After a double-digit comeback win against West Virginia Tuesday, the smile still hasn’t left the face of K-State women’s basketball senior guard Haley Texada.
“I told a couple of people today that was the best win in my four years here — just everything about it,” Texada said. “There was so much emotion left out on the court and it was a great win.”
The 59-55 regular-season finale for the Wildcats was highlighted by a 12-point comeback that was spurred by the play of Texada, who scored a game-high 22 points.
Up next for the Wildcats is a familiar opponent, in-state rival Kansas, in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament. In the season series, the Wildcats swept the Jayhawks, but according to senior guard Ashia Woods, it’s last season’s matchup against Kansas in the conference tournament that they are using for motivation.
“We beat them two times this year, but that’s done,” Woods said. “We lost to them in the tournament (last season), so that’s what we’re going for.”
In that first-round matchup a year ago, it took overtime for the game to be decided. Although a Breanna Lewis buzzer beater took the game to an extra period, Kansas was the victor when it was all said and done, defeating the Wildcats 87-84.
Just like last season, this will be the third meeting between these teams – which doesn’t seem to have much of an effect on Texada.
“They say it’s hard to beat a team three times in a row, but I feel if you have the right amount of focus, you should be alright,” Texada said. “It’s gonna be a challenge; no game in that tournament is easy. You have to approach the situation and play hard.”
This season’s meetings between the two sides have been close. In both affairs, K-State was forced to come from behind, using late runs to jump ahead with less than a minute to play.
“This happens; we played them a week and a half ago, both games have been real tight,” K-State head coach Jeff Mittie said. “They’ve been close throughout. There hasn’t been much separation and I would expect that in a rivalry game, and I think that’s what we’ll get in the Big 12 Tournament.”
If the Wildcats expect to win a third matchup against Kansas, they’ll have to contain All-Big 12 First Team selection Chelsea Gardner. The Kansas senior leads her team in points and rebounds. Gardner has averaged 14 points a game against the Wildcats this season, and in the second meeting, she grabbed 15 rebounds.
“Chelsea Gardner, we’ve gotta get in her head first,” Woods said. “We have to make her shoot 30 shots. Second thing is know where Natalie Knight is and don’t let her get off the three, and offensively we’ve just gotta be in attack mode.”
Along with a focus on the upcoming conference tournament, the win against West Virginia has also sparked some postseason conversations for the Wildcats, who could possibly play their way into an at-large bid in the 2015 NCAA Tournament with a good showing in the Big 12 Tournament.
“I think we need to get caught up in it,” Mittie said. “I think we need to find out what we’re made of. I think we need to get caught up in the possibilities to some extent. We didn’t shy away from that yesterday. We told them this was do or die and it really felt that way from our perspective.”
The No. 8-seeded Wildcats will have their chance to improve their NCAA tournament resume against No. 9 Kansas, followed up by a potential showdown with 2014-15 Big 12 Conference champion, No. 1 Baylor.
“There’s no doubt you wanna be in the NCAA tournament; that’s the goal and the experience of that, and whatever matchup you get, is a tremendous experience,” Mittie said. “The (Women’s National Invitation Tournament) is different; it gains momentum as you go. But obviously it’s the NCAA tournament and that’s what we’re shooting for.”
The Wildcats and Jayhawks are scheduled to tipoff in Dallas at 6 p.m. on Friday.