‘Every game is critical’: K-State women keep pace with win over Oklahoma State

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Laura Macke moves the ball down the court during the Jan. 19, 2022 game against Kansas at Bramlage Coliseum. (Archive photo by Sophie Osborn | Collegian Media Group)

The Kansas State women’s basketball team (18-8, 8-6 Big 12) turned around a two-game skid in a wire-to-wire 56-38 win over Oklahoma State (8-15, 3-11 Big 12) at Bramlage Coliseum Sunday afternoon.

For K-State, the win allowed the team to keep pace with the top half of the Big 12 and stay just three games back of league-leading Iowa State and Baylor. The Wildcats sit at sixth place in the league as the season ambles toward the Big 12 Championship in Kansas City.

“Every game is important,” head coach Jeff Mittie said. “Now we’re down to the stretch where we have four regular-season games left … Every game is critical for seeding. You want to be in the top-six of the Big 12 because that means you get that first-round bye.”

K-State built its win off of a solid defense. The Wildcats held the Cowgirls to just four points in the first quarter and just two total points in the second. The second quarter was the first time K-State had ever kept an opponent from scoring a field goal for an entire quarter.

“I think our defense was really good. I think probably that they had the same thing snowball on them. [Missing shots] gets contagious,” Mittie said.

The Wildcats addressed some of their own offensive woes in the meantime. The Wildcats were 1-22 from three this past weekend against Kansas and did a hair better during Sunday’s game with 4-19 shooting.

Where the team shined was focusing on getting to the basket for better shots and using the driving game to open up space for junior center Ayoka Lee to go to work.

“I think we came out super aggressive. I loved to see it,” Lee said. “I think it definitely helps just make it harder for the other team on defense. They can’t guard two things at once, so they kind of have to pick and choose.”

Lee, who Kansas was able to frustrate last time out, scored 17 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. She blocked a pair of shots and altered several others in 28 minutes of play.

“When we did get it inside, [K-State’s] got a kid (Lee) that alters shots and changes the dynamics of the game,” Oklahoma State head coach Jim Littell said. “Ayoka Lee just changes the game on both ends, and she’s a difference-maker on both ends.”

With Lee still attracting the bulk of the defensive attention, junior guard Emilee Ebert and senior forward Laura Macke were able to get to the basket.

Ebert scored 13 and Macke scored eight by taking advantage of the court space opened up by OSU’s focus on Lee.

At times, Ebert and Macke were given free rein of half the court. The Cowgirls, seemingly daring K-State to shoot threes, opted to keep the player tasked with guarding them closer to the paint to defend Lee.

“Definitely gotta keep your confidence. Sometimes you can be caught off guard when you’re that wide open,” Ebert said. “Making sure you’re in rhythm and you’re ready to shoot is how you have to go about it.”

In the second half, the offenses opened up a bit. OSU scored 17 in the third quarter and finished the game on a 13-2 run to make the final score a bit closer.

The Wildcats are now 2-6 when they score fewer than 60 points. The other win was a 44-30 win over UT Martin.

K-State is back at home at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 23, hosting No. 14 Texas with a chance to pull a little closer to the top of the league. A win would put the Wildcats into a tie for fifth place in the Big 12. The game will air on ESPN+.

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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.