‘We had it right in front of us’: Women’s basketball blows chances, falls to West Virginia on Senior Night

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Freshman guard Jaelyn Glenn looks for an open pass to junior center Ayoka Lee during the game against West Virginia on March 2, 2022. (Sarah Unruh | Collegian Media Group)

The Kansas State women’s basketball team went ice cold to waste a comeback effort on Senior Night in Bramlage Coliseum. The Wildcats lost to West Virginia 74-62 in double overtime on March 2, 2022.

K-State had just one field goal after the 4:52 mark in the fourth quarter and was outscored 14-2 in the second overtime to secure the loss.

“Tonight, the issue was a lot of self-inflicted problems,” head coach Jeff Mittie said. “We had every opportunity to win this game. We had it right in front of us. We had the plays right in front of us, and we just didn’t make them.”

It was a battle for the Wildcats to even get it to overtime, though, after falling behind 19-7 by the end of the first quarter. K-State did not score a field goal until the 4:20 mark in the first quarter.

“There are times when, if we can’t get it to Lee early, we have some players that play tentative,” Mittie said. “I thought Serena [Sundell] had some good looks early in this game, and she missed I think her first four shots. Some of it is we gotta make those plays.”

The Wildcats powered their way back into the game behind some resurgent three-point shooting. K-State poured in four threes in the second quarter and cut the WVU lead to just seven at the half.

“I think in the second quarter, we did a little bit of both: we moved the defense better, and we got the game in transition,” Mittie said. “We got some shots to go — obviously, that lifted our confidence. Got ourselves back in the game and only were down seven at half.”

K-State finally got Ayoka Lee going in the third by tossing the ball over the top of the Mountaineer deny defense. Lee was held to just seven points in the first half but scored the first 11 points of the second half for K-State.

“We tried to move the defense a little bit better with some pass fakes,” Mittie said. “They were bringing some backside help, so we tried to move the defense a little bit better. I think she posted up better. We tried to get some post touches before they got organized.”

A pair of free throws from freshman guard Serena Sundell gave K-State its first lead with 3:38 left in the third. The Wildcats would ultimately take a two-point lead and all the momentum into the fourth quarter.

West Virginia battled back and took a two-point lead with 5:25 to go. On the next possession, freshman guard Brylee Glenn scored the final points of regulation. Her jumper tied the ballgame with 4:52 to go.

K-State missed five-straight shots after that mark.

“That’s where we haven’t grown up enough, quite frankly,” Mittie said. “We spent the last week working on backdoor cuts. I can’t tell you 10 that we made in this game without them being called, and that’s the growing up — that has to happen with this group, and they’re not there yet.”

Despite that, K-State still wound up with the ball with the chance to get the final shot. A three-pointer from freshman Jaelyn Glenn clanged off the rim, but junior Emilee Ebert grabbed the rebound and put up a shot from the lane that missed as well.

“We end up getting decent looks on that [play], we just don’t get it to go,” Mittie said.

In overtime, K-State had its chances to win the game yet again. The Wildcats were 0-3 from the field and could not make enough free throws to win the game in the period. Between the two overtime periods, they were just 6-10 from the line.

Once again, K-State had the ball with a chance to get the last shot, but senior Laura Macke drew iron, and the game rolled into a second overtime for the first time in Mittie’s tenure at K-State.

“Our execution in that stretch was not very good. We had two different breakdowns in two different lay-up-type looks, and neither were ran correctly,” Mittie said. “We had a set that we wanted to get to Lee, and they took it away on a play. We ended up with Laura — her player came off and smothered up Lee, and then Laura had that look at the end.”

The second overtime was a disaster from the start. After winning the tip, WVU got a turnover and an and-one score in transition. They forced another four turnovers en route to outscoring K-State 14-2 in the final period.

“I think that we did not have a group on the floor that was confident to take those shots in that moment,” Mittie said. “I think the turnovers kind of weighed on their mind.”

Lee wound up scoring 24 points and pulling down 10 rebounds. She was 6-9 from the free-throw line and 9-16 from the field.

Sundell was right behind her with 15 points. She also grabbed six rebounds, dished seven assists but turned the ball over nine times. She played 49 of 50 minutes.

“She’s as disappointed as anybody in this finish,” Mittie said of his point guard. “I love coaching the kid. I love the way she comes and competes. I love the way she plays. She’s got to handle those situations better, and that’s got to be the adjustment as she goes forward, but we wouldn’t be where we are without her.”

The loss locks K-State into the sixth-seed in the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City, Missouri, next week with one regular-season game left to play. The Wildcats finish their regular season against last-place TCU in Fort Worth at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 5.

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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.