‘There’s nothing like playing in the NCAA Tournament’: Women’s basketball season ends in Round of 32

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Freshman Serena Sundell looks to pass the ball during the Nov. 15, 2021 game against North Carolina A&T at Bramlage Coliseum. (Archive photo by Sophie Osborn | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State’s women’s basketball team saw its season come to an end with a loss to top-seeded NC State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats lost 89-57 in Raleigh, North Carolina.

After a dream start to the game — a three-point make on the first possession and two quick fouls for one of the Wolfpack’s best players — the Wildcats led 9-3.

“I knew last game that they decided to go under the screen, so I knew I would have an opportunity to have a three. That’s kind of what I was looking for going into this game, and it was open,” freshman guard Serena Sundell said. “I didn’t shoot it as well as I wanted to, but the coaches told me, ‘Just keep shooting,’ so that’s what I was looking for.”

Sundell led K-State with 17 points on 6-14 shooting and 3-10 from three. She also grabbed three rebounds and dished three assists.

From there, it was all NC State. K-State missed its next seven shots and didn’t score a field goal in the last nearly eight minutes of the first quarter.

“That’s where we lost our poise, that stretch,” head coach Jeff Mittie said. “There’s still windows to throw it to Lee. … Our entire group should have got the ball inside better. There was space available up top.”

Despite the offensive disaster, K-State was lucky to only be down 17-13 at the end of the first.

The second quarter was when the wheels really fell off for K-State. NC State went on separate 12 and nine-point runs to push the lead to 20 before the half. K-State entered the break with a 16-point deficit.

“We struggled to play effectively at the end of the shot clock,” Mittie said. “That was a problem for us.”

The rest of the way out, K-State couldn’t make enough shots or stops to make a run at getting back into the game. The Wildcats were down 27 by the end of the third, and the Wolfpack lead reached a maximum of 35 before the end of the game.

NC State disrupted K-State on offense and forced 16 turnovers, also out-rebounding the Wildcats 38-25. Ultimately, the Wildcats were outshot 55 percent to 39 percent.

“We need them to miss a little bit, and they just didn’t miss a whole lot,” Mittie said. “The second quarter, they shoot 71 percent.”

Junior center Ayoka Lee played through foul trouble to score 12 points and eight rebounds in 30 minutes.

K-State’s loss brings the team to a final record of 20-13. The Wildcats will likely return all five starters going into next season and are set to bring in a highly-touted recruiting class.

“I think this experience is huge,” Lee said. “I think there’s nothing like playing in the NCAA Tournament, so I think it’s definitely something to carry with us and build off of.”

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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.