Season in Review- Kansas State Edged by Vanderbilt

March has never been a kind month to the Kansas State Wildcats. The tales of misfortune began in March 2003 when K-State was practically gift-wrapped a Sweet 16 repeat hosting Notre Dame in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats failed to defend their home floor and suffered an unexpected, painful defeat.

One year later the two-seeded Wildcats, by some sadistic selection committee decision, were sent to Minneapolis to face the seven-seeded Minnesota Golden Gophers. Yet again, K-State returned to Manhattan, four games too early.

In spite of two consecutive second round losses, March 12, 2005 may be remembered as the most devastating loss that K-State has ever endured. No it wasn't losing to Baylor in the Big 12 championship game. It was No. 34, the all-time assist leader, collapsing to the floor and being the one assisted off of the court.

"I'm not sure what happened," said senior Megan Mahoney, who suffered a collegiate career-ending ruptured left Achilles tendon. "I went up for the rebound. It felt like someone kicked me really hard in the back of the calf. It was instant pain and I just felt it go limp."

Mahoney was the Brett Favre or the Cal Ripken Jr. of the Wildcats. The iron-woman started 129 consecutive games and was averaging nearly ten points, six rebounds and four assists a game.

With Mahoney out, the Kansas State backcourt is presented with a newfound sense of accountability.

"A lot of responsibility has fallen on the perimeter players' shoulders," sophomore guard Twiggy McIntyre said. "We lost a Megan Mahoney. That means we lost rebounds, we lost points, we lost assists."

Statistically speaking, K-State is capable of filling in the missing numbers. McIntyre proved to be a qualified point guard coming off of the bench and dropping a team-high 19 points and senior Brie Madden grabbed ten rebounds, scored 14 points and dished out six assists against Texas in the semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament one week ago.

However, Mahoney brought more to the hardwood than numbers. She was a floor leader and one heck of a defender.

"We have to have someone that's ready and willing to communicate on both ends of the floor," senior Kendra Wecker said. "She (Mahoney) also covered a lot of people's butts on defense. Coach P (Patterson) said numerous times, ‘There's Megan, guarding three people.'

"Players have to bring intensity and that desire and the mindset of ‘It's my time to step up and play.' And hopefully we have a couple players that are more willing to do that."

If the 17-point comeback win over Texas won't serve as a suitable example of players stepping up, then flashback to the three week span when K-State's All-American sat on the sideline.

Imagine having to make up the statistical difference with Wecker out.

She was averaging 21 points and eight rebounds in the first five games of the season.

Even more so, imagine the pressure her teammates must have felt to fill the void.

Kansas State responded positively, though, and demonstrated that its' success as a team was dependent on more than one player.

K-State went 3-1 with Wecker injured, including a big win against Alabama, where four Wildcats scored in double-figures and six players grabbed four or more rebounds.

At no other time in the "Big Three/Four" era has Kansas State faced more adversity, prior to the NCAA Tournament, than this season. Not only has this team faced adversity, but they've taken it head on.

And at no other time has the sense of urgency been greater.

"You think you want it as bad as you could possibly want it as a freshman, sophomore, and junior, but there's something about being a senior," Laurie Koehn said.

"There's an added incentive that you have when you know it's your last time around. And you know every game it could be the last time you put on a K-State uniform."

Tonight was the last Hurrah for two of the greatest Wildcat players to suit up in Kendra Wecker and Laurie Koehn.

True to form they played like champions as Kendra Wecker scored 29 points and Laurie Koehn became the NCAA's all-time leading 3-point shooter in a loss to the 5th seeded Commodores tonight. When the smoke cleared it was Wildcats 60- Vanderbilt 63 at Bank of America Arena and the final go-around for perhaps the greatest senior class in Kansas State history.

It was also a tremendous game and a final salute to some amazing seniors who have had tremendous careers at K-State.

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