The Kansas State Wildcats opened the 2016-2017 season with a 83-33 win over the Chicago State Cougars Friday night.
Sophomore guard Kayla Goth led all players with 23 points. She also had eight rebounds.
“We’ve seen her play so well in practice, individual workouts, we’ve seen this coming,” head coach Jeff Mittie said. “But to put it in a game is much different than in an individual workout or a practice. So I’m real happy for her to see her play this way. She works extremely hard.”
Goth said it was a fun night for her and the team. Individually, it was a confidence booster for her even though she entered the season confident.
“I had a pretty good off-season,” Goth said. “But you never really know what you can do until you put it out there and you find out.”
Goth said the attitude she brought into Friday’s game can help her going forward.
“I started off with a defensive mentality,” Goth said. “I started off wanting to make the hustle plays and get the boards and stuff like that.”
The Wildcats as a team started relatively slow, only taking an 11-5 lead in the second quarter after going only 4-15 from the floor to open the game.
“I thought we played better as the game went on,” Mittie said. “(We were) sluggish at the start, (I) felt like we were out of sync. I have felt like we have been battling that the last couple of days in practice.”
In addition to Goth, freshman forward Peyton Williams played well. Williams recorded a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds in 31 minutes of game time.
Goth was full of praise for Williams.
“(She’s) one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen,” Goth said. “She gets in the gym all the time, and during practice she’s working every rep and every play and she’s getting every single one that she can.”
The performances by Goth and Williams helped ignite the Wildcats after their lethargic first quarter.
Mittie also told the team to “figure it out.”
“One of the things I’ve tried to push this group into doing is making more plays and not being so reliant on us (the coaching staff) to call plays,” Mittie said. “That’s part of ‘figure it out’ is that ‘you guys are smart enough, you’re smart players. You need to work together better and you need to figure some things out on your own without us holding your hands through these stretches.’ This group knows, I think, when things are going well and they’re playing well and they know when they’re not.”
The Wildcats ultimately out-rebounded the Cougars 51-31. Williams had 12, junior guard/forward Shaelyn Martin had nine, and both Goth and senior center Breanna Lewis had eight each.
Mittie said he isn’t settling on their rebounding abilities just because of those numbers.
“I’m not gonna let ’em fool me like they did last year,” Mittie said. “I thought we were a better rebounding team in the nonconference (games) and then I didn’t work them hard enough there.”
Mittie said that led the team to get frequently out-rebounded by Big 12 foes, and he has no intention of letting that happen again.
“Yeah, they’re not fooling me,” Mittie said. “We’re doing rebound drills tomorrow, and we’re doing ’em on Sunday, and we’re doing ’em on Monday, and we’re doing ’em on Tuesday.”
The Wildcats take on Tulasa on Monday at 7 pm at Bramlage Coliseum.