Lee key to Wildcat success despite loss on Sunday

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Sophomore forward Emilee Ebert blocks an Oklahoma shot during K-State's 80-78 loss to Oklahoma on January 31, 2021 at Bramlage Coliseum. (Photo courtesy of Scott Weaver | K-State Athletics)

The women’s basketball team extended their skid to a seventh-straight loss Sunday afternoon in Manhattan. Kansas State lost 80-78.

“Another one that comes down to the wire,” head coach Jeff Mittie said. “I thought we played from behind most of today. We had trouble executing. I thought Oklahoma was playing extremely well.”

The Wildcats turned the ball over too much and couldn’t beat a hot-shooting OU team, even if the Sooners only had six players. OU won on a pair of late free throws from junior guard Taylor Robertson.

K-State committed 15 turnovers while only forcing the Sooners into five. OU outscored the Wildcats 17-7 off turnovers.

“The type of turnovers we had were frustrating,” Mittie said. “The majority of our turnovers were self-inflicted.”

OU jumped out to an early lead that hovered around 10 for almost the entire game. Every time K-State cut the Sooner lead, the Sooners had an answer.

“It takes us a good portion of the first 10-15 minutes of the game to figure out that [sophomore center Ayoka] Lee is pretty good and that she’s got an advantage down [in the paint],” Mittie said. “It was a pick-up game for us early in this game. That’s not very good for us.”

K-State was down eight at the last media time out, awaiting three free throws from Robertson with 3:15 to play. She nailed all three to stretch the Sooner lead to 11.

“I challenged them to get three stops in a row, do what we had talked about,” Mittie said. “Get the ball to the wing. If they brought help, let’s get it to the other side of the floor quickly … if we do that we’ll get good shots.”

Using Mittie’s advice at the media break, the team had one last run. The team fed Lee, who had at least a five-inch advantage on the entire Sooner squad, over the last five minutes.

Lee swatted a Sooner layup attempt on the defensive end and K-State had the ball, down two with 34 seconds left. It looked like K-State — the victim of some late-game collapses in January — had a chance at a comeback win.

“Lee was pretty solid in defending the rim,” Mittie said. “She was able to wall some plays off at the rim late to give us a chance and give us an opportunity with 10 seconds to go.”

Oklahoma did not score in the last 4:35, going 0-7 in the stretch.

Out of a timeout, K-State moved the ball to sophomore forward Emilee Ebert in the paint. She found Lee across the lane for a layup to tie the game with 22 seconds left.

OU advanced the ball down the court on the time out and after a foul by Lee, the Sooners inbounded under their basket with 10 seconds to go. K-State had one more defensive stop in mind, though.

The Wildcats forced a five-second call on the inbound to get the ball with a chance to win. The Wildcats went back to the same play — to feed Lee.

“The first option was to get the ball to Yoki [Lee] right away,” junior guard Chrissy Carr said. “Second option was skip it to me and then I was supposed to either shoot the three or look inside, cause we knew there were going to be helping down on Yoki on the backside. Putting me on the opposite side forces them to either have Yoki over the top or they have to crash down on my side, which opens up a three for me.”

K-State got the option it wanted: Lee open in the paint. A bump and a slap on the arm kept her from going up to shoot and she lost the ball.

“It’s hard to argue with that play,” Mittie said. “I haven’t seen the replay yet, but I don’t think I’m gonna need to see the replay to know that she could fouled on that play and it was a pretty significant foul. It wasn’t like it was just a bump or something. It just didn’t get called.”

“[I was] surprised. I thought it was a foul. It felt like a foul. It was disappointing that it wasn’t,” Lee said.

K-State committed a foul on the scramble for the ball, giving Robertson a chance to bury K-State with 1 second left. The McPherson, Kansas, native hit them both to ice the game.

Lee finished the game with a career-high 37 points and added 18 rebounds. Her 37 points are the most by a Wildcat in a Big 12 game ever.

The team travels to Texas Tech on Feb. 3 and hosts Baylor Feb. 7.

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Hi! I'm Nathan Enserro, a graduate student from Olathe, Kansas, working on a Masters in Mass Communication. I graduated in spring 2020 with a Bachelor's of Science in strategic communications from K-State. This is my fourth year covering K-State sports for the Collegian.