PREVIEW: Women’s basketball up against West Virginia in Big 12 Championship

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Sophomore forward Ayoka Lee looks to score through a West Virginia double team in K-State's 72-64 loss to the Mountaineers in Bramlage Coliseum on March 3, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Scott Weaver | K-State Athletics)

Last week, K-State women’s basketball coach Jeff Mittie said his goal was for his team to play well on both ends of the court for a full 40 minutes in the Big 12 Championship in Kansas City.

Last night, the Wildcats locked down in the fourth quarter for a 10-point win over Texas Tech to buck some of the trends that had plagued the team this season.

“There were just better plays that we were making together,” Mittie said after the win. “It was definitely better in the fourth. I thought it was decent in the game for the most part. The fourth quarter was probably the best we’ve been in a while.”

The first-round upset also guaranteed the Wildcats would play at least one more game: a second-round match up with second-seed West Virginia.

The Mountaineers are No. 17 in the nation and 19-5 overall. All five of those loses came to Big 12 teams.

“It’s a new season. At this point, our record doesn’t matter. Everyone starts at the beginning of the bracket and the winning team moves forward,” junior guard Chrissy Carr said after the first-round win. “We’re a talented team and we need an opportunity to be able to show that and I feel like this is our time to be able to show that now.”

West Virginia won by eight in Manhattan and by 10 at home in Morgantown, West Virginia. The game in West Virginia featured a 12-point Wildcat lead late in the fourth quarter before a massive comeback gave the Mountaineers the win.

West Virginia slammed a full-court press on a short-handed K-State team to shut down on offense in the comeback. West Virginia outscored K-State 26-9 in the fourth quarter.

“West Virginia’s got an outstanding team. They’re battle-tested, they’ve played extremely well,” Mittie said. “They are physical and they’re going to challenge every pass, and we’ve got to bring that same toughness that we brought in the fourth quarter today.”

K-State will also need to watch out for senior guard Kysre Gondrezick. The Michigan-transfer is the fifth-best scorer in the Big 12, averaging 20 points per game.

West Virginia also presents an interesting challenge under the basket for star sophomore center Ayoka Lee. Sophomore Esmery Martinez and junior Kari Niblack are both good forwards, and the duo proved dangerous late in the Wildcats’ loss the WVU in Manhattan.

“What I felt like West Virginia did that hurt us was they really went to the iso game with Martinez and Niblack late,” Mittie said after the loss in Manhattan. “What we wanted to do was play Niblack one-on-one and that’s when they got a couple of the back cuts, that’s when they got a couple of plays that we really shouldn’t have given them.”

West Virginia also shot 53 percent from three and 50 percent overall in the contest in Manhattan, numbers that K-State cannot allow to happen again.

The game tips off at 5:30 p.m. Friday from Kansas City’s Municipal Auditorium. If K-State wins, the team will watch closely to the night cap between Oklahoma State and Oklahoma to see who the team plays in the next round.

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Nathan Enserro
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.