Try reading this out loud.
Kansas State’s best defender Tuesday night was not Peyton Williams.
It wasn’t. Really.
Instead, as K-State romped Incarnate Word 85-41 at Bramlage Coliseum, that honor belonged to redshirt freshman Ayoka Lee, the 6-foot-5 forward who carded six blocks and bothered a number of other shots she couldn’t get her hands on.
Lee and her teammates combined to hold the Cardinals to 41 points, the second-fewest the Wildcats have yielded this season, as well as a 26% shooting percentage that more or less sums everything up.
K-State’s defense against Incarnate Word was stout, in other words, whether the Wildcats were creating turnovers, blocking shots, staying in front of their assignments or generally playing the kind of defense that opens the door for these kinds of blowouts.
In part, that’s why K-State ended a three-game losing streak that peaked at the Junkanoo Jam last week in the Bahamas.
“They had a lot of guards that can drive, so it was a big thing not to foul and to stay straight up,” said Lee, who was whistled for just one foul. “As the game goes on, you just have to adjust to what they’re doing, and I think we all did a pretty good job of doing that tonight.”
For K-State the past several years, it was difficult to imagine somebody other than Williams claiming the title of best defender, even on a single night. At 6-foot-4, Williams has the height, the length, the instincts to block shots. That’s part of what makes her one of the Wildcats’ best players, if not their absolute best.
This is where Lee’s services turn into such a luxury. Ever since K-State great Breanna Lewis graduated after the 2016-17 season, Williams hasn’t played with a forward like Lee, somebody who offers elite rim protection to pair with a solid offensive game, even if Lee’s is mostly confined to the paint.
You saw the results Tuesday night. Both Lee and Williams, the latter of whom swatted two shots, were nuisances all night, particularly when they shared the floor.
K-State blocked 10 shots, and Incarnate Word totaled just 10 points in the paint, but consider this stat.
The Cardinals converted on just 5 of their 19 layups.
That may do the best job capturing the way Williams and Lee protected the rim Tuesday night, even when they weren’t rejecting shots.
“I think every shot blocker, once they block two or three, I think people go in there a little bit tentative,” K-State coach Jeff Mittie said. “Nobody likes to get their shot blocked. I think it’s hard to quantify how much they’re impacting the game. But I do think our size — if we keep people in front of us, and continue to do that, I think that we’ll see some changed shots.”
The important part was that it wasn’t just Williams and Lee who defended well for K-State. The Wildcats forced the Cardinals into 15 turnovers. Jasauen Beard and Rachel Ranke recorded two steals apiece, and three other Wildcats logged one each.
K-State also had what Mittie said helped Lee’s game underneath: A size advantage. That was true at virtually every position, and it helped the Wildcats turn in such a staunch defensive showing, in large part because their length allowed them to snare steals and — you guessed it — block shots.
That helped K-State limit Incarnate Word to five points in the third quarter, a tie for the fewest the Wildcats have allowed in a quarter in program history.
Mittie, though, wasn’t entirely pleased. He took umbrage with the 16 free throws K-State allowed Incarnate Word to shoot. He didn’t like a few fouls the Wildcats committed, especially when they were avoidable — “self-inflicted problems,” he called them.
“I didn’t feel like we were as disciplined tonight as we needed to be,” Mittie said. “I think a lot of where we kept them off — obviously we get a lot of blocked shots. I think I would have had two blocked shots tonight. Nothing against ‘Yoki,’ but I think I could have gotten a couple.
“We had a huge size advantage, right? So we just need to play smart in there.”
Ahead of K-State’s Saturday road test against No. 23 Arkansas, perhaps this will benefit the Wildcats.
After all, their head coach watched them allow just 41 points and came away largely unimpressed.
“In stretches, I thought we were OK,” Mittie said. “I thought we were OK.”