Kansas State head coach Deb Patterson knew exactly how long it had been since she beat Oklahoma — 13 straight losses to the Sooners that went back 10 years when the majority of the current Wildcats were in elementary school.
(Kansas State players celebrate at center court after defeating Oklahoma 86-78 on Wednesday night at Bramlage Coliseum. It was the Wildcats’ first win over the Sooners since the 2003-04 season, marking the the end of a 13-game losing streak).
“As a staff, we definitely knew about the streak, but we didn’t talk to the team about it until after the game,” Patterson said Wednesday night. “But we knew, we’ve known — I think that was when the dinosaurs were roaming the earth.”
That losing streak is now extinct too after the Wildcats held on to defeat the Sooners 86-78 on Wednesday night at Bramlage Coliseum.
Behind a team-high 23 points from Leti Romero — including 17 in the second half — the Wildcats erased a five-point halftime deficit to earn their first win over OU since the 2003-04 season.
Romero, who was 6 of 12 from the field, narrowly missed the first triple-double of her career with 10 rebounds and nine assists. The freshman from Spain scored 14 points in the final 10 minutes of the game alone, including 8 of 11 from the free-throw line.
Tied at 63 with 5:22 to go, Romero keyed K-State’s decisive 8-2 run to go ahead for good, scoring six points, including a steal on an OU inbounds pass that she turned into an easy layup that gave the Wildcats a 71-65 lead with 4:20 remaining.
After the Sooners’ Nicole Griffin — who had a team-high 23 points — scored to stop the bleeding, Romero again came through. This time she delivered a floater in the lane and followed that shot with an assist to Ashia Woods on a layup to push the Wildcats’ lead to 77-70 with 1:17 to go.
Woods wasn’t finished, either, as she rebounded a missed free throw by Romero with two seconds remaining, got fouled on a layup and completed a three-point play to seal the victory and snap the Wildcats’ current two-game losing skid.
“It felt really good just to know that we were going to win after that,” said Woods, who had 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the field. “As a team, the players knew how long it had been since we beat Oklahoma, as well.”
With Romero and Woods, the Wildcats had four players in double figures on Wednesday, including Katya Leick who made 7 of 13 from the field — and 5 of 9 from long range — to finish with 22 points. Freshman point guard Kindred Wesemann buried a trio of 3-pointers and finished with 14 points off the bench for K-State, including a three-point play that tied the game at 51 with 11:17 remaining.
“I felt like everyone was dialed in and that was as good a game as I could ask for,” Patterson said. “I couldn’t be any happier — not just about the victory, but how we competed for 40 minutes. What we were talking about after the Kansas game was to improve, and I think you can see how much improvement we have made in the past couple of days, just with understanding the competitive intensity that we are capable of playing with.”
Oklahoma (13-8, 4-4) led by as many as seven early in the second half and K-State never led by more than three until the final five minutes. When one team would go on a run, the other would answer. And once K-State grabbed the lead for good, OU did just enough to keep itself within striking distance of the Wildcats.
That’s when K-State switched to a pressing defense, pestering Oklahoma for the length of the floor the final few minutes of the game, forcing the Sooners into multiple turnovers, including a crucial 10-second violation. At the very least, K-State made Oklahoma work for its open shots and disrupted countless others.
“I think it was the kind of game where you felt like those last minutes of the game were going to stretch on and on,” Patterson said. “Oklahoma was starting to get a few isolations inside and was starting to get a few isolations to the rim. So, beginning to change the tempo a little bit became critical.
“Our team did a great job with the press — we had aggressiveness and we had intelligence. Again, we had great focus and played great basketball. I felt like they played to the level individually they are capable of.”
(Kansas State senior Katya Leick scores on a hook shot against Oklahoma on Wednesday night at Bramlage Coliseum. Leick had 22 points for the Wildcats).
The Wildcats, who made 11 of 22 from behind the arc and finished 45 percent from the field overall, also won the game at the free-throw line, improving from an awful 9-of-21 effort during last Saturday’s home loss to the Jayhawks. On Wednesday, K-State made 23 of 31 from the line, at one point making 13 straight in the second half.
“K-State played great,” OU coach Sherri Coale said. “I don’t want to take anything away from them. Anytime you make 11 3s and anytime you are 23 of 31 from the free-throw line, you’re going to beat a lot of people.”
Another way to beat a lot of people is to stop the opponent’s best player, and that’s exactly what the Wildcats did to the Sooners’ Aaryn Ellenberg, who entered the game as the Big 12’s second-leading scorer at just under 20 points a game. Though she had 16 on Wednesday, the senior guard was 7 of 18 from the field and 1 of 10 from long range with four turnovers.
“When we were at Oklahoma, I felt like Ashia did a tremendous job on Ellenberg,” Patterson said. “She got loose and made shots late in that game, but I don’t think her numbers were indicative of how well she was defended by Ashia.
“Tonight, we guarded her with Ashia, Kindred and additionally (Bri) Craig. So, I think the different looks and the accountability of each of the young people brought were very important to our success… Know your job, be very attentive to it, and get it done.”
K-State, which split the season series with the Sooners, will now go on the road for two straight games, beginning this Saturday at Iowa State and then next Saturday at West Virginia.
“It’s all about momentum,” Leick said. “Today just showed that we’re going to keep grinding and keep working and we’re going to keep pushing and holding each other accountable. We, as team, have a goal, and in order to achieve those goals we have to keep winning games. Tonight, you could really see we really enjoyed playing. We had fun, we competed.”