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K-State rides defense, bench to win over Texas Tech

By Maria McIlwain

Sometimes before games, Kansas State women’s basketball coach Jeff Mittie can relax. But he was concerned heading into Saturday night’s game.

Turns out, he didn’t need to be. K-State beat Texas Tech, 58-54, thanks to strong defense and good performances from Eternati Willock and Kaylee Page off the bench.

“Our bench played great tonight,” Mittie said. “They gave us a lot of energy in every area, really, not just in scoring, but in rebounding … we only had one turnover from the bench tonight, and that’s big. People get caught up in scoring off the bench, but there’s a lot of ways to contribute.”

K-State started out hot, opening with seven unanswered points.

But the Red Raiders answered. A Recee Caldwell 3 tied the game up, and the Red Raiders got a lot of second chances in the first quarter. They outrebounded the Wildcats, 12-9.

“Tech tested our discipline at times in terms of I didn’t like our shot selection in certain stretches where I felt like we needed to drive it better,” Mittie said. “But the one thing I like about our group right now is they can correct things quickly.”

But K-State really turned it on after the first period.

The Wildcats held Texas Tech scoreless for about four minutes in the period, but couldn’t muster much offense themselves.

The game was back and forth again for much of the second quarter. Grayson Bright took Texas Tech’s only lead of the day when she grabbed an offensive rebound and put it back.

The Red Raiders didn’t lead for long, though. Page tied the game up on a putback of her own and hit a 3 on the next possession. The Wildcats went on a 14-2 run, holding the Red Raiders scoreless for about five minutes. They led by 10 at halftime, their biggest lead of the half, despite only making one of their last nine field goal attempts. Willock led all scorers with 13 points, while Page recorded 10. The duo combined for seven offensive rebounds, which Mittie said was huge.

Page said she likes coming in off the bench.

“It’s actutally kind of nice coming off the bench because you can add that spark if we are starting a little slow, you get the opportunity to add some energy, make a few extra hustle plays and get the team going again,” she said.

Willock wasn’t trying to do anything special in her performance.

“For me, it was just coming out and doing my job,” the freshman forward said. “That’s what helped me, rebounding, boxing out and defense.”

K-State was slow after the break, allowing Texas Tech to draw within five points, but Bre Lewis came alive scoring five of her 10 points. Kindred Wesemann and Peyton Williams joined Lewis in double figures with 11 and 10 points, respectively. Lewis also led in rebounding with 11 boards, and the Wildcats outrebounded the Red Raiders, 46-38.

“I think (rebounding’s) still inconsistent, but I think it’s better than it was,” Mittie said. “I’m very pleased with tonight’s rebounding in particular, with the exception of the first 10 minutes of the game. After that, we dominated the glass.”

Both teams started hitting 3-pointers, but K-State managed to come out of the frame on top, despite Texas Tech hitting five of eight shots from beyond the arc.

“I felt like we’d come down and make a big play, and (Dayo) Olabode would come down and make a big play, and you go like, ‘OK,’” Mittie said. “She’s a player we were playing as a driver and not playing as a shooter.

Olabode scored all her points in the period, hitting three 3-pointers. Arella Guirantes was the Red Raiders leading scorer and only player in double figures with 10 points. Caldwell, the Red Raiders’ leading scorer who came into the game averaging 18.4 points per game, was held to eight.

Mittie added that he felt Texas Tech made adjustments to rush K-State’s shooters in the second half, but so did his team. He switched defenses to stop the Red Raiders’ 3-point offense.

K-State held Texas Tech at arm’s length for the fourth quarter, and the Red Raiders didn’t get closer than eight points.

K-State’s defense stayed strong, and the Wildcats’ lead grew as high as 16 late in the period.

K-State improves to 2-2 in Big 12 play and 12-4 overall. Up next, Kansas comes to Bramlage Coliseum on Wednesday.

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