Kansas State All-American Ayoka Lee to have season-ending surgery

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MANHATTAN, Kan. – All-American forward Ayoka Lee will undergo knee surgery and miss Kansas State’s upcoming season, though Wildcats coach Jeff Mittie said Thursday she intends to take a medical redshirt and return for one more year.

Lee, who has dealt with lingering knee injuries the past two seasons, set a Division I record by scoring 61 points in a game against Oklahoma on Jan. 23.

She went on to average 22.0 points last season, setting the Kansas State school record, while pulling down 10.3 rebounds per game. The Wildcats reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Lee already ranks ninth in school history with 1,661 points, sixth with 887 rebounds and third with 235 blocks.

The 6-foot-6 forward from Byron, Minnesota, graduated in May with a decree in psychology.

Lee said she plans to work on her graduate degree in couples and family therapy while rehabbing from the surgery. The school didn’t specify which knee.

Keyontae Johnson resuming career at Kansas State

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Former Florida forward Keyontae Johnson, who collapsed during a game in December 2020 and hasn’t played since, is headed to Kansas State to resume his college career.

Johnson made the announcement on social media, picking the Wildcats over fellow finalists Memphis, Nebraska, and Western Kentucky. The 23-year-old Norfolk, Virginia, native will have one year of eligibility remaining, although he could petition the NCAA for another.

Johnson graduated from Florida in late April and announced plans to transfer days later. K-State and new coach Jerome Tang hosted Johnson on a recruiting visit in July.

“We are just so excited to welcome Keyontae and his family to K-State,” Tang said in a statement. “He is a gifted player and a winner who brings significant experience to our team after playing in one of the toughest leagues in the country while at Florida. Beyond that, we think Keyontae is just a perfect fit with the guys we already have in the program. We can’t wait to get him to Manhattan and introduce him to Wildcat Nation!”

Johnson has indicated he has received medical clearance to play again, something Florida officials said wasn’t going to happen in Gainesville. Now, he will get a chance to face his former team next season; K-State hosts the Gators on Jan. 28 in the annual SEC-Big 12 Challenge.

The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Johnson could be a potential difference-maker for the Wildcats, who are rebuilding under Tang after finishing 14-17 in coach Bruce Weber’s final year in Manhattan. Johnson averaged 14 points and 7.1 rebounds during his last full season (2019-20) at Florida. He was a first-team, all-Southeastern Conference selection as a sophomore.

He still has a $5 million insurance policy that would pay out if he never plays again. The policy allows him to take part in a handful of games to test his health. If he proceeds beyond the set number of games, any potential payout would be nullified.

Johnson’s insurance policy went into effect five months before he crashed face-first onto the court at Florida State. The Southeastern Conference’s preseason player of the year in 2020 became a trauma patient as he crumpled to the floor seconds after breaking a team huddle in the fourth game of the COVID-19-delayed season.

Johnson received emergency medical attention in front of teammates, opponents and fans before getting rushed to a Tallahassee hospital. He spent 10 nights in hospitals before returning home. But he was never allowed to return to practice with the Gators.

His parents said last year their son’s collapse was not related to a previous positive COVID-19 test, citing a consultation team that included experts from four highly respected schools of medicine. The family has not said what doctors believe caused the episode or whether Johnson has an implantable cardioverter defibrillator.

Johnson spent most of the last two seasons cheering on teammates from the bench as he remained enrolled in school and on scholarship.

He did take the court for a ceremonial few dribbles and a farewell on senior night against Kentucky in early March.

Top-seeded NC State women beat Kansas State, reach Sweet 16

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Wes Moore admitted being a bit nervous for how North Carolina State might manage the emotions of playing for the final time on its home court.

Instead, the top-seeded Wolfpack used the moment to offer one last impressive show to the fans on the way to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16.

Kayla Jones scored 18 points to help top-seeded N.C. State beat Kansas State 89-57 in Monday’s second round, earning a fourth straight trip to the tournament’s second weekend.

