PREVIEW: Women’s basketball hosts Kansas City before starting conference play

K-State sophomore center Ayoka Lee goes up for a tough layup between two Omaha defenders during the women's basketball team's 66-59 victory over Omaha on Saturday. (Photo Courtesy of Scott Weaver | K-State Athletics)

With sophomore center Ayoka Lee coming off of a 21-point performance in her second game back on the court after suffering an injury against Kentucky, the women’s basketball team (4-2) seems to have found their groove on the back end of their non-conference schedule.

Next up for Kansas State is a final non-conference test at home against Kansas City (3-1) on Monday before starting their conference slate later this week on the road against Iowa State.

The Roos are no slouch — they won the Western Athletic Conference regular-season title last year before moving to the Summit League this year. Kansas City comes off of an 89-81 victory over SIUE and tied a school record for the most threes made in a single game with 14.

Kansas City is ranked No. 17 in the NCAA in made three-pointers per game, averaging 10 in each contest.

The Roos are coached by Jacie Hoyt, who was an assistant for K-State head coach Jeff Mittie from 2014 to 2017. Since leaving K-State to take the head coaching position at Kansas City, Hoyt squared off against Mittie just once, and that resulted in a 74-67 victory for the Wildcats last year.

Kansas City is led by a duo of juniors in forward Paige Bradford and guard Emily Ivory. Bradford leads the Roos in three categories, scoring (14.3 points per game), rebounding (9.3 rebounds per game) and assists (3.5 assists per game), while Ivory is second on the team in scoring with 13 points per game.

The Wildcats come off of a close 66-59 victory over Omaha where K-State led most of the way, but like many of their games this year, struggled down the stretch when trying to close out the Mavericks.

“We are not efficient enough to close teams out right now,” Mittie said after Saturday’s game.

Lee has been a major factor for the Wildcats since coming back from an injury that left her out for K-State’s close win against Central Arkansas and their embarrassing loss to Idaho State last Tuesday.

The sophomore Wooden Watch List nominee currently leads the Wildcats in scoring (14.5 points per game), field goal percentage (55.3 percent) and rebounds (6.8 rebounds per game).

Lee is not alone on the floor. Junior guard Christianna Carr is a serious threat from behind the arc, shooting 39.5 percent from three. Carr is just behind Lee in scoring, averaging 14.2 points per game. She also just recorded her first career double-double in the win over Omaha, recording 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Not only can the Wildcats score on offense, their defense has also been stellar, ranking No. 23 in the nation in scoring defense with 53.5 defensive points per game. K-State also recorded 36 blocks this season so far — second-best in the NCAA.

K-State leads the overall series between the two teams 10-3 and is undefeated against the Roos in Manhattan. Tip-off is set for 6:30 p.m. on ESPN+.