections were starting to come out and the Wildcats were favored to be a host region.

Then on Valentine's Day, Lee returned to the court, but was going to be limited. Well, that did not last long as K-State went to double overtime against Iowa State in Ames where they dropped a tough one to mark their third Big 12 loss of the season.

Looking at the schedule, Kansas State had a favorable game geared up for them against a struggling UCF at home. The Wildcats were able to put the Knights away at the beginning of Big 12 play in Orlando, so this game seemed to be just was K-State needed. Even though they were without Lee again due to an injury to her other ankle, it came down to the wire, and took a buzzer-beater layup for the Wildcats to put this game away.

It was clear something wasn't working for this team. Head coach Jeff Mittie talks about how he was glad to get the win, but he can't be happy with how his team played. The Wildcats had yet another tough matchup ahead of them as they were getting ready to welcome No. 22, West Virginia. It was a hard-fought game that the Mountaineers took to overtime, but the Wildcats were able to pull together and come away with the win.

Now it is the beginning of March and the Wildcats are coming off a tough loss to their rival the Kansas Jayhawks and now the top 16 seeds for the NCAA Tournament have been revealed, and Kansas State is not one of them. So to answer the question of if the Wildcats peaked too soon, I think my answer would have to be yes.

It was tough when Lee went down, but since that injury, this team has not been able to play cohesively like they did before her injury. Do I think they can pull it together? Also yes, we have seen this team be elite and they may just need that win or go home fire in order to snap them back into the team they were earlier this season.

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