Raina Perez and Diamond Johnson each added 15 points for the Wolfpack (31-3), who used a dominating second-quarter performance to earn a 12th straight win. N.C. State shot 55% and made 9 of 19 3-pointers, romping to a 35-point lead at one point in an emotional finale at Reynolds Coliseum.

“I think they just go out and play,” Moore said. “They love playing the game and they play so well together and they just get lost in the moment, and don’t think too much.”

By the end, all 13 players who entered the game for N.C. State had scored. And they spent the minutes following the final horn standing at midcourt to take in the cheers and acknowledge the crowd before heading out to face Notre Dame.

The matchup of Associated Press second-team All-Americans Elissa Cunane of the Wolfpack and Ayoka Lee of the Wildcats never truly materialized due to foul issues. But the Bridgeport Region’s headliner instead showed off its deep roster by getting production off the bench and continuing to roll anyway.

Camille Hobby provided a tough performance off the bench in relief of Cunane, scoring eight first-half points while avoiding picking up cheap fouls defending Lee. And that helped the Wolfpack stay on course, leading to a 12-0 burst that began with Lee on the bench.

“Coach Moore always talks about just being ready,” Hobby said. “I was ready for that moment. At practice, it’s what we do every single day.”

N.C. State ran out to a 31-15 lead on Johnson’s transition 3-pointer followed by Perez’s jumper with 5:29 left before halftime, while Kansas State managed just one basket during a 10-minute stretch. That lead reached 20 before halftime and the ninth-seeded Wildcats never got closer than 13 in the second half.

“I think Wes has got the depth, the offense, to score with anybody in the country,” Kansas State coach Jeff Mittie said.

Freshman Serena Sundell scored 17 points to lead Kansas State, which was trying to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2002. But the Wildcats shot just 39% and made 7 of 25 3-pointers.

The Wildcats scored on three of five possessions to open the game, then hit their long drought after Sundell”s layup for a 7-3 lead.

“We got off to a good start,” Mittie said, “but part of that start, also the pace got away from us a little bit.”

BIG PICTURE

Kansas State: The Wildcats were trying to win multiple games in the same NCAA Tournament for only the third time, the others coming in the Sweet 16 push from two decades ago and an Elite Eight trip in 1982. But they never truly established things with Lee – who scored 61 points earlier this season to set a new NCAA women’s single-game scoring record – and had few defensive answers for the Wolfpack’s flowing attack.

N.C. State: Cunane’s early foul trouble aside, the final home game for the All-American as well as fifth-year seniors Jones, Perez and Kai Crutchfield couldn’t have gone much smoother. That included each getting a curtain-call substitution in the final minutes to rousing cheers and a hug from coach Wes Moore, the last being Crutchfield and Cunane – who had subbed back into the game briefly to get that chance – after Moore called a timeout with 2:03 left.

QUIET IN THE POST

The 6-foot-5 Cunane headed to the bench less than 3 1/2 minutes into the game with her second foul and didn’t play again before the break, finishing with four points in 13 minutes.

The 6-6 Lee needed a little longer to get her second before also taking a seat early at the end of the period. She finished with 12 points, well below her season average of 22.3, despite playing 31 minutes.

Hobby generally did a good job of keeping her off the glass, while Jones and other defenders sagged to help or hovered nearby.

“We knew there would be help,” Lee said. “As a team, it was a matter of where to turn the ball and being on the same page, which I think we struggled. I think we did have some good looks, but it just was hard to get connected.”

UP NEXT

N.C. State’s matchup with Notre Dame on Saturday comes against the only Atlantic Coast Conference opponent to beat the Wolfpack, who went 20-1 against league foes including a three-game run to a third straight ACC Tournament title. The Fighting Irish won 69-66 at home on Feb. 1 in the Wolfpack’s last loss this season.

