Women’s basketball keeps No. 23 Oregon at arms’ length

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Junior Ayoka Lee attempts a shot against NDSU on Nov. 29, 2021. (Archive photo by Kendall Spencer | Collegian Media Group)

The Kansas State women’s basketball team led wire-to-wire in its 68-56 home win over Oregon Saturday night in front of a loud crowd at Bramlage Coliseum.

K-State took the opening tip, found junior center Ayoka Lee under the basket for a foul and two points at the free-throw line and never looked back. The Wildcats stretched their early lead out to eight points twice in the first quarter before taking a three-point lead into the break.

“We came out really well, and I think that just goes back to our preparation,” Lee said. “We knew what we wanted to do, and regardless of what they were doing, we were going to run our stuff.”

Lee picked up two quick fouls in the first quarter, but K-State kept her on the court without her struggling with foul trouble.

Every time Oregon made a run and made the game interesting, K-State answered. The Ducks cut the K-State lead to one score multiple times throughout the first half. However, K-State would go on a mini-run of its own every time to retake control.

“We made a lot of big plays when they made a run at us, and I think that was probably the key for the game,” head coach Jeff Mittie said. “We kind of were able to keep them at arm’s length.”

When Oregon cut it to two points early in the second quarter, freshman guard Serena Sundell and junior forward Emilee Ebert unleashed back-to-back threes to push the lead back to eight.

“I felt very in rhythm, but you know that doesn’t happen without my teammates. I can’t do that alone,” Ebert said. “I was open, and they found that, so we just took that and used it to our advantage.”

Thanks to a jump shot from freshman guard Brylee Glenn in the final 30 seconds, K-State took a five-point lead into the half, 38-33.

The difference for K-State? Three-point shooting (K-State was 38 percent to just 28 for Oregon from outside), free throws (12-15 vs. 7-12) and points in the paint (32-22). Turnovers, rebounds and assists were all similar numbers.

“When you talk about what we had to do to stay in the game, we had to be even on the boards,” Mittie said. “We couldn’t just have them demolish us on the boards. We had to get touches in the paint, and we were able to get just enough.”

The Wildcats also managed to hit clutch shots to keep the Ducks at an arm’s length.

“I thought our team fought hard,” Mittie said. “I thought we made a lot of right plays in the right moments to keep them away from us, and we just persevered throughout the game.”

The Wildcats stretched their lead to 10 points for the first time in the third quarter and would get it back to double-figures on a buzzer-beating two-point shot from Ebert.

K-State dominated in the fourth quarter. Oregon got it back within six, but no closer. The Wildcats made four free throws and a steal-and-score from Brylee Glenn at the end to seal it.

Lee finished the game with 19 points and 12 rebounds. She also blocked four shots and only committed three fouls despite the two quick ones. She played for 33 minutes.

Brylee Glenn and Ebert scored 15 points each to join Lee in double figures. Sundell had seven points and eight assists to just one turnover while playing all 40 minutes.

“The bottom line for a point guard is, ‘Is your team successful?’ and [Sundell’s] doing that very well,” Mittie said. “She doesn’t look over and ask to come out. I’d ignore her anyways. … She fought hard through fatigue tonight, and I think we’re victorious because of it.”

Oregon was the third ranked-team K-State played in its non-conference schedule. The team played two top-five teams on the road earlier in the year.

“I think it was a good win. I don’t know if it was worthy of dumping a bunch of water on me in the locker room, but they wanted to so, you know,” Mittie said. “I think we should celebrate all of them.”

K-State will host UIC at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 22, before taking a break for the holidays. The Wildcats will then play Big 12 powerhouse Baylor on Jan. 2, 2022. Catch the game against UIC on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.

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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.