Coming off two straight losses, there was some concern about Kansas State’s ability to stay competitive in the very tough Big 12. And the visiting Kansas Jayhawks had some upsets already this season. But tonight was the Wildcats night in Bramlage, as K-State pulled off a tough and impressive 69-61 victory to improve to 14-4, and 4-2 in Big 12 play. Ayoka Lee again notched a double-double, her 12th of the season and 41st of her career, with 25 points and 15 rebounds (both were game highs). She was joined in double figures by Serena Sundell with 15 and Jaelyn Glenn with 10 points
K-State was headed for an easy blowout victory, as the Wildcats held a 16-point advantage in the middle of the 4th quarter, but a 19-3 run by the Jayhawks (11-3, 2-3) pulled the game to a 57-57 tie, and it was a back-and forth game until Ayoka Lee woke back up and scored six of K-State’s next eight points to re-gain the advantage, a lead they would not relinquish.
It was a sloppy start for both teams, a sign of things to come, with missed shots and turnovers early on the way to the Jayhawks taking a very early lead. But the Wildcats fought back, and a Jaelyn Glenn 3pt make tied the game at 8-8, and then over a minute later Ayoka Lee hit her first basket to put the Cats up for the first time 10-8. KU would fight back, and tie the game back up at 14-14, but K-State finished the first quarter with a 4-0 run to be up 18-14 at the first break.
KU actually won the second quarter, and actually pulled back in front late at 25-24, but two Serena Sundell free throw makes gave the Cats a slight edge at the break. The first quarter was sloppy, but the second was worse, with the two teams combining for 13 turnovers in just that quarter. The Cats also shot very poorly, often making good drives at the basket but leaving things short, and left head coach Jeff Mittie in a sour mood headed to the locker room for the break.
Whatever he said at halftime seemed to make at least a bit of difference as turnovers ended and the Cats started making shots and slowly began to pull away. K-State pulled into their biggest lead yet 42-31 with 3:40 left in the 3rd with a Jaelyn Glenn layup. But KU notched the next five points before Brylee Glenn knocked down her lone 3pt make of the game to push the lead back to nine before the end of the quarter. K-State committed just one turnover during the quarter, while KU kept up their pace with six in the frame. At that point of the game, KU’s Taiyanna Jackson had half of her team’s 18 turnovers.
For the game, KU finished with 21 turnovers, while K-State notched 18 of their own (though much more evenly spread across the team).
Jackson had an interesting stat line, as Lee’s primary defender for much of the night ended just shy of a double-double herself – with nine turnovers and eight blocks. But she fouled out before she could do any more damage, either to her team or the Wildcats.
KU was led in scoring by Aniya Thomas with 16 points, and four of the five starters for KU finished in double figures. But they only got eight points from elsewhere, and it just wasn’t enough against the Wildcats on their home court.
Next up for K-State is a visit by the No. 14/19 Sooners on Sunday. The Sooners, like K-State, have lost to Iowa State at home and beaten Baylor at home. They also lost to Oregon early in the season, a team that K-State beat in Bramlage in December. Like Baylor, the Sooners are breaking in a new head coach after Sherri Coale retired at the end of last season after 25 seasons in Norman.