Bruce Weber resigns as basketball coach at Kansas State

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Bruce Weber resigned as the basketball coach at Kansas State on Thursday, one day after the Wildcats lost to West Virginia in the opening round of the Big 12 Tournament to cap a third straight losing season.

Weber made headlines following the loss to the Mountaineers at T-Mobile Center on Wednesday night when he lambasted the NCAA over its handling of the FBI investigation into college basketball corruption. Weber said he had refused to cut his hair until schools that were identified in the probe were punished, which some took as a swipe at rival Kansas.

“We won titles. We did it the right way,” said Weber, who led the Wildcats to a share of two Big 12 regular-season titles in 10 seasons in Manhattan. “I’m on the NCAA ethics committee. I was told they were going to take care of the people in the FBI stuff, so I told somebody I’m going to grow my hair until something happens. Obviously, it’s still growing.

“That’s the sad part about our business,” Weber added. “Lon Kruger told me the other day, all the guys in the FBI (probe) except one are in the NCAA Tournament. All those teams are going to be in the NCAA Tournament.”

Weber was a largely unpopular pick to replace Frank Martin when he was hired by former athletic director John Currie in 2012, shortly after he was fired by Illinois. Weber was mulling several mid-major jobs when Currie selected him to take over a program that had suddenly shot to national prominence on the back of six straight 20-win seasons.

Weber kept the momentum going for a while, too. He led the Wildcats to a share of the Big 12 title in his first season, made five NCAA Tournaments in his first seven seasons and added a share of another conference title just four years ago.

But the past few years have been a struggle, and all the hard-won support Weber had gained over most of the previous decade simply disappeared. He was forced to completely rebuild the roster after the 2019 season, then struggled to recruit at a level to get the Wildcats back to the point where they were competing for championships.

They went 9-20 last season and 14-17 this season, leaving Weber – who took the Illini to the national championship game in 2005 – with a 184-147 record with the Wildcats. His career mark, including a highly successful run at Southern Illinois that included two NCAA tourney appearances, stands at 407-301 with 13 appearances in the NCAA Tournament.

“I’m very, very proud of my time here,” Weber said Wednesday night. “It was a long, long time that we won a championship and I told the guys, the funny part and the sad part, I didn’t get much credit for that, and they all said it wasn’t my guys, but I would tell you probably the closest group of all of my 40-some years of coaching in that group.

“Then we did it with our guys,” Weber continued. “Whatever happens in the future happens, and that’s fine. K-State is a great place, great people.”

Agbaji passes Chamberlain in No. 5 Kansas win over K-State

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LAWRENCE, Kan. — Ochai Agbaji scored 23 points and passed Wilt Chamberlain on Kansas’ career scoring list, leading the No. 5 Jayhawks to a 102-83 win over Kansas State on Tuesday night.

Agbaji, a 6-foot-5 senior guard, now has 1,444 points in 110 games, 26th on Kansas’ all-time list. He passed Chamberlain with his 13th point of the first half. Chamberlain had 1,433 points in 48 games.

“I didn’t know that,” Agbaji said when asked about his milestone in the postgame. “That’s an honor, big time.”

When told it took Chamberlain just 48 games to reach his total, Agbaji just said, “Oh, wow.”

Danny Manning (2,951 points) is Kansas’ all-time scoring leader.

Christian Braun scored 20 points, Jalen Wilson added 17 and Mitch Lightfoot 13 for Kansas (23-4, 12-2 Big 12), which posted its 16th straight win over K-State at home.

Kansas coach Bill Self was asked if the margin of victory gave his team confidence and momentum.

“I think a win would have given us confidence and momentum,” he said, “but we played pretty well offensively. We were cooking there for a while. K-State played pretty well offensively, too. We couldn’t stop them and they couldn’t stop us.

“It was a good game. The game had more pace to it than probably any game we’ve played this year.”

Kansas is 203-94 all-time against Kansas State. The 203 victories are the most by any school over any opponent in NCAA Division I history. Oregon State’s 193 wins over Oregon ranks second.

