Looking at the final boxscore Tuesday, one would think that the team that shot 28.1 percent, got out-rebounded 45-32 and hit just two 3-pointers in the second half, would have lost the game.
Lucky for K-State, this was no ordinary game.
The Wildcats (17-12, 7-11) clawed their way back from a 12-point deficit to beat West Virginia 59-55 in the season finale. It’s K-State’s first victory over West Virginia in five tries and the Wildcats’ 18th win of the season.
K-State was far from perfect, though. Cold shooting spells, missed rebounds and turnovers put the Wildcats in a significant hole. K-State head coach Jeff Mittie credits West Virginia for part of that.
“We struggled all night offensively, I think that’s a credit to West Virginia’s pressure,” Mittie said after the game. “They really forced us in the first 20-25 minutes into bad decisions, bad shots.”
K-State shot just 28.6 percent from the floor in the first half. The only factors that kept the Wildcats from going down an insurmountable amount were free-throw shooting and senior Haley Texada.
In her final performance at Bramlage Coliseum, the Frisco, Texas senior left it all on the floor. Despite shooting 4-21 from the field, including 2-10 from 3-point range, Texada managed to score a game-high 22 points to lead the Wildcats.
“It was awesome, I enjoyed every second of it not matter how tired I was at one point,” Texada said. “The girls really did fight hard and they knew how much it meant. They just went harder because of that. It was awesome.”
For a majority of the contest, West Virginia had control of the game and the Wildcats struggled to keep pace. Junior guard Bria Holmes was a constant force for the Mountaineers with 17 points to lead her team. Sophomore Bre McDonald and senior Averee Fields also contributed with double-figures as well.
As the second half rolled along, K-State struggled to close the gap. The Wildcats had three separate chances at cutting the deficit down to single digits before making the final push late in the game, but each time West Virginia had an answer to quiet the home crowd.
With a little less than 10 minutes remaining, K-State found their stride and rode the success of a 26-8 run to take a two-point lead with less than a minute remaining. One key for the major turnaround was K-State’s success at the free-throw line (22-24).
“Of course the key was getting to the free-throw line and knocking them down,” Mittie said. “That was the best we’ve shot all year.”
As the Wildcats climbed back into the ballgame, there was one constant in each sequence: Texada. Her play was huge, no more so than the four critical free throws she sunk with 2:30 in regulation to retake the lead for the first time in more than 30 minutes.
“(Haley) Texada was huge down the stretch,” Mittie said. “She really had to fight through some fatigue. She was certianly using a lot of energy to get to spots on the floor and draw fouls. All in all it was just a gutsy performance.”
For the three seniors honored tonight — Texada, Ashia Woods and Heidi Brown — they knew that leaving Bramlage Coliseum with a loss would be a bitter pill to swallow. Woods in particular said it was her team’s fight that was able to spark the late run that captured the win.
“It was definelty good, especially with how hard we fought as a team,” Woods said. “I mean, that is one of the best ways to go out.”
The Wildcats open up the weekend’s Big 12 Conference Tournament in Dallas as the No. 8 seed. They will face-off on Friday against in-state rival Kansas, who enters the No. 9 seed. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.