Kansas State women’s basketball (17-6, 7-4) survived a late scare against Texas Tech in Manhattan on Saturday, Feb. 5. The Wildcats led by as many as 13 in the second half and held on to win 57-51.
Junior center Ayoka Lee — who eclipsed 1,000 career points against Western Kentucky — became the fastest player in K-State history to 1,500 career points with a 31-point performance. She is the first Wildcat to reach those two milestones in the same season.
“It’s not really something that crossed my mind too much,” Lee said. “It’s great, I’m thankful for it. I’m thankful for the moments I get to celebrate with my team.”
After scoring just 12 against the Red Raiders in Lubbock, Lee was able to lead her team to victory by taking advantage of the way Texas Tech was set on guarding her.
The Red Raiders had a game plan in Lubbock that focused on ball pressure, denying the entry pass and weakside help to keep Lee from catching the ball.
“We were a little bit undersized in the post this time, so it was a little bit difficult for us to keep her from catching it,” Texas Tech head coach Krista Gerlich said. “I thought they did a great job of skipping the ball and moving, and I think Lee does a fantastic job of footwork and understanding where the ball needs to go.”
It didn’t work nearly as well this time around because Lee changed up her strategy and the Wildcat guards changed the way they fed her.
“Just trying not to stand. Having divers coming when the ball goes in, skipping the ball to make the defense move and then getting Yokie to repost and getting that pass in to her after the defense isn’t quite settled yet,” freshman guard Jaelyn Glenn said.
The Wildcats also relied on balanced scoring from their three freshmen guards to help the scoring effort. Jaelyn Glenn scored 16 points, her sister Brylee Glenn had 14 and Serena Sundell had 12. Sundell also dished out seven assists.
“I thought a more aggressive transition got us some buckets early in this game,” head coach Jeff Mittie said. “I think we flowed into things better tonight than we have. It still wasn’t what we’re looking for, but it was better. I think they trusted each other better.”
A key turning point to stemming Texas Tech’s comeback came with three minutes left when the Red Raiders had cut the lead from nine to four.
Jaelyn Glenn reached out and picked the pocket of Tech’s Bre’amber Scott as she tried to drive past her. Glenn took the ball straight to the hoop. On the ensuing possession, she got another steal when she jumped in front of a pass. The Wildcats got two more points to make it a quick 4-0 run.
“I was proud of our group the way they battled,” Mittie said. “Some key defensive plays when they made runs. Jay had a big steal in that stretch. [Emilee] Ebert had a big steal in that stretch.”
From there, the Wildcats were able to feed Lee routinely and make free throws to ice the game away.
“We had good options down the stretch, and I think that was a key for us,” Mittie said.
Despite the back-and-forth nature of the game, K-State managed to lead for 37-minutes. After building an initial 12-point lead, the Wildcats watched it melt away towards the end of the first quarter.
That would be the story of the game for K-State: going on a big run, then Texas Tech would manage to punch back and get back into the game.
Texas Tech’s Vivian Gray nearly set a personal-best mark with 36 points, and she led all scorers. Only one other Red Raider reached double-figures.
“We tried everything against Gray and just couldn’t get her stopped,” Mittie said. “We switched, trapped, different people started off on her so different people were switching onto her, sags, had different people coming in and she was just that good tonight. I’ll look back on film … but my guess is we just need to tip our cap to her.”
K-State’s next battle is a rematch with No. 9 Baylor in Waco, Texas, on Wednesday, Feb. 9. The Wildcats beat the Bears 68-59 in Manhattan in early January. Catch Wednesday’s game on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.