Markquis Nowell scored 20 points, Nijel Pack, Selton Miguel and Mike McGuirl each had 13, and Mark Smith added 11 for Kansas State (14-13, 6-9), which finished a point shy of its season high.

“I think K-State did a lot to force the (pace),” Self said. “They did some things we hadn’t seen before.”

Kansas maintained its 1 1/2-game lead in the Big 12 Conference over Baylor and Texas Tech. The Jayhawks will face Baylor on Saturday in Waco, Texas.

Kansas, which had to overcome a 17-point deficit in the second half of their victory in Manhattan in January, didn’t have to mount any comeback Tuesday. The Jayhawks scored the first bucket of the second half and their lead never dipped into single digits.

“It’s always fun to play against them,” Braun said. “We always enjoy the rivalry.”

The Jayhawks’ 102 points matched a season high. They shot 64.1% (41 for 64) from the field.

K-State stayed close early with 3-point shooting, connecting on 3 of 7 early on, including two straight by McGuirl. But Kansas used a quick 6-0 run to take an 18-13 lead.

Kansas gradually pulled away, taking a 10-point lead on a tip by Wilson with 9:02 left in the first half. The Jayhawks’ biggest lead in the first half was 16 points at 46-30, and they led 53-43 at halftime.

Agbaji’s 15 points in the first half led the Jayhawks. K-State was led by Pack and Nowell with 11 points apiece in the opening half.

THE TAKEAWAY

Kansas State: The Wildcats probably need to win three of their next four games to reach the NCAA Tournament. They have home games against Iowa State and Oklahoma, sandwiched around a road game against No. 9 Texas Tech prior to their opening game in the Big 12 Tournament.

Kansas: Bill Self still owns the state of Kansas in basketball. He’s now 39-6 all-time against his rivals from Manhattan, Kansas, including 18-1 in Allen Fieldhouse.

UP NEXT

Kansas State: Hosts Iowa State on Saturday.

Kansas: Travels to Waco, Texas, on Saturday to play No. 10 Baylor.

Lee scores record 61 as K-State women rout No. 14 Oklahoma

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MANHATTAN, Kan.- Ayoka Lee broke the NCAA women’s single-game scoring record for Division I with 61 points to help Kansas State romp to a 94-65 victory over No. 14 Oklahoma on Sunday.

She made 23 of 30 shots from the floor – all 2-pointers – for the Wildcats (15-4, 5-2 Big 12 Conference).

Lee topped the previous record on a layup with 2:53 remaining in the game. Cindy Brown of Long Beach State scored 60 against San Jose State on Feb. 16, 1987 and Rachel Banham had 60 for Minnesota on Feb. 7, 2016 against Northwestern.

“I didn’t come in expecting to break a record,” Lee said. “I think (it was) just sticking to our game plan, running what we needed to run and our guards did amazing.”

Lee had 32 points in the first half to help Kansas State take a 51-27 lead. She surpassed her school-record 43-point effort – set in the first game this season – on a layup with 1:55 left in the third quarter. The bucket gave K-State a 66-49 lead. Lee had 49 points and K-State led 70-51 heading into the final period.

Lee, a junior, had 14 points in the first quarter to stake the Wildcats to a 19-11 lead. She made 15 of 17 foul shots and grabbed 12 rebounds for her 13th double-double of the season. Freshman Serena Sundell pitched in with 11 points, eight assists and five boards.

Taylor Robertson paced the Sooners (16-3, 5-2) with 19 points and Madi Williams scored 11. Robertson and Williams are just one of four tandems averaging better than 18 points per game this season.

The Sooners cracked the Top 15 this week for the first time since Nov. 28, 2016. Oklahoma came in averaging 88.3 points per game, second best in the nation.

Kansas State hits the road to play No. 15 Texas on Wednesday. Oklahoma heads home to host Oklahoma State on Wednesday.