Kansas State women’s basketball team’s dominating 86-71 victory over No. 12 West Virginia (13-1, 1-1) started with a chewing out.
The Wildcats (11-3, 1-1) had committed several turnovers early in the first quarter, and head coach Jeff Mittie was furious as he pulled junior guard Shaelyn Martin and freshman forward Peyton Williams from the game, stopping only to give Martin a good minute-long ear full.
“I was not happy with our start,” Mittie said. “We seemed tentative early. I felt like I was screaming at them right away to get going. They kind of drive me crazy sometimes in that regard, because I feel like I’m whipping them from the start, and I don’t really want to do that.”
Whether Mittie wanted to berate his team or not soon became irrelevant because play improved dramatically for his team, including Martin who scored 10 points, eight assists, two rebounds and two steals.
“I thought this might be one of (Martin’s) best games of her career,” Mittie said. “I thought defensively, she had a better awareness and was just flying around. This was not a game where their 14 3s came open, they had to hit some tough, guarded 3s. I thought (Martin) was outstanding today.”
And it was that defensive intensity that led to points on the offensive end for Martin and her teammates.
“I think the thing that gets me going is those defensive stops,” Martin said. “That helps give me momentum offensively and giving me the mentality to attack. A couple times I didn’t necessarily score, but other people got in the right spots (and) we knocked down some shots.”
Both teams combined for eight turnovers before K-State found its groove, cleaning up its play and creating separation from the Mountaineers early in the second quarter.
“I was proud of them for responding,” Mittie said. “They came out and kept playing better and better. We had the early turnovers but in that middle part of the game I think we only had one turnover in 15 minutes which was huge.”
Martin was one of four players in double figures including Bre Lewis (23), Kindred Wesemann (16) and Kaylee Page (10).
The Wildcats grew their lead to 12 by halftime thanks to 61 percent shooting and no second-quarter turnovers. They had their highest point total at half of the season with 50.
Meanwhile, West Virginia found success from the 3-point line, but not really anywhere else. Junior guard Chania Ray had led the Mountaineers in scoring with 23 points, including seven 3s.
Three other West Virginia players reached double figures, and the Mountaineers’ fifth scorer got close with eight, but that was it, as they were outpaced, 28-0, in bench scoring.
The Mountaineers came in from halftime hot with an 8-2 run that cut the Wildcats’ lead to six with a little more than eight minutes left in the third quarter.
K-State came roaring back though with an 11-2 run that included back-to-back-to-back threes by Page and then Wesemann twice that stretch the Wildcat lead back to 15.
“That in itself is us answering their run,” Mittie said. “Good team like that, they’re going to make a run. They made that run coming out of the gates, and our group recommitted themselves to doing the things necessary that we had talked about where we thought we could play the best.”
From there, K-State’s offensive slowed but their defensive intensity kept West Virginia from getting back into it.
The Wildcats have a few days off before heading back on the road to take on Oklahoma on Wednesday. The Wildcats will attempt to string some wins together after leaving a two-game skid in their wake following Sunday’s win.
“You’re going to have opportunities in our league,” Mittie said. “You’ve got to bring it every night or you’re going to get beat. Our goal is to play well every night, and I was proud of our group for doing that.”