Kayla Goth doesn’t know what to expect from the crowd or the opponent Kansas State will encounter on Sunday.
How could she?
The sophomore guard has never played in front of a sold-out Bramlage Coliseum, nor has she played against a team that has won 83 consecutive games and four straight national championships. A nationally televised game against No. 1 Connecticut at 1 p.m. Sunday will be a new experience for the entire K-State women’s basketball team.
“It is a big game,” Goth said. “You don’t really have a much bigger game unless you are playing in the national championship. We have all been anticipating it.”
So have K-State fans. The Connecticut game was announced as a sellout last week, and the expected crowd of 12,500 will make it the best attended women’s basketball game anywhere to this point in the season. It will be K-State’s largest home crowd since 2012.
There might be enough demand for ticket scalpers.
“When we found out it was sold out, it was shocking,” Goth said, “but also with the fan base we have here, it wasn’t completely unexpected. I have never played in front of a crowd that large. Communication will be key.”
K-State’s hot start has given the game a showdown feel.
The Wildcats are 9-0 with victories over North Carolina State, LSU and Auburn. They are on the verge of breaking into the top 25.
What better opponent to truly test themselves against than Connecticut, the gold standard of the sport?
“It’s going to be a big game and big moment for us,” freshman forward Eternati Willock said. “It’s an opportunity to prove ourselves and show off our skills.”
Or to find out just how far away they truly are from competing for championships.
The Huskies are 8-0 with victories over No. 2 Notre Dame, No. 3 Baylor, No. 7 Florida State, No. 12 Ohio State, No. 16 DePaul and No. 17 Texas. When they play their best, no one can keep up. No one bats an eye when they win by 45.
K-State lost at Connecticut last season 97-57.
“The reality of it is that UConn has been at the top of the game for a long, long time,” K-State coach Jeff Mittie said. “Nobody has been able to beat them in about three years. They bring an impressive streak in here.
“It’s pretty impressive, because they have got a lot of those young players that were freshmen a year ago now assuming the roles of high draft picks.”
K-State counters with an experienced lineup led by Breanna Lewis and Kindred Wesemann.
Mittie agreed to play Connecticut with them in mind. He wanted to give women’s basketball fans in the Sunflower State a unique event, but only with a team he thought he could handle the challenge.
Everything about this game will feel big.
“We have played in front of big crowds,” Mittie said. “South Carolina last year, Baylor certainly, we have had crowds but not 12,500 playing against the No. 1 team in the country. I am sure we will be jacked. I am sure there will be a lot of energy and emotions that come with that. We will have to put that into the defensive end of the floor and play with poise on offense and use it in a positive way.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett
UConn at K-State women
- When: 1 p.m. Sunday
- Where: Bramlage Coliseum, Manhattan
- Records: UConn 8-0, KSU 9-0
- TV: FS1