You could call it a youth movement, with a touch of veteran savvy thrown in, as the Kansas State women’s basketball team got its 2013-14 season underway with an 85-53 throttling of Tennessee State on Friday at Bramlage Coliseum.
K-State coach Deb Patterson started four freshmen. In all, the Wildcats (1-0), got 50 points from six freshmen — including a game-high 16 points from Leti Romero. The Spanish import was 6 of 10 from the field — scoring 12 second-half points — and finishing with seven rebounds and eight assists. The lone upperclassman in the starting lineup, junior Haley Texada, scored 15 points for the Wildcats, who led 40-19 at the half.
“I was very pleased overall with our intensity,” Patterson said. “We played a lot of players. I just feel really good about the mixture of youth and experience we have right now.”
K-State students received free bacon from the athletics department, but it was the Wildcat offense — even with Katya Leick out and Bri Craig hampered with an injury — that sizzled. K-State shot 52.5 percent from the field, including 9 of 19 from 3-point range.
A corner 3 by freshman guard Kindred Wesemann got K-State started as she hit three of the Wildcats’ first four field goals, including another trey. The Wildcats led 11-0 to start the game, capped by freshman forward Erica Young’s transition layup with 16:05 left in the first half.
K-State would never look back — thanks in part to some newly acquired size inside.
Led by 6-foot-5 freshman Breanna Lewis, K-State owned the paint throughout. Lewis registered four blocks and 10 rebounds — both game highs — as the Wildcats held the Tigers (0-1) to just 16-of-63 shooting. K-State outrebounded Tennessee State 45-34.
Eleven Wildcats saw action before the 10-minute mark of the first half, including senior forward Ashlynn Knoll, who was making her first appearance since tearing her ACL last January.
Tennessee State would cut the K-State lead to 16-10 with 12:18 left in the first half, but Knoll responded immediately. She started an 8-0, one-woman run with her first jumper, and capped it with a layup to give K-State a 24-10 lead at the 8:29 mark.
“Yeah, it is just exciting,” said Knoll, who finished with those eight points in 10 minutes off the bench. “It was a fun game. I will definitely start taking advantage of it. I’ll start appreciating everything and every minute.”
Romero continued her hot streak to start the season after scoring 40 points and grabbing 21 rebounds in the Wildcats’ two exhibition-game victories.
“She understands what she can do,” Patterson said of the prized recruit. “She’s starting to understand her teammates. She makes tough plays, but they’re good plays.”
Romero’s 3-pointer gave the Cats a 50-30 lead 5 minutes into the second half, but Tennessee State would mount a mini-run, reeling off five straight points before Texada took matters into her own hands.
After the Tigers’ Jayda Johnson stole the ball with a chance to cut the young Wildcats’ lead to 12, Texada took it right back, starting a fastbreak that ended with her taking a feed from freshman Kelly Thomson and finishing with contact. The ensuing free throw put K-State back in business, up 53-35.
“I had a great deal of confidence in Haley,” Patterson said. “She’s been through the wars… It’s definitely a young crew, but it was really anchored out there with Haley, so I felt very secure.”
The Wildcats would outscore Tennessee State 32-18 during the remaining 13:29 to ease home with the win. K-State returns to action this afternoon when it hosts Charlotte at 12:30.