School records, overtime and cheesecake — Monday night’s 79-76 overtime victory for the Kansas State women’s basketball team over TCU truly had it all.
Struggling all year to close out opponents in regulation, K-State (8-15, 3-13) appeared to almost let another close game slip through its fingers against a Horned Frogs team (8-13, 3-13) that outscored the Wildcats 37-27 in the second half. Luckily, the duo of junior Christianna Carr and sophomore Ayoka Lee did not let this one get away easily.
Pushing the game into OT after a potential game-winner by Emilee Ebert bounced off the rim at the buzzer, Carr and Lee already had 47 points combined points heading into the extra session. The duo then combined for 13 points in OT to help K-State escape from another near disaster.
Those 60 points between the two helped K-State close a victory on Monday night and also a school record for the most points combined by two teammates in a single game. With Carr scoring a career-high 31 points, including 13 points in the first stanza, another program record for the most points scored in the first quarter, followed by Lee’s 29 points.
“We had Chrissy playing well with a good feel, but we did not have a team playing well,” head coach Jeff Mittie said. “That kind of continued in the second half. Now we got Lee involved a lot more and we were able to get her the ball in good spots. So we were at least able to get a good second player.”
While it was the Carr and Lee show on one end of the court, Lauren Heard showed her strength on the other end. The senior guard entered the game averaging 20.3 points per game and was almost the only offense for the Horned Frogs, finishing with close to half of the team’s 76 points, scoring 35 points to lead all scorers.
She was three points away from tying her career-high of 38 points she netted against West Virginia on Feb. 20. Perhaps her biggest of the 35 points coming with 45 seconds to play, banking in a three-pointer that knotted the game at 64 and sent the game into overtime.
“The bank three that she hits in regulation, that obviously, I thought we played good defense on that play,” Mittie said. “Got it down to the end of the shot clock and sometimes it goes like that. She’s a tough kid, I love that kid. She just plays her heart out every game and has been a great player for them for four years.”
Heard contributed to TCU getting back into a game that Carr and K-State controlled, leading 37-27 at the half, with Carr already scoring 22 of her 31 points. With the Horned Frogs shooting just 25 percent from the field in the first half, Heard led the charge with 11 points, upping the team’s shooting percentage to 53 percent from the field in the third quarter, cutting into the Wildcats lead and making it just 55-50 going into the fourth.
As Carr began to cool down from her first half high, Lee began to heat up. After only scoring two points and sitting for most of the second quarter with two fouls, the sophomore center went off for 13 points in the third quarter to help K-State keep a slim lead.
“The timing was better [in the second half],” Lee said. “We did a great job of looking inside from different spots on the floor instead of just waiting until it got to the wings. We did a good job of doing it quickly so they couldn’t get help.”
Even with a lackluster fourth-quarter performance all around, including spotting TCU their first lead of the game (61-59) at the 5:12 mark, Lee saved K-State by beating the double-team put on her underneath the basket. Lee scored one basket and drew two fouls on her, leading to three points from free-throws.
“At that point of the game, it was just, ‘Be smart and go up strong if they pass it in, and if they don’t just rebound hard,’” Lee said. “But just be smart was the main thing.”
Lee went into the overtime session with that same mentality and scored nine of K-State’s 15 points in the extra session and help K-State get its second win in three games.
K-State will now have a quick turnaround on Wednesday against the No. 20 West Virginia at home. That is the third game in five days for the Wildcats before playing in yet another game on Sunday against Oklahoma.
“I think we’ll get some rest tomorrow and we’ll be alright,” Mittie said. “I have to make those adjustments as a coach to make sure our team is as rested as they can be and prepared as they can be. … I thought our group fought through it tonight and I would expect that we’ll be ready to play on Wednesday.”
The reward for K-State if they can pull out a victory on Wednesday night? Cheesecake. After Carr and Lee got their way into the postgame press conference on Monday they asked what it would take for Mittie to get the whole team cheesecake, “Win Wednesday,” was the answer.
The game on Wednesday night against the Mountaineers will tip-off at 6:30 p.m. at Bramlage Coliseum and can be seen on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.