It took three and a half quarters, but Kansas State women’s basketball (12-2, 2-0 Big 12) finally pulled away from Oklahoma State (5-6, 0-2 Big 12) at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Oklahoma to win 60-49.
A six-point run in the middle of the fourth quarter finally put K-State up double-digits after leading uncomfortably for most of the game. A wide-open three by Emilee Ebert with two and a half to play put the game out of reach.
Despite outshooting Oklahoma State 51 percent to 31 percent and 50 percent to 14 percent from three, the Wildcats still couldn’t put the Cowgirls away until the fourth quarter. The culprit: 20 turnovers leading to 17 points for Oklahoma State and only four offensive rebounds leading to only four second-chance points for K-State.
“I think Oklahoma State is one of the better defensive teams in the league,” head coach Jeff Mittie said. “They’re going to guard you one-on-one as good as anyone in the league. They’re physical, they get after you, and I think that physicality bothered us in stretches of this game.”
Those turnovers and offensive rebounds contributed to Oklahoma State getting up 13 more shots than the Wildcats despite having one fewer possession.
Freshman point guard Serena Sundell — who entered the game averaging only 2.5 turnovers per game — lost the ball nine times versus just seven assists. The Cowgirls harassed the leader of the Wildcat offense up and down the court to make her uncomfortable.
“I think fatigue got us a little bit at the end of the second quarter,” Mittie said. “We had some turnovers from Serena where she was fatigued because of that pressure.”
The Wildcats actually started out the game hot, building a 12-5 first-quarter lead behind five quick points from freshman guard Brylee Glenn.
Brylee Glenn led all Wildcats with 19 points and was 2-3 from the three-point range in 29 minutes.
“I just loved her fearlessness,” Mittie said. “When we needed her in the fourth, she was fantastic and really made some huge plays. … Her fearlessness continues to be a much-needed trait for our basketball team.”
After the Wildcats briefly stretched their lead to 12 points, the Cowgirls came storming back, putting up a 9-3 run, cutting it to six then cutting it back down to just a five-point K-State lead at halftime.
They were pressuring the ball handler to force turnovers and keep K-State from getting the ball inside to Lee.
“[On-ball pressure] was the whole key,” Mittie said. “I think we’ve got to handle that better.”
Oklahoma State found those five points coming out of the break, tying it up early in the third quarter.
K-State went back on the offensive from there with a 7-0 run over the course of a minute to take a more comfortable seven-point lead out of the media timeout, driven primarily by junior center Ayoka Lee.
Lee had 18 points and six rebounds in 35 minutes of play. She shot 8-11 and was a perfect 2-2 from the free-throw line. She had only six points at halftime.
“We’ve tried to do a little more in the middle of the floor for her, and we talked about some different entry points, and we did feel like we were able to get the ball to her a little better in the second half,” Mittie said. “We wanted her to set up her next move better as opposed to the initial passing angle. We wanted her to be patient and set up the next angle.”
K-State travels next to Morgantown, West Virginia, to take on the West Virginia Mountaineers (7-4, 0-1 Big 12) at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 8, on ESPN+.