The Kansas State women’s basketball team (14-4, 4-2) bounced back from two-straight losses this past week with a 69-61 win over Kansas in the Sunflower Showdown at Bramlage Coliseum Wednesday night.
“This is a big win for us to come off of the two we had,” head coach Jeff Mittie said. “I have a feeling I’m going to be saying, ‘Oh yeah, that’s another big one, another big one.’ I think all 18 [Big 12 games] are going to be that way.”
While the eight-point win might seem large, the game was very much in doubt as K-State started down a similar path to its late-game collapse against Iowa State. Missing shots and turning the ball over in the face of the Kansas press defense, K-State watched its lead shrink from 16 to zero with three minutes to go.
“I thought we played really well until about the 5:50 mark,” Mittie said. “[There were] three particular plays where they made big-time plays. … We’ve got to learn to balance that stretch because you don’t want to get passive, but you’ve also got to make smart, aggressive plays.”
K-State turned to Ayoka Lee to help stem the Jayhawk assault, turning to her on the offensive end each time the lead dipped below three.
“I think Yokie [Lee] really carried us in that stretch,” Mittie said. “She hit two big turnaround shots — tough turnaround shots — against a really good defender. I think we were able to take a deep breath and relax a little bit and finish it off.”
Lee wound up with 25 points and 15 rebounds in her 12th double-double of the season. She also turned away a pair of Jayhawk shots.
“Lee’s terrific,” Kansas head coach Brandon Schneider said. “She’s very difficult to guard just possession after possession. I think most people in this league would live with 25 [points], it’s when she gets 35 you know you’re really in trouble.”
The Wildcats also looked to a full student section for support.
“That’s the best student crowd we’ve ever had. That was so awesome,” Mittie said. “I appreciate them staying. … They were a big part of us continuing to have the energy when we gave back the lead. When you’re walking out there, there’s a pride that comes from stepping up and finishing the plays. For them to get to play in front of their fellow students and have that kind of student crowd, I’ve got to believe is pretty special for them.”
K-State finished the game on a 10-2 run after allowing Kansas to tie the ballgame a second time with 2:21 to play. Kansas would not score another field goal the rest of the match-up.
The Wildcats got off to another slow start, struggling to feed Lee for the game’s opening seven minutes. Their defense kept them close enough that a couple of quick runs gave them a four-point lead at the end of the first.
K-State was outscored in the third quarter but managed to take a one-point lead into the half before exploding out to a nine-point lead to start the fourth quarter.
Mittie’s team would build that lead out to 16 points early in the fourth quarter.
“I just wanted us to relax and compete. I didn’t think we did that in Lubbock very well,” Mittie said. “For 35 minutes, we did it very well and then probably the last two and a half minutes.”
Freshman guard Serena Sundell scored 15 points and dished out seven assists while playing the final four minutes with four fouls.
Up next for K-State is a visit from No. 14 Oklahoma at 1 p.m. on Sunday on ESPN+.