This Week In History (2022): Lee makes college basketball history

Ayoka Lee shoots the ball during the January 19, 2022 game against Kansas at Bramlage Coliseum. (Archive photo by Sophie Osborn | Collegian Media Group)

On Jan. 23, 2022, a little over 4,000 people arrived at Bramlage Coliseum to watch a women’s basketball game between two longtime rivals — the Kansas State Wildcats and the Oklahoma Sooners. A few hours later, the crowd dispersed, likely amazed at what they just saw.

No, it was not a game-winning shot or a remarkable play that they had witnessed. They had just witnessed history by a 6-foot-6-inch junior from Byron, Minnesota.

Ayoka Lee, or Yokie, had just made NCAA history, breaking the single-game scoring record with 61 points, breaking the record of 60 points scored by Rachel Banham of Minnesota in 2016.

“It was unreal,” Trey Holloway, sophomore who attended the game, said. “I’ll never forget that game and I can say that I got to witness NCAA history.”

In a 94-65 victory, Lee accounted for over 60% of her team’s scoring, making 23 of 30 shots from the field and 15 of 17 free throws.

“What’s another word for incredible?” Jennie Baranczyk, Oklahoma head coach, said following the game. “Outstanding, amazing, spectacular, All-American? Yes. All of those things. She was great.”

The scoring started early for Lee as she led K-State off to a hot start, dropping six points right off the bat and 12 of the Wildcats first 15 points. Facing a team in Oklahoma who entered the game second in the nation in scoring, the fast offensive start was necessary.

However, Oklahoma would not back down from a fight that evening, dropping 11 of the game’s next 15 points to close out the quarter trailing 19-11. Overall, Lee had 14 points in the quarter.

The Wildcats went right back to Lee, who started the second quarter just like she began the first, dropping the first six points of the quarter. After a 12-0 run, the Wildcats took a massive lead of 24 into the locker room. And for Lee, her scoring touch was on a roll, as she dropped 32 points in the first half, a school record. 

Then in the third quarter, Lee caught fire, sinking 17 of her team’s 19 points in the quarter. With 49 points on the night, Lee had already broken the school single-game scoring record, which she held, by six points.

With just 12 points needed to set the NCAA record, it felt like Lee was on the precipice of history. 

Lee dropped ten quick points to get to 59 and then with just 2:53 left in the game, she hit a layup to get to 61 and break the all-time NCAA record for points scored in a women’s basketball game. Jeff Mittie then pulled her to a standing ovation from over 4,000 adoring fans at Bramlage. 

When the buzzer sounded, the Wildcats had won 94-65 and Lee’s life was changed forever.

Lee had gone from the team’s best player to one of the most recognized women’s basketball players in America. She had become the face of team promotions, had a segment about her on Good Morning America and Sportscenter with Scott Van Pelt. Her jersey and the game ball were donated to the basketball Hall of Fame.

She would go on to finish the season averaging 22 points per game as the 20-13 Wildcats made it to the Women’s NCAA Division I Tournament. Even though they lost to Maine in the Round of 32, nobody will forget the tremendous accomplishment that Lee made on that January night in 2022.