The independent student news publication at Kansas State University

Kansas State Collegian

Kansas State Collegian

The independent student news publication at Kansas State University

Kansas State Collegian

Five takeaways from women’s basketball Big 12 tournament

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Big 12 tournament for Kansas State women’s basketball only featured two games. While there is some disappointment in the results and some joy in the production, plenty can be taken away from the 80 minutes of play in T-Mobile Center.

Takeaway #1: Ayoka Lee is healthier and back to dominant self

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. (Avery Johnson)

Center Ayoka Lee has battled through a return from her ankle injury for much of the later season. After seeming to have struggled finding her rhythm, the all-time leading rebounder in K-State history looks to be back.

In two games in Kansas City, Missouri, the All-American has averaged 23.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. Both Texas and West Virginia placed a heavy emphasis on stopping Lee, but both failed. Lee has been dominant — particularly in the first half, scoring 34 of her 47 points in the two games on 70% shooting. The second halves have not been equal to her first half expertise, as head coach Jeff Mittie said she is nearly fully back, more offensive than defensively. Nevertheless, Lee is playing like one of the most unstoppable players in all of college basketball.

Takeaway #2: Gabby Gregory is in the midst of a resurgence

Guard Gabby Gregory lets out a cry against Texas in the Big 12 tournament semifinals. Gregory put up eight points and five assists in the 71-64 loss to Texas. (Avery Johnson)

Guard Gabby Gregory’s scoring dropped nearly 10 points from last year with her efficiency numbers following suit. Her extra contributions landed her as an All-Big 12 Honorable Mention, but the performances haven’t been the same. That is starting to change.

After going 4-29 from distance in a seven-game stretch, the senior leader has caught fire, knocking down 10-20 3-point attempts in the past four games. The Big 12 tournament witnessed five of those, with multiple coming in key moments. Along with her shooting, Gregory has continued to be a key distributor and has brought ferocious energy through her help rebounding and defense.

A striving Gregory may be the key piece to moving far into the NCAA tournament.

Takeaway #3: Zyanna Walker is turning into a defensive pest

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. (Avery Johnson)

Guard Zyanna Walker’s energy exemplified K-State’s fight and attitude to never give up in Kansas City. Even more so, Walker’s defense has unlocked a new weapon for the Wildcats.

Both West Virginia and Texas are led by dynamic three-level scorers who can put their teams on their back: Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, West Virginia guard JJ Quinerly and Big 12 Player of the Year, Texas forward Madison Booker. In both close games, Walker could be seen gluing herself to each of their hips, causing extreme uncomfort and havoc. 

Defenders such as Lee, Gregory, guards Jaelyn and Brylee Glenn and guard Serena Sundell have received much of the notice, but Walker possesses a motor and ferocity no one may match. 

The further K-State claws into the NCAA tournament, the more isolation scorers may cause issues. Whether they provide a quickness at 5-foot-8 like Quinerly, or a steadiness at 6-foot-1 like Booker, Walker can be expected to bring them nightmares once they cross half court.

Takeaway #4: Poor starts continue to labor Wildcats

The theme of poor starts is nothing new to the Wildcats. Big 12 play saw K-State fall into double digit deficits it was forced to scratch and claw out of. West Virginia and Texas continued the trend.

K-State twice crawled back from afar: 12 and 14 points. Mittie said after losing to Texas that the team must learn to avoid this constant occurrence. Grit and a will to never give up may be a part of the team’s identity, but falling early in every game leads to a slim chance of competing for a national title.

Takeaway #5: K-State can compete with any style

The two games the Wildcats endured allowed them to face two completely different styles of teams. West Virginia brings a swarm of guards who can shoot, drive to the basket and engage in a stingy press defense. Meanwhile, the possible No. 1 seed Longhorns are led by a slew of height, physicality and shooting.

K-State struggled against both styles, but then dominated both styles. This is greatly aided by few teams having a presence like Lee, who’s offensive mastery and unstoppable post game force anyone opposing her to calculate for. Due to her presence and a plethora of guards and forwards with different skill sets, anyone the Wildcats face must be prepared for K-State’s adjustments to turn their strength and make it a weakness.

Leave a Comment
Donate to Kansas State Collegian

Your donation will support the student journalists of Kansas State University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
About the Contributors
Luke Lazarczyk, sports writer
Sports editor for 2023-24. Previously sports editor for 2022-23 and writer for 2021-22.
Avery Johnson, multimedia editor
Multimedia editor for 2023-24. Previously photographer for spring 2023.
Donate to Kansas State Collegian

Comments (0)

All Kansas State Collegian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *