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K-State holds off Lamar in ugly game

The Wildcats had a rough time on offense Sunday, but it was more than enough for a win

NCAA Womens Basketball: Big 12 Conference Tournament-West Virginia vs Kansas State Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Say what you will about K-State’s showing Sunday afternoon.

The Wildcats shot 28-for-64 from the field — a deceivingly solid number — turned it over 22 times and scored just eight points in the second quarter.

The good news for K-State, though, was that its opponent in Lamar wasn’t any better. The Wildcats held off the Cardinals for a 68-43 win in Manhattan.

Among bright spots in the rough for K-State included senior Breanna Lewis, who posted her first double-double of the year with 18 points and 14 rebounds.

Twelve of those points came in the first half, when the Wildcats shot a smooth 57 percent from the field and ripped off a 13-0 run — largely responsible for K-State’s mark from the field — in the first frame. Sophomore Kayla Goth tallied nine points in the first alone, and K-State led 23-5 entering the second.

“First quarter, it seemed like we were making the simple play,” head coach Jeff Mittie said. “Lamar was having trouble with our size.”

K-State grabbed a 43-21 halftime lead behind 20 points in the second frame, but from there, the unsightly performance was on — for both teams.

The Wildcats managed just a 4-for-18 mark from the field in the second half, good for 22 percent. They also coughed up 12 more turnovers, on top of posting just eight points in the third quarter.

“I think they left for the Virgin Islands at halftime,” Mittie joked, referencing the Paradise Jam tournament his team will play in beginning Thursday.

The Wildcats may have risked a loss with the rough numbers they put up in the second half, but Lamar struggled on offense in its own ways.

The Cardinals made just 17 of the 69 shots they launched, and 18 turnovers — albeit less in the second half — only stunted whatever progress they could have otherwise made to come back.

K-State did its share to stall Lamar’s offense, though. The Wildcats shut out the Cardinals’ Baileigh O’Dell, who entered Sunday 10-for-15 for the season from downtown. Moe Kinard scored 13 points, her season average, but K-State forced her into 19 shots to get there.

Mittie liked what he saw out of his defense Sunday.

“Our awareness was pretty good out there,” he said. “That’s the area I felt like, from a scouting report, we really played well today — better than we had in the previous games.”

As for Lewis’ double-double outing, Mittie was also pleased. The senior forward’s 14 rebounds were a season-high, and she grabbed rebounds when Lamar began its pesky, scrappy onslaught on both the glass and K-State’s offense.

Lewis wasn’t available postgame, as the team had begun packing for its 5 a.m. flight out of Kansas City Monday morning, but Mittie didn’t hesitate to praise Lewis’ performance.

“I thought, rebounding, she’s continued to improve. I thought she had an all-around, very good game,” Mittie said. “I’m a little surprised she doesn’t have more blocks. It seemed like she had more to me.”

In her efficiency from the floor, however, Lewis exposed a blemish other Wildcats struggled to camouflage — finishing around the basket. Mittie pointed to his team’s several missed bunnies for a partial explanation of K-State’s eight-point third quarter.

“We seemed to miss a lot of layups in that quarter,” he said. “Seemed to have a lot of chances at the rim. Our bigs struggled tonight.... With the exception of Lewis, we struggled at the rim.”

At least some of K-State’s missed layups can be attributed to the way Lamar disrupted K-State’s offense. The Wildcats’ 12 second-half turnovers often came after the Cardinals deflected passes, poked the ball away and employed a full-court press.

While recognizing the issue, though, Mittie said he appreciated the benefits playing against scrappy play can provide in the long run, especially ahead of K-State’s stint in the Virgin Islands.

“I think the opportunity was there for us to push this thing into the nineties, and because we didn’t handle that pressure very well and had too many turnovers, we weren’t able to do that,” Mittie said. “It may not be a 40-minute stretch (in the future), but you’re going to have to handle it in some five-minute stretches; certainly late-game situations.”

K-State will head into the Paradise Jam at 3-0 on the season, but the Wildcats will meet N.C. State in the first round, a team also 3-0 so far.

The Wildcats are faced with three games in as many days at the tournament, against a field of eight that includes seven teams that saw postseason action a year ago.

“It’s a business trip for us,” Mittie said. “We’re going there to see how well we can play. If we play well, I think it’ll be a hell of a tournament.”