A 12-point lead at West Virginia, a 3-point lead against Oklahoma State and a 13-point lead at Texas Tech. In all three of these instances, the women’s basketball team led in the fourth quarter.
The result — three heartbreaking defeats.
This problem now defines Kansas State (5-10, 0-8) ever since their return to the court on Jan. 20.
It showed in K-State’s 83-75 overtime loss to Texas Tech (9-9, 4-8) on Wednesday night — a game where the Wildcats led by 13-points heading into the fourth quarter. K-State held the lead at 10-points with 3:24 to go. Then sophomore Ayoka Lee fouled out.
Cue the fourth-quarter collapse.
After Lee was benched with 2:37 to go, Texas Tech dwindled K-State’s lead down to seven, then five, then three. After a free throw followed by a layup with 22 seconds remaining, Texas Tech tied the game.
“I think it’s deflating in every which way it can be,” K-State head coach Jeff Mittie said. “When you have a lead like that late in the game, you’ve just got to close out some plays and we’ve been there and we can’t do it. It hurts.”
After K-State failed to get a quality shot off at the end of the fourth, it was almost evident who was going to win the overtime session of basketball. The Red Raiders had all of the momentum with a 10-0 run and the Wildcats seemed tired, almost as if they had already lost. In many ways, they did.
“I didn’t feel much confidence in there, obviously you’re disappointed with giving up the lead,” Mittie said.
The Red Raiders dominated in the extra period, finishing the game on a 22-4 run, almost reminiscent of the 21-0 run West Virginia used to beat K-State back on Jan. 20. Just like that, K-State’s 10-game winning streak over the Red Raiders was gone and the 8-game losing streak for the Wildcats this season was still very much alive.
Despite the projection to finish fourth in the Big 12 Conference preseason standings with a Wooden Award Preseason top 30 player on the roster, it’s hard to see K-State fall to such a low point this year. K-State is dead last in the Big 12 Standings without a conference victory and Lee gets into foul trouble in almost every single game.
Mittie knows just how important it is to keep Lee on the court and out of foul trouble.
I think our defense just has to get better overall because I think Yokie is picking up a lot of fouls for drivers getting to the rim that she has to pick up at the rim,” Mittie said. “She’s not getting a lot of fouls on her player, these are fouls that are coming off of her rotating to somebody else or an offensive rebound.”
While Lee sat multiple times during the game with fouls building up, K-State appeared fine without her on the court early on. When Lee wasn’t on the court, junior guard Christianna Carr stepped up, going from zero points in the first quarter to nine in the second.
This trend continued deeper into the game with all of the offensive productivity from the Wildcats coming from Carr or Lee.
In the Wildcats 80-78 loss to the Sooners last week, Mittie said the team really needed to find a third and fourth scorer so the offense isn’t solely reliant on Carr and Lee. Once again on Wednesday night, the Wildcats couldn’t find another person to run the offense through which hurt K-State in the end.
Without Lee and with Carr exhausted, K-State’s offense came to a screeching halt during that final Texas Tech run.
“Chrissy had a good stretch in that time in the second quarter and then I think fatigue got on Chrissy a little bit,” Mittie said. “That changes the moves to the hole, that changes the lift on the jump shot, all those things. She played 42 minutes, she’s in her 36th, 37th minute down that stretch. I think fatigue got to her a little bit.”
Two 20-point scorers from Texas Tech also didn’t help, as senior guard Vivian Gray finished with 28 points and freshman center Khadija Faye finished with 20 points.
With all the problems this team is facing right now, a showdown with the top team in the Big 12, No. 8 Baylor, is the last thing the Wildcats need. That game tips-off at 1 p.m. Sunday at Bramlage Coliseum and streams on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.