Wildcats comeback in fourth quarter, hold off Texas Tech in tournament opener

Sophomore center Ayoka Lee watches in the paint as the offense gets the ball moving in K-State's 83-75 OT loss to Texas Tech on Feb. 3. (Photo Courtesy of Tech Social Media)

Junior guard Rachel Ranke nailed a corner three to go up by four with 33 seconds left to cap off a comeback win for the Kansas State women’s basketball team over Texas Tech in Kansas City’s Municipal Auditorium. K-State won 75-65 in the first round of the Big 12 Championship.

“I thought the key down the stretch for us was toughness on the defensive end and execution at the offensive end,” head coach Jeff Mittie said. “We played tougher and executed things better than we have and that was good to see.”

That three was symbolic of what K-State did all night: make big plays when its back was against the wall.

“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. “We didn’t want to lose first round for a lot of reasons. 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.”

The Wildcats faded late in a lot of games this season, including letting the Red Raiders eliminate a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter in Lubbock, Texas.

Tonight, Mittie said he thought his team showed growth to execute well late in the game.

“I think not only growth in hitting big shots, but I think growth in ball movement, growth in execution,” Mittie said.

K-State was locked in a back-and-forth affair for most of the game. The team led by 10 midway through the second quarter, but Texas Tech senior Lexi Gordon went on a 7-0 run by herself and the Wildcats went into the half with only a two-point lead.

“People are going to have people go on runs for scores and I think that’s our job to be able to just sit down and have enough pride to stop them,” Carr said. “As a team, we needed to focus on all five of us getting in there and stopping them.”

The Wildcats made runs of its own in the second half but found the team down by four early in the fourth quarter. From there, the Wildcats went shot for shot with Texas Tech.

Down two, sophomore center Ayoka Lee rattled off seven straight points. The Ranke three and some clutch free throws helped K-State hold the Red Raiders off.

Head coach Jeff Mittie complained at times this season about his guards not moving the ball well enough on offense. Tonight, his team scored 28 baskets on 23 assists.

“There were just better plays that we were making together,” Mittie said. “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.”

Carr led the Wildcats with 22 points. She also grabbed six rebounds and three assists in 36 points.

“As opposed to being a shooter, she’s turning into a better scorer,” Mittie said. “She’s getting to the free-throw line more, she’s getting into other areas of the floor and I like her maturation as a player. I think she’s still got a lot of upside to her, but she’s making the right adjustments.”

Right behind Carr was sophomore center Ayoka Lee, who recorded her 28th career double-double with 21 points and 12 rebounds. She also set a program Big 12 Tournament record with seven blocked shots.

“There’s nothing like getting beat off the dribble and seeing Yoki swat it into the stands,” Carr said of her teammate. “That is nice. It makes Coach Mittie’s yell down the court a lot quieter.”

The Wildcats extended the season at least one more game with the win. K-State plays tomorrow against second-seed West Virginia at 5:30 p.m. at Municipal Auditorium.

K-State and West Virginia played a pair of close games this season, but the Mountaineers came out on top in each match-up.

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.