PREVIEW: Women’s basketball looks to win fourth straight Sunflower Showdown

Sophomore guard Christianna Carr looks for an open play during the women's basketball Senior Day game against Kansas in Bramlage Coliseum on March 8, 2020. The Wildcats took the Jayhawks 83-63. After the game, K-State held a ceremony in honor of this year's three senior players. (File Photo by Logan Wassall | Collegian Media Group)

COVID-19 has forced several adjustments and cancelations across all sports, but no team at Kansas State has been hit harder than the women’s basketball program.

The Wildcats returned to action after a 30-day hiatus on Wednesday night with a road loss to West Virginia and have a quick turnaround with a visit to rival Kansas set for Saturday.

The narrative of the first game back didn’t end the way that K-State had hoped as the Mountaineers outscored the Wildcats 26-9 in the fourth quarter to win 65-56.

Hanging onto the basketball was the biggest issue for the Wildcats. In the matchup against West Virginia, K-State turned over the ball 29 times.

“You can’t win games when your turnovers are super high because those are possessions lost,” junior guard Christianna Carr said. “It makes it hard for us whenever we are turning the ball over at a high rate.”

The assist to turnover ratio for the Wildcats is 0.76, which is in the Big 12 Conference’s basement.

Fortunately, the Wildcats will be facing in-state rival Kansas, a team that has also only played ten games. The coaching staff has used the time off to prepare, but there has been limited availability to practice.

“We had a lot of time in terms of being off and knew that [Kansas] would be the second game,” K-State head coach Jeff Mittie said. “In terms of practice time, we haven’t had hardly any, but in terms of staff time, we have had some.”

The Jayhawks are seventh in the Big 12 with a 5-5 record and one win in conference. Kansas will be a good matchup for the Wildcats, seeking its first conference win of the season.

“I think it’s good that we have the rivalry game coming up, quite honestly,” Mittie said. “I think we’ll be excited to have that again, and it’s good that we have it.”

KU was limited because of COVID-19 protocols and ost three straight since returning to play on Jan. 14. The Jayhawks lost 75-65 to Texas Tech on Wednesday.

“I love playing KU — we are always expecting a physical game,” Carr said. “Every school is physical, but with the hype of our rival and the emotion, it tends to be a more physical game.”

Led by sophomore guard Holly Kersgieter, who averages 16.3 points per game, KU is fifth in the conference in scoring, despite playing four fewer teams than most teams. The team averages 75.2 points per game.

Tip-off in Lawrence is set for 4 p.m. Saturday on ESPN+. The Wildcats have won the last three Sunflower Showdowns, including a dominating 83-63 win in Manhattan to end the 2019-2020 regular season.