The Kansas State women’s basketball team (17-8, 7-6 Big 12) has fallen out of the AP Poll entirely after two-straight road losses. The Wildcats have gone from fighting for the right to host the opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament to fighting to avoid a play-in game in the Big 12 Championship after losing four of their past six.
The problem: they can’t seem to score on the road. They have not broken 60 points on offense on the road since a 71-61 win over West Virginia on Jan. 8.
Luckily for the Wildcats, they have a home bout with the Big 12’s second-worst team, Oklahoma State (8-14, 3-10 Big 12). The Cowgirls are on a two-game win streak after losing eight in a row in Big 12 play.
Oklahoma State has the worst offense in the conference but boasts a defense that holds opponents to under 60 points per game. That’s good enough for second place behind Texas.
The issue for the Cowgirls is that they don’t put the ball through the hoop particularly well from the field (36 percent) or from three (29 percent) and have the fewest assists per game in the league.
In terms of personnel, K-State will have to watch out for junior guard Lauren Fields. The 5 foot 9 inch Shawnee, Oklahoma native leads the team by far in points per game. Her 16.9 ppg accounts for the only Cowgirl averaging double-figures.
They have quite a bit of size at the forward position to throw at K-State’s Ayoka Lee. Six-foot-three-inch center Kassidy De Lapp had four steals and blocked a shot in the match-up in Stillwater this season.
It will be interesting to see how Oklahoma State defends Lee — which has been the key to success against K-State. She scores roughly 35 percent of K-State’s points and is the key to the Wildcat offense.
Big 12 teams seem to have a game plan against Lee that has kept her relatively quiet. She has scored 19 or fewer points three times in the Wildcat’s past six games. Teams have increased the pressure on K-State’s guards, denied the entry pass to her and brought help side defense to prevent the pass over the top.
Kansas had success against her in Lawrence this past weekend, throwing a seemingly endless string of forwards at her, forcing her into bad shots and preventing K-State from trying to feed her.
Foul trouble did not limit Kansas’s physicality with Lee because of its depth at the position. She scored only .46 points per minute played while K-State settled for an uncharacteristic 22 three-point attempts in the loss.
K-State must avoid those types of mistakes and crucially feed the post early and often to avoid a letdown in Bramlage and seriously damage its chances to finish in the top-six in the Big 12.
When Lee scores more than 0.6 points per minute, the Wildcats are 11-2. Both losses came to current top-10 teams in No 6. Iowa State and No. 1 South Carolina. They have only managed to win three Big 12 games with her scoring fewer than .6 points per minute.
K-State and Oklahoma State will tip off at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 20, with a broadcast available on ESPNU.