Poor fourth quarter dooms women’s basketball to last-place finish in Big 12

K-State sophomore Emilee Ebert attempts a shot during the Wildcats game at Oklahoma on Sunday. The Sooners won the game, 90-81. (Photo courtesy of Oklahoma Athletics)

The Kansas State women’s basketball team (8-17) faded late yet again in a 90-81 regular-season-ending loss at Oklahoma on Sunday afternoon to drop to 3-15 — and last place — in Big 12 Conference play.

Sophomore center Ayoka Lee recorded another double-double, this time fighting through double teams to score 33 points and grab 13 rebounds.

“I thought she played well,” head coach Jeff Mittie said. “I thought she finished obviously at a high level, 16-18. Rebounded the ball really well, had some nice rebound put-backs.”

The Sooners tried to neutralize Lee with one defender front her and one stay behind her to prevent the lob. It led to some turnovers, but the Wildcats figured it out.

“I think we answered it pretty well. When you have 33, that wasn’t our issue today,” Mittie said. “I think we did a decent job. We got to knock some threes down on some skips. Our problem was the other end of the floor.”

Senior point guard Sydney Goodson came off the bench to record 22 points — the most she ever recorded as a Wildcat. She was 6-11 from three in 34 minutes of play.

“I thought Syd played great today. I thought she did some good things,” Mittie said. “She was probably the one player that played well defensively.”

The Wildcats hung tight with the Sooners through three quarters. The back-and-forth affair featured 13 ties. The Wildcats led for nearly half of the game all put together.

It was all Oklahoma late, though — a trend this Wildcat team saw throughout the season.

The Sooners shot 87 percent in the fourth quarter to outscore the Wildcats by nine in the period after it was all knotted up at 58 at the end of the third quarter. Mittie said he was most disappointed with the team’s effort late.

“I can assure you there are a lot of shooting drills that teams don’t shoot 87 percent,” Mittie said. “I thought this was the worst defense we’ve played all year.”

K-State could not keep up. The team recorded 19 assists, which Mittie said he would consider a good number. The problem for K-State was that most of those were to Lee and it was not indicative of good ball movement.

“You look at assist numbers and you think, ‘Really good,’ however how many of those assists are guard-to-guard? Most of those are assists to [Lee], so our guards have to play together better and that’s been a challenge for us,” Mittie said.

Guards not playing well together is an issue that Mittie talked about often this season.

“If I had the key, we’d have done it a long time ago, right?” Mittie said. “Keep working at it and keep playing better together. I don’t think there’s any mystery to this. We’re at the end of the year here, but you’re always trying to get better at every practice.”

K-State is only guaranteed one more game: a first-round match-up with seven-seed Texas Tech in the Big 12 Tournament. Waiting for the winner is the two-seed No. 18 West Virginia. K-State played close games with both teams thus far.

“I’d like to put together both ends of the floor,” Mittie said. “I’d like to have a game where we play a consistent game at both ends of the floor. I’d like to see that for as close the 40 minutes as possible.”

That Wildcats fell from ninth to tenth in the conference because of a tiebreaker with Kansas, who boasts a win over six-seed Oklahoma, besting K-State’s win over seven-seed Texas Tech. The Wildcats were projected to finish fourth in the conference to start the season.

The match-up with Texas Tech is slated for 8 p.m. March 11 at Kansas City’s Municipal Auditorium on ESPN+.

Hi! I'm Nathan Enserro, an alumnus from Olathe, Kansas. I graduated in spring 2022 with a Masters in Mass Communication, and I graduated in spring 2020 with a Bachelor's of Science in strategic communications from K-State. I covered K-State sports for the Collegian for four years.