Smiles mixed in with tears for the Kansas State women’s basketball team on Monday night.
The Wildcats (23-11) lost to Stanford, 69-48, in the second round of the NCAA tournament. This is the second straight year K-State has been eliminated in the round of 32, while Stanford (30-5) advances to its 10th-straight Sweet 16 and will face Texas on Saturday in Lexington.
Bre Lewis was one of five seniors whose college basketball career ended on Monday. She recorded nine points, while fellow senior Kindred Wesemann led K-State with 11.
“It’s been an emotional roller-coaster for me, but overall, I love my team, and they have been really supportive through it all,” Lewis said of the past four years. “It just doesn’t feel real right now. But it has been a great journey for me.”
Stanford had three players in double figure scoring. Brittany McPhee led the way with 21 points, while Alanna Smith came off the bench to score 19 and Erica McCall recorded 10.
“McPhee got them off to a great start,” Mittie said. “We obviously had our own issues in that we did not control the ball very well.”
Turnovers were a problem for us. The glass was a real problem for us. Not much went right for us early in this game.”
Much of Stanford’s success was because of its rebounding. The Cardinal outrebounded the Wildcats, 39-25, and recorded 17 second-chance points. K-State also committed 15 turnovers on the night.
“I think (Stanford’s) defense is underrated,” Mittie said. “I don’t know that people give them the credit they deserve there.”
The Wildcats went cold for about four minutes as Stanford jumped out to a four-point lead after the teams traded baskets to open the game. The only K-State point during that stretch was a Kayla Goth free throw.
“We were pressing a little bit to make plays, trying too hard, doing out of character things,” Mittie said. “We got a couple buckets early, but as soon as the turnovers, and it wasn’t just one player turning the ball over, it was everybody … I just think everybody was trying to do way too much.”
Lewis sat for a stretch after picking up two fouls in the first quarter, and the Stanford lead grew thanks to a 6-0 run. K-State closed the deficit to three points before Stanford made it a five-point game by the first buzzer.
“(Lewis) is our biggest presence inside, so any time she’s in foul trouble, that kind of sets us off on our course,” Wesemann said. “But (Jessica Sheble) comes in and does a really good job of playing some big minutes for us, getting some rebounds that we needed.”
It was pretty much all Stanford for the second quarter.
The Cardinal opened the period on an 11-0 run before Lewis broke the ice with a pair of free throws. The Wildcats didn’t register a field goal until a Shaelyn Martin layup about halfway through the quarter. K-State only registered nine points in the period.
“You do get frustrated, but at the end of the day, we knew that we had to just settle down because that wasn’t going to get us anywhere, being frustrated,” Lewis said.
Stanford’s size matched K-State’s, and the Cardinal was a physical presence down low, putting pressure on Lewis.
Stanford extended its lead to 25 with a 8-1 run to open the third quarter. K-State went on a 9-0 run over about four minutes and went into the fourth quarter down 18 points.
Wildcats’ deficit hovered around 20 points throughout the fourth quarter, as Stanford opened the period on its own 9-0 run. Lewis and Wesemann received a standing ovation when they checked out, as did fellow senior Kelly Thomson moments later.
“I wanted to stop hugging people because it was making me cry,” Wesemann said. “I also wanted to finish watching the game and cheer on my teammates for the last minute. Nobody cares about this team, I don’t think, more than I do … they’re my girls, and I wouldn’t have wanted to finish it out with anybody else.”
Mittie was proud of how his team played through injuries, and he singled out Wesemann, who was playing with an elbow injury she sustained against Baylor in the Big 12 tournament.
“That elbow of hers will probably require surgery,” Mittie said. “She’s lived every moment in that training room just to get to today. And she’s not the only one. This is the most banged-up team I’ve had that we didn’t talk about.”
Wesemann added that she feels K-State is trending in an upward direction.
“I think we’ve put this program where it needs to be,” she said. “I think we need to get past the second round next year, but our coaches do a wonderful job of getting out and recruiting great players. Not only great players, but great people (who) fit the mold for Kansas State, and that really represent our family atmosphere that we have here. I’m really excited to come back and watch them play next year.”