Gabby Gregory, Jaelyn Glenn and Brylee Glenn all reached double figures Monday evening as Kansas State women’s basketball beat Central Arkansas 83-43 for victory No. 1 of the season and victory No. 600 for head coach Jeff Mittie.
The Wildcats (1-0) shot 50% from the floor while winning the rebounding battle 47-27. Mittie said that for a season-opening contest, it was an adequate performance, although there remained plenty to work on.
“There was some sloppy play early,” Mittie said. “Too many turnovers early. I felt like the pace that Central Arkansas wanted to play was probably frustrating us a little bit. We’re going to have to rebound the ball clean in those kind of games, where a team wants to slow the pace and we want to get the pace up. The only way to get the pace up is to create some offense from your defense, rebound the basketball.”
K-State went 12-of-20 shooting in the first quarter to jump out to a 26-15 lead, but struggled to really put away the Sugar Bears (0-1) in the second quarter. The Wildcats hit six field goals in the second period but also turned over the basketball six times.
By the intermission, their lead was still 15 at 41-26.
But K-State opened the third quarter on a 10-0 run, and it outscored Central Arkansas 42-17 in the second half.
“In the second half, the positive for me was just seeing the players really share the ball,” Mittie said. “We really saw some extra passes. We saw some players knock some 3s down. I thought it was a little bit better in the second half.”
Gregory, a senior transfer from Oklahoma, led the Wildcats with 19 points and seven rebounds in her first official game in purple. She was an efficient 7-of-11 shooting, including 2-of-4 from long distance.
After being a proficient scorer in her first few seasons with the Sooners, Gregory was limited last year, both in minutes and points. However, with her new team and her new uniform, she’s feeling back to normal.
“People (have been) texting me, saying, ‘You look like your old self,’ and I think that’s how I feel,” Gregory said. “I’m confident again. I have that swagger. I have everything back in my game. I feel like I fit perfectly in with the way that we’re playing and my teammates. It just feels good.”
Jaelyn Glenn added 13 points on 6-of-11 shooting, and Brylee Glenn scored 12 points and went 3-of-7.
Serena Sundell scored just seven points on seven shot attempts, but added five assists and four rebounds. Sarah Shematsi, a senior transfer from LSU, put up seven points as well.
K-State shot 31-of-62 overall and 8-of-22 from 3-point range. The Wildcats had 17 turnovers while forcing 18.
“I thought we needed to play better from 3,” Mittie said. “I thought we turned down some looks there, and we were kind of out of sync. But I do think that we had some good performances to the rim.”
The Sugar Bears went 16-of-53 in the game and 3-of-10 from beyond the arc. Mittie said his team needs to improve defensively, primarily in implementing the things it does in practice into a game.
“They’re seeing things good in drill work, but when it’s happening on the floor, the may not be seeing it as quick as they need to,” he said. “...They were getting us pretty deep in the first and second quarter, so they were getting a lot of step-through moves, they were getting to the foul line. We talked about stopping them early. You look at the shooting percentage in the second half for Central Arkansas (21.4% as opposed to 40% in the first half), that’s where I thought the biggest improvement came.”
In the locker room after the game, the Wildcats showered their ninth-year head coach with water to celebrate his 600th career victory.
Mittie — who has been a head coach for 31 years, including stops at TCU, Arkansas State and Missouri Western before K-State — gave credit to his players and assistants for the milestone.
“I do take pride in the fact that, during my career, my assistant coaches, the players that we’ve recruited, have all rallied to have good seasons and play in the postseason,” he said. “...I think as you are in the profession longer, you probably learn to appreciate it a little bit more. I’ve really enjoyed my time here at K-State. I’ve really enjoyed the fan base here.”
Next up for the Wildcats is a road trip to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and a neutral-site matchup with Wisconsin at American Family Field at 3:30 p.m. on Friday. American Family Field is the regular-season home stadium of the Milwaukee Brewers and has a retractable roof, allowing the game to be played in climate-controlled, indoor conditions.