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Kansas State Collegian

Kansas State Collegian

The independent student news publication at Kansas State University

Kansas State Collegian

Wildcats squeak by West Virginia in Big 12 tournament clash

Center Ayoka Lee goes for a layup against West Virginia in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals. In the 65-62 Wildcat victory, Lee grabbed a double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds.

KANSAS CITY, Mo.The largest women’s Big 12 tournament crowd since 2013 witnessed a constant back-and-forth faceoff as Kansas State took down West Virginia 65-62 in the third round of the tournament.

“Heck of a game,” head coach Jeff Mittie said. “They got off to a great start, knocking a lot of 3s down. Our defense got a lot better as the game went on. And we started to make some plays. And then we had some self-inflicted problems, but West Virginia does that to a lot of people.”

The Wildcats issue started early, despite committing 11 of their 21 turnovers in the second half due to West Virginia’s press defense.

“Their press is tough,” guard Serena Sundell said. “I think we did a good job learning as we went on, but we had a lot of self-inflicted turnovers.”

Led by Mountaineer guard JJ Quinerly, K-State quickly fell behind 23-11 near the end of the first quarter.

K-State climbed back in yet another game. And again, center Ayoka Lee led the way.

“Taking advantage of it is important,” Lee said about the size mismatch in the post. “Being patient, getting great angles on my post ups and then being able to float out with the guards, where the ball is, is important.”

Lee finished the first half with 16 points on 6-9 shooting with eight rebounds to lead K-State to a 34-31 halftime lead. Lee ended the game with 22 points and 11 rebounds — enough to break the school career rebound record — as West Virginia continued to battle.

The Wildcats led by as much as 10 with five minutes left in the third quarter, but thanks to a combination of Lee’s foul trouble and Mountaineer shooting, West Virginia regained the lead multiple times.

To secure the win, the Wildcats needed major contributions from other players outside of Lee.

Guard Serena Sundell scans the floor before making her move against West Virginia. In the 65-62 Wildcat win, Sundell was second on the team in scoring with 14 coupled with a game-high eight assists. (Avery Johnson)

Sundell was second in K-State’s scoring with 14 points while grabbing the game-high eight assists. She wasn’t the only veteran guard to step up.

Guard Gabby Gregory ended the first half with zero points, one rebound, one assist and three turnovers. The senior ended the night with 11 points — eight in the fourth quarter — five rebounds and four assists.

Guard Gabby Gregory smiles following West Virginia turning the ball over toward the end of the game. Gregory had a big second half, recording all 11 of her points in it alongside grabbing four rebounds and three assists. (Avery Johnson)

“She brings a lot of passion and fire to this team,” Sundell said. “It’s been great these last few games, just seeing her knock down shots.”

With Gregory’s help, the Wildcats regained a fourth quarter lead, but the Mountaineers tied it 61-61 with 2:59 left. The Wildcats needed defensive stoppers — specifically, someone to guard the game-high scorer of 27 points in Quinerly. Then came guard Zyanna Walker, earning the Quinerly assignment on defense.

“Walker came in, because she cooled Quinerly off just a little bit,” Mittie said. “Quinerly’s a tough guard. You just gotta make it tough for her. … I thought Walker really played well tonight.”

Guard Zyanna Walker brings the ball down the court against West Virginia guard JJ Quinerly. Quinerly ended as the lead scorer of the game with 27 points. (Avery Johnson)

A Lee layup and then a Sundell jumper pushed the lead to four with West Virginia only scoring one more point.

The victory was the Wildcats’ first game in T-Mobile Center after playing in Municipal Auditorium in previous years.

“It’s really fun,” Lee said. “It felt like we had a home crowd which is really cool. It’s really that college basketball atmosphere in March, which is a little different than Municipal.”

K-State moves on to take on Texas at 4 p.m. Monday. The teams split the series this season as the Longhorns stand in the Wildcats way of history.

“I know that we’re out for a little bit of revenge for some teams, so we’re just taking it one game at a time,” Sundell said. “And also, I know that K-State women’s basketball has never won a Big 12 tournament, so we are all locked in on the Big 12 tournament.”

Forward Gisela Sanchez and the bench throw up a 3 sign in celebration of a K-State 3-pointer. K-State shot 4-11 on 3s in the 65-62 win over West Virginia. (Avery Johnson)
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About the Contributors
Luke Lazarczyk
Luke Lazarczyk, sports writer
Sports editor for 2023-24. Previously sports editor for 2022-23 and writer for 2021-22.
Avery Johnson
Avery Johnson, multimedia editor
Multimedia editor for 2023-24. Previously photographer for spring 2023.
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