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K-State women rally to beat Red Raiders, 60-54

By Joshua Kinder

It took Texas Tech’s coach nearly 45 minutes to find her way to the postgame media room Saturday afternoon.

(Kansas State’s Bri Craig shoots a 3-pointer against Texas Tech on Saturday at Bramlage Coliseum. Craig had seven points in the Wildcats’ 60-54 victory).

Once there, it wasn’t much easier for first-year coach Candace Whitaker to find the words to explain how Kansas State rallied in the last four minutes of the game to beat her Red Raiders, 60-54, at Bramlage Coliseum.

That’s what happens when a team goes on a 12-0 run to end the game and erase a six-point lead with four minutes to go.

Texas Tech used an 8-0 run to go ahead by six with 4:12 remaining — sparked by a 3-pointer from Marina Lizarazu, who played on the same Spanish junior national team as Leti Romero last summer and finished with 13 points.

But that’s all the Red Raiders had left in the tank, as K-State finished by scoring the game’s final 12 points — ignited by a floater in the lane by Romero and clutch 3-pointer from Katya Leick to get the Wildcats within one at 54-53 with 3:25 to play.

“Those are the kinds of plays that we talk about, how you have to make your charge at some point offensively when the game is tight,” K-State coach Deb Patterson said. “You have to just dig in and just make a couple of plays.

“In that situation, we were absolutely huge. It started with Leti’s floater, but then that 3-pointer by Katya was absolutely huge as a follow-up.  All of a sudden we are right back in the game and putting the pedal down on them and it feels completely different.” 

Those were the plays K-State (10-14, 4-9 Big 12) was missing in its home loss to Texas on Wednesday night.

(Kansas State freshman Leti Romero drives into the paint for a layup against Texas Tech on Saturday at Bramlage Coliseum. Romero finished with a game-high 19 points in the Wildcats’ 60-54 victory over the Red Raiders).

“It seems obvious that if you make those two shots, the game changes, but there is more to it than that,” Patterson said. “It’s your team learning how to step up and make those plays under that kind of pressure. That really feels good to all of us.”

K-State’s Jessica Sheble piggy-backed off Romero and Leick’s clutch shots with a pair of free throws that gave the Wildcats the lead for good at 55-54 with 2:41 remaining. The Wildcats made 7 of 10 from the line in the final three minutes to seal the win and end their three-game losing skid, sweeping the season series with Texas Tech.

Texas Tech, meanwhile, missed its last four shots and turned the ball over four times in the final four minutes to fall to 6-19 overall and 0-14 in league play.

“I’ll have to go back and look at all of it,” Whitaker said. “We had some key turnovers late, missed a layup at the rim late and we didn’t guard very well.”

Romero had a game-high 19 points, six rebounds and six assists to lead K-State, while Leick and Ashia Woods both added 10 points and combined for 13 rebounds in a game that was tied 24-24 at halftime.

Scoring 12 points in the second half alone, Romero was able to bounce back from the off night she had earlier this week against Texas when she scored just eight points and made 2 of 10 from the field.

“The last couple of games, I was a little inconsistent and I knew this game was really important for us,” said Romero, who made 7 of 14 shots, including a pair of 3s, against Texas Tech. “We needed a win and I think we all stepped up, even those who came off the bench.”

Sheble and Bri Craig did the most damage off the bench, mostly in the second half when the Wildcats needed it the most, combining for 11 points on the night. Craig buried a second-half 3-pointer to give K-State a 40-39 lead with 13 minutes left and then was on the receiving a bullet pass from Romero under the basket for a reverse layup that gave the Cats another lead at 44-43 two minutes later.

“We needed a win today, so I think everybody just had that inside themselves and knew that we needed to make plays down the stretch,” said Craig, who finished with seven points. “When I came in I wanted to make sure I maximized my minutes. We went into an offense where it was something that I really enjoy doing. The back cut came and I got the shot that I needed and I had the 3.

“I feel like we all just stepped up today to came out with the win.”

(The Kansas State Classy Cats perform during a timeout on Saturday. The Wildcats took part in the annual “Play 4 Kay” cancer awareness initiative on Saturday with the first 4,000 fans receiving pink t-shirts).

A K-State loss on Saturday would have soured a special day at Bramlage Coliseum, as nearly 5,000 fans were in attendance to support those living with cancer and celebrate survivors of the disease as part of the annual “Play 4 Kay” pink game. K-State also welcomed back members of the 2004 Big 12 championship team, including former Big 12 Players of the Year Nicole Ohlde and Kendra Wecker, with a special halftime ceremony.

“We visited a little bit this morning and then after the game in the locker room and we shared some words,” Craig said. “It was really cool to have them around and know that they were such a successful team — it’s definitely something that we want to strive for.”

The Wildcats will now hit the road for a game at TCU on Wednesday, beginning at 7 p.m., before returning to Bramlage next Saturday to host West Virginia at 5 p.m.

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