OPINION: Women’s basketball captured momentum, crowd support Saturday

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Ayoka Lee smiles at her teammates after a win. (Archive photo by Kendall Spencer | Collegian Media Group)

When freshman guard Brylee Glenn slapped the ball away from Oregon’s Maddie Scherr at the top of the key and took it back for a layup with just 18 seconds left in the Wildcats’ 68-56 win, Bramlage Coliseum exploded. Oregon head coach Kelly Graves called timeout.

The folks at Bramlage played Sandstorm — the often-maligned crowd ignitor with a controversial past at K-State — to the crowds’ delight.

This is not a Sandstorm story, though. It’s not a “the chant” opinion piece. This is about the crowd and the importance of momentum in sport.

There are usually one or two opportunities in any sports season for a team to capture a crowd. Often, it is the first time a major opponent comes to town. The first time the stadium is full. If you deliver, they keep coming back. If you don’t, you might have lost them for the rest of the year.

K-State women’s basketball (11-2) delivered in front of 5,209 fans on Saturday night by beating a ranked Oregon squad.

“Oregon’s had the injury bug. … They’re not 100 percent back, but that’s a team that is a top-10-type team,” head coach Jeff Mittie said. “They’ve got the size, they’ve got the athletic ability.”

It wasn’t just that they won. It was how they won in wire-to-wire fashion, holding a top-25 team at arms’ length for the full 40 minutes that — hopefully — captured the crowd for the rest of the year.

“I thought the crowd was really good,” Mittie said. “I hope they enjoyed it, and I hope they come back. I think our team is a fun team to watch. I really do. I think they’re playing the game the right way.”

At court level, it was legitimately loud when K-State needed a couple of defensive stops late in the first half. It erupted when K-State hit each of its clutch threes to preserve the lead. The crowd booed and groaned when calls didn’t go K-State’s way and cheered when they did. They were loud, responsive and energetic.

“That was a lot of fun, a great atmosphere,” junior guard Emilee Ebert said. “Everything just seemed to be going our way, and we took it and ran and had a lot of fun playing with each other. The crowd helped out a lot too.”

For K-State students, women’s basketball games are free. There’s no excuse going forward to miss out on one of the athletic departments’ better programs and more exciting teams, featuring young talent and one of the most dominant players K-State has across all its teams.

Junior center Ayoka Lee is already a multiple-time All-Big-12 first-teamer while racking up well over 1,000 points. She has 37 double-doubles already, good for third all-time in school history, and is nearing the top-20 in school history in points scored.

The Wildcats also start three freshmen — Serena Sundell, Brylee Glenn and Jaelyn Glenn — two of which have already earned Big 12 Freshman of the Week awards.

“If we could have that atmosphere every game, that would be great,” Lee said after putting up yet another double-double. “I loved it.”

You heard her. Fill Bramlage.

Nathan Enserro is the Collegian’s assistant sports editor and a graduate student in mass communications. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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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.