K-State’s defense smothered the No. 15 Texas Longhorns in a pivotal Big 12 matchup on senior night Wednesday evening at Bramlage Coliseum.
The K-State defense forced Texas into 19 turnovers, and senior Marlies Gipson scored a career-high 24 points in her final game in the “Purple Palace,” as the Wildcats defeated the Longhorns 66-50.
The Wildcats (22-6, 9-6 Big 12 Conference) fell behind early in the contest, as the speed and size of Texas immediately showed from tipoff.
Yet, K-State’s defense kept the team close to the Longhorns (20-9, 8-7 Big 12) as it forced three turnovers in the first five minutes of play.
“I thought our defense was the key tonight,” K-State head coach Deb Patterson said. “The accountability and the overall intensity and sense of purpose that our team brought to the floor defensively gave us a chance to be good tonight.”
After a jumper by Ashley Lindsey gave the Longhorns a three-point lead with seven minutes remaining in the first half, the Wildcat defense forced another turnover at the Texas end of the floor.
The momentum created by the forced turnover amassed to a 12-3 K-State scoring run to close out the first half and give the Wildcats a 31-25 halftime lead.
“I did feel as though I could really depend on our defense every possession up the floor,” Patterson said. “I did feel like momentum was in our favor defensively.”
That momentum carried into the second half as the Wildcats continued to build their lead and force turnovers on the defensive end.
The Texas offense was forced late in the shot clock on several possessions and struggled from the field. The Longhorns shot 38 percent from the field for the game.
“They kept us off balance a little bit,” Texas head coach Gail Goestenkors said. “They just did a nice job of changing up their defensive looks.”
The Wildcats continued to stretch their lead in the second half.
Junior guard Kari Kincaid hit a 3-pointer with 7:46 remaining in the second half, erupting the Bramlage crowd and stretching the K-State lead to 15, forcing Texas to call a timeout.
“I think their confidence started to build quickly,” Goestenkors said. “They hit a big 3-pointer, and I think that shifted the entire momentum of the game.”
The Wildcat lead would prove to be too great following the Texas timeout, and the Wildcats closed out the second half in convincing fashion.
“They are just an unbelievable group, and it was a very big win at this point in the season,” Patterson said.
With the victory, the Wildcats move into sole possession of fifth place in the Big 12, breaking the tie with Texas. K-State will conclude its regular season at Colorado before playing in the Big 12 Conference Tournament in Oklahoma City.
Meanwhile, the Longhorns drop to sixth place and will finish their season at home in a showdown against first-place Oklahoma.
“For us to come out and play as well together as we did [is a tribute to the team], but we did it together,” K-State senior point guard Shalee Lehning said.
“That is something that was so great tonight. It was just a big win for us to build off and build some momentum going into the [Big 12] tournament next week.”