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Kansas State Collegian

Kansas State Collegian

The independent student news publication at Kansas State University

Kansas State Collegian

Wildcat comeback falls short to Texas in Big 12 semifinals; move on to NCAA tournament

Avery Johnson
Guard Zyanna Walker covers Texas forward Madison Booker on defense. Walker’s fourth quarter coverage of Booker allowed the Wildcats to close the gap, although ultimately fell 71-64.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A comeback full of grit, will and hustle was not quite enough for Kansas State women’s basketball as it lost 71-64 against Texas in the Big 12 tournament semifinals. A 14-point deficit turned into a two-point lead, but the Longhorns came out victorious with a late fourth quarter push.

“We’ve got to come out of the gates better,” head coach Jeff Mittie said. “We’re coming out of the gates and putting ourselves in a hole. Our communication isn’t as good early until we have problems. Those things need to get better.”

The Wildcats struggled early in this heavyweight fight. The Longhorns’ size and athleticism caused troubles at both ends. Center Ayoka Lee ended the day with 25 points and 10 rebounds, constantly keeping the Wildcats within distance in the first half. Lee said K-State needs to step into its confidence sooner in games as postseason play continues.

Center Ayoka Lee is fouled while going up by Texas guard Shaylee Gonzales while being pushed by Texas forward DeYona Gaston. Lee ended the game with a double-double 25 points and 10 rebounds.

“Obviously everyone knows Ayoka Lee is incredible,” guard Gabby Gregory said about Lee’s performance. “She brings a lot of focus to every team that we’re going to play against. It’s up to us guards to pick it up a little bit.”

Down 38-24, K-State ended the first half with a 6-0 run, starting the comeback attempt.

The third quarter was a constant back-and-forth with K-State and Texas exchanging buckets. The quarter ended with Texas leading 51-44. 

The brunt of the comeback for K-State came in the fourth quarter. Led by guard Zyanna Walker’s pesky defense on Big 12 Player of the Year, Texas forward Madison Booker, the Wildcats crawled closer and closer within the lead. 

Walker picked up the star freshman at halfcourt nearly every play, spearheading holding Texas’ offense scoreless in nearly the first four minutes of the fourth quarter. 

Walker’s defensive assignment on Booker was handed to guard Brylee Glenn when she was subbed out, who followed up just as strongly. Glenn brought offensive and defensive intensity in the fourth.

“Zy, Bry, are both incredible defenders so they were really able to get up there and bother her at times and that came up big for us,” Gregory said.”

Glenn grabbed a steal and seven of her nine total points, including a 3-pointer, to take a 57-55 lead with four minutes left. 

“I never have a question on if Brylee or Zy are gonna guard,” Lee said. “They’re great defenders and they come in with the intensity we need.”

The Longhorns tied it twice and took a 61-59 lead that was tied before going out ahead. 

Texas outscored K-State 10-3 in the final 73 seconds of play, drowning out the K-State comeback and the loud K-State contingent inside T-Mobile Center.

“We just fought right until the end just like coach said,” Gregory said. “We made a lot of really great plays. They just made a few more.”

Despite the loss, K-State outshot Texas 49%-46.6%. The Longhorns thrived in the small areas, winning the 2nd chance point battle 12-8 and winning the turnover battle 17-15. The Longhorns’ had five players score in double figures, led by Booker with 17.

Outside of Lee, five other Wildcats scored on the day, all notching five or more points. Guard Serena Sundell was second on the team with 12 points and led with six assists. Gregory knocked down two more 3s, scoring eight points while also dishing out five assists and grabbing three steals.

Guard Serena Sundell looks for an opening against Texas in the Big 12 tournament semifinal match. Sundell was second on the Wildcats in points with 12, and also picked up six assists and four rebounds. (Avery Johnson)

The loss moves K-State’s to a 25-7 record before the NCAA tournament. 

“If we play like we did today, there’s a lot of basketball ahead for us,” Gregory said.

The Wildcats await the selection committee’s decision on their seed in the tournament. A No. 4 seed would allow K-State to host the first and second round of the NCAA tournament. Mittie said the team “without any doubt” has returned to their form from earlier in the season.

“I think we’ve got a lot on our resume that a lot of people don’t have,” Mittie said about earning a top 4 seed. “I think we got a good case.”

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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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