A 25-point outburst by freshman point guard Leti Romero helped the Kansas State women’s basketball team withstand foul trouble, and a second-half surge from the Charlotte 49ers in a rugged 73-65 win Sunday afternoon at Bramlage Coliseum.
Romero also posted a game-high eight rebounds, and led the Wildcats (2-0) with three assists. She was a perfect 7 of 7 from the field and knocked down 10 of 14 free throws to help down the 49ers (1-1).
“I feel like I am adjusting to everything here,” the freshman from Las Palmas, Spain, said. “All of the coaches and players have given me the confidence and now I feel comfortable.”
K-State head coach Deb Patterson said Romero showed poise beyond her years, being able to stay under control, but still put up big numbers — even when facing nearly constant double coverage.
“That’s part of the wisdom of a really good basketball-IQ player,” Patterson said. “That’s the thing about Leti. She understands the game well. She’s about efficiency and team play first and foremost, but she is willing to make strong, tough plays.”
After the Wildcats suffered turnovers on their first three possessions, freshman guard Kindred Wesemann got K-State on track with back-to-back 3-pointers. A right-wing jumper from Romero capped a 15-0 start for the Wildcats with 13:43 in the half. In the meantime, the K-State defense forced Charlotte into an 0 of 10 start from the field.
Freshman forward Erica Young gave K-State its biggest lead on a layup that made it 29-5 with 8:12 left before halftime.
“I was really pleased with our start,” Patterson said. “I thought we had good energy and good rhythm. I liked the tempo that we were playing at and that is part of the challenge to sustain that tempo.”
Adding to the challenge was the 49ers pressure, and both teams trying to get acclimated to the NCAA’s new emphasis on hand checking. K-State turned it over 24 times, while the teams combined for 58 fouls on the game.
“It is different,” Patterson said. “You saw today, the flow for young players in particular, is challenging right now.”
Patterson said, though, that ultimately the changes will be good for the game.
The 49ers inched back into it by hitting four straight 3-pointers and when K-State junior guard Haley Texada picked up her third foul, Lefty Webster hit two free throws to make it 35-21 with 3:37 left in the half. Charlotte hit 10 of 12 free throws during the stretch, while forcing four K-State turnovers.
Texada would sit the rest of the half. In her absence the young Wildcats would see their lead shrink to just 11 at halftime.
“I thought there were a lot of mental mistakes and breakdowns in fundamentals, which we are trying to work through a little bit with our younger players, especially in the backcourt,” Patterson said.
Texada picked up her fourth foul early in the second half and wouldn’t return until just 7:47 remained in regulation. K-State began to unravel again with her on the bench.
Outside of Romero’s five field goals, K-State shot just 5 of 24 in the second half and a 3-point play by Charlotte’s Hillary Sigmon cut the lead to 66-60 with 3:28 left to play.
The 49ers would get as close as four, but Texada hit four straight free throws in the final minute to ice the game for the Wildcats.
“I thought it was good to get the win, even with some individuals struggling offensively, and that is a hard thing to do,” Patterson said. “It was a great, competitive matchup with Charlotte, as always. I am happy to come away with the win.” Patterson said.