Women’s basketball exhibition creates excitement for upcoming season

Junior forward Jessica Sheble along with her teammates celebrate after a recent score on Nov. 2, 2015 at Bramlage Coliseum. K-State defeated Washburn University 75-48. (Rodney Dimick | The Collegian)

I went to Monday’s exhibition basketball game against Washburn with a sense of excitement and curiosity for the K-State women’s season. It was a feeling that I have felt since the first day that Jeff Mittie was hired as head coach, taking him away from TCU.

TCU. Oh, you mean that team that is also in the Big 12 Conference? You mean that Athletic Director John Currie not only had the guts to fire a coach that brought this program success early in the 21st century, but then he hired a coach within the same conference as his school?

Yes. That’s exactly what I mean.

Hiring within the conference is not something that you typically do. Even if you try it, the chances that the coach leaves their current team in that conference for yours are few and far between.

Mittie, however, did it and he wasted no time in improving this team.

He took K-State to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament last spring, which was the team’s first time playing postseason ball since the 2012-13 season. Coming off that finish last year, Mittie’s Wildcats are projected to finish seventh in the Big 12 — just four votes behind West Virginia’s sixth spot.

With all the additions to this year’s team, as well as those Wildcats returning from last season, I entered this season with a lot of optimism, even more so after seeing the energy the players carried at K-State Media Day this October.

As I watched the exhibition game Monday night from press row, I had my worries in the first half. The team struggled early to get going as they only led Washburn by seven at the halftime break.

Then, the second half happened.

K-State kicked up the defensive intensity to a whole other level in the second half, which then turned into more offensive production. The Wildcats outscored the Ichabods 42-22 in the second half on their way to a 75-48 victory.

The second half got me back to the excited side of K-State women’s basketball this year. Yes, I know it was just Washburn and it’s not like the Wildcats were playing Baylor or UConn (though they will play both this season, by the way), but they showed what they can do. I believe they played to their capability in the second half of Monday’s game, and it’s only going to get better as the season progresses.

It’s only one game into the season, so it’s not fair to make projections of players who will or won’t do well yet. That being said, I’m still going to do it.

I think Megan Deines will be huge for this team. The senior dropped 16 points and had three steals Monday night. She brings a fast-pace feel of the game and valuable postseason experience from her time at Louisville.

Breanna Lewis seemed like the “do-it-all” girl against Washburn. The junior scored 22 points, pulled down five rebounds, had two assists and three blocks. I think that if this team wants to go anywhere this season, Lewis will be a critical part of that success.

Finally, Kaylee Page.

The sophomore didn’t do anything spectacular scoring-wise as she only scored four points, but she came out with seven rebounds and was a force to be reckoned with down low. Page could be crucial in low-post battles this season.

Obviously we still have the whole season ahead of us. One game doesn’t make anyone a star, the same way it doesn’t make anyone a non-critical piece to this team. After what I saw from those three players, I think they will be huge parts of K-State’s success this year.

This team’s future is bright, in my opinion. They looked like they just had a lot of fun playing together on Monday, which is fantastic. So get out to Bramlage Coliseum for some women’s basketball this year. You’ll be glad you did.

Riley Gates is a freshman in mass communications.