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Kansas State Collegian

Kansas State Collegian

The independent student news publication at Kansas State University

Kansas State Collegian

Second Sunflower Showdown and Lee/Jackson battle goes to Kansas

Wildcats fall 58-55 to Kansas, nearly sent game to overtime
Grace Parks
Center Ayoka Lee goes for a jumper against Kansas center Taiyanna Jackson. Because of Jackson’s defense, Lee shot 7-21 against the Jayhawks in K-State’s 55-58 loss.

Kansas State women’s basketball failed to sweep the Sunflower Showdown, falling to Kansas 58-55. 

“Kansas outplayed us down the stretch,” head coach Jeff Mittie said. “They executed their stuff better than we did. They did a real good job of disrupting some things for us, and we didn’t play with as much poise as we needed to play with.”

The Wildcats lost in a close fourth quarter despite a late game push. Down six with under a minute, guard Taryn Sides hit a 3-pointer to set a career high 11 points and to move K-State within three.

“It looks good when she makes shots, but I can point to things in this game that she was doing well without the ball going in,” Mittie said about Sides. “I thought it was a good performance by her.”

The shot was followed by a defensive jump ball awarded to the Wildcats. Sides found another opportunity to tie the game on a broken play, but just missed off the backboard at the buzzer. Mittie said that the offense didn’t get a great pass out of the play and that Jackson covered it well.

K-State’s loss again began with a slow start, going down 17-6 in the first quarter. Center Ayoka Lee struggled early and often in her battle against center Taiyanna Jackson, missing her first four shots.

The Wildcats clawed back quickly, eventually taking the lead as Lee picked up steam. Freshman  Sides’ eight first half points provided a needed boost off the bench. The Jayhawks responded to trim the K-State lead 30-28 at half. 

Kansas found first half success thanks to the long ball as four Jayhawk 3-pointers — three of which came in the first quarter — gave Kansas the cushion to battle against K-State’s 22-5 run.

The entire second half became a constant back-and-forth. K-State took a seven-point lead, but the Jayhawks stormed back with jump shooting. Kansas guard S’Mya Nichols’ offense and Jackson’s defense bolstered the Jayhawk team for much of the game, spearheading the victory. 

Nichols finished with a game-high 22 points, finding success in the mid-range off the screen game with Jackson near the top block.

“When they made their push she was making baskets right around that 15-foot range,” Mittie said about Nichols. “I thought she played really really well.”

Meanwhile, Jackson maintained and ultimately won the 1v1 matchup against Lee. The Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Watchlist member collected eight blocks while scoring 11 points and grabbing seven rebounds. Her greatest feat came in holding Lee to 14 points on 7-21 shooting.

“She’s a difference maker,” Mittie said about Jackson. “It makes your drives a little more rushed. It makes your shots in the paint challenged. No different than [what] Lee does for us.”

It wasn’t until the fourth quarter when Kansas finally gained control. Led by free throw shooting and stingy defense, the Jayhawks won the quarter 16-12 and led by as much as six. The Wildcat offense failed to find any scoring consistency, shooting 35.7% in the quarter and 39.3% in the game.

“There’s being aggressive and always being a threat, and then there’s just participating in the game,” Mittie said on offensive contributors. “There were points in this game where I felt like offensively, it just looked like we were just moving the ball around the perimeter and not making things real hard for Kansas.”

The loss was K-State’s eighth game in conference play to be decided by one score or less, winning five of them.

The No. 10 Wildcats move to a 23-5 record with two regular season games remaining, with hopes of claiming a top 4 seed in the NCAA tournament to host the first two rounds. K-State move on to host senior night at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday against Iowa State, who won their first matchup 96-93.

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About the Contributor
Luke Lazarczyk
Luke Lazarczyk, sports writer
Sports editor for 2023-24. Previously sports editor for 2022-23 and writer for 2021-22.
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