For the third game in a row, Kansas State’s women’s basketball team fell apart late to lose. This time, it was Oklahoma State finishing the game on a 15-0 run that beat the Wildcats 69-55.
“All three games have been the same coming back,” head coach Jeff Mittie said. “Led for a decent portion of the game, had leads, tight game. Then the last four or five minutes have not been good.”
K-State, who had not played a home game since Dec. 21, was outmatched down the stretch by the Cowgirls. The Wildcats just looked tired trying to defend Oklahoma State in the waning possessions.
“Whenever you play games back to back to back to back, the physicality catches up to you,” junior guard Christianna Carr said. “I felt that tonight a lot. I was tired tonight. I started to feel it there in the fourth quarter.”
In previous games, K-State had tried to stall out the shot clock on their offensive possessions to save their legs for later in the game. This time out, they were more aggressive on offense and it seemed to be paying off.
“We did not hold the ball like we had the last couple of days so we are hoping that we are getting our legs under us a little bit better,” Mittie said.
The Wildcats jumped out to a fast start and took a three-point lead into the second quarter thanks to a layup from Carr. She finished the game with 14 points in 35 minutes of play, both led the team.
Critically for K-State, star sophomore center Ayoka Lee had picked up two quick fouls and would get a third less than a minute after retaking the floor in the second quarter. She finished the game with eight points and six rebounds, but only played 18 minutes.
In her absence, the K-State 2-3 zone struggled to stop the Cowgirls. The Wildcats wound up going “small” with six-foot-two junior forward Laura Macke holding down the middle of the zone for most of the second half.
“Having Yoki on the court is a big benefit to our team,” senior guard Sydney Goodson said. “Defensively, we gotta pack it in a little bit more.”
Despite missing — as Carr put it — “one of our best players” for the bulk of the game, K-State attacked early in the third quarter and were able to stretch a lead out to seven points before surrendering all of that ground before the start of the fourth.
“When we stayed disciplined, particularly in that third and early fourth [quarter], we were really getting some good stuff,” Mittie said. “We struggled to stay in a disciplined area.”
The Wildcats were also done in on the boards. Oklahoma State out-rebounded K-State 52-31 including 25 offensive rebounds compared to 24 defensive rebounds. Senior forward Natasha Mack pulled down 9 offensive rebounds by herself for the Cowgirls.
“Too many second chances. We did survive a lot of them,” Mittie said. “Obviously Mack’s a really hard match-up so you gotta give some extra help down there. She’s so quick off the floor.”
K-State fell to 0-5 in Big 12 Conference play and they do not have a break in sight. A visit from Iowa State looms on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in Manhattan.
“It was so great to be back. Home court advantage, for sure. Have our fans back. Just: Home,” Goodson said. “We’ve got a couple here at home, so that’s nice not to have to travel, get to sleep in our own beds and be familiar and comfortable with where we are.”