In the 34 games that made up the first two seasons of Ayoka Lee’s career, the junior center scored 30 points three times.
In the first four games of her third season — this season — she has matched that. The latest was a 31-point effort Monday in Kansas State’s 73-49 win over North Carolina A&T in the final game of the Wildcats’ home slate in the Preseason WNIT.
Lee’s six 30-point outings ties Brittany Chambers, who also had six games in her career with 30 or more points, for the school record.
And while Lee put herself beside Chambers in that category, she supplanted the Wildcat legend for another school record: in the first four games of the season, Lee has scored 117 points, the most by any Wildcat over a four-game stretch in program history. Chambers previously held the mark with 114 points.
“I think she’s been outstanding,” K-State head coach Jeff Mittie said of Lee. “It’s hard to put it into words. You don’t take it for granted, because it’s awfully special to watch. But Yokie knows that on Wednesday, I’m going to be getting after her to get better, and she wants that. She wants to be really good.”
Lee also turned in a double-double, with 13 rebounds to go along with seven blocks, an assist and a steal.
After the teams exchanged buckets to start the game, K-State broke off a 12-0 run to take firm control. It didn’t let up for the duration of the game.
The Wildcats led by nine after a quarter and pushed that to 20 by halftime on 53.3% shooting from the field while holding the Aggies to 17.6%.
North Carolina A&T tried multiple defensive approaches throughout the game to try to slow Lee and the Wildcats, which included multiple zone looks and a full-court press.
“I think the group did well,” Mittie said. “I think I’ve got to help them better. Some of it is just early in the year and I’m trying out some new lineups, so there were a couple times where they’re in a triangle-and-two, and we’ve got a lineup out there that maybe we haven’t had a player play the middle spot. (Freshman guard Brylee Glenn) got put in that position tonight. So there’s some unfamiliarity with that, but I think early in the year we’ve got some players I’m enjoying kind of moving around to see what they’re capable of.”
K-State’s offense dried up with an 0-for-7 spurt to start the second half, but a 3-pointer from freshman guard Serena Sundell got the Wildcats back on track, pushing the lead back to 20.
Sundell had a career night, scoring 15 points on 4-for-7 shooting including 2 of 5 from behind the arc. Sundell also led all players in assists with seven.
“I was just trying to play the same game that I’d been playing, looking to make the extra pass when I needed to and then also finding that balance with being aggressive,” Sundell said. “I haven’t been shooting the ball very well, and I found the net a couple times tonight, which helps. But (I’m) just trying to stay consistent.”
K-State’s lead topped out at 28 down the stretch as the Wildcats cruised to victory.
After convincingly handling four straight overmatched opponents, K-State now prepares for one of its biggest tests of the year: a road contest at No. 5 North Carolina State at 6 p.m. Friday in the championship game of the Preseason WNIT.
A win would give the Wildcats their first Preseason WNIT title since they beat No. 14 Penn State in the 2002 tournament final.
Lee earns Player of the Week honors
After Lee’s stellar performance over the first week of the regular season, the junior center was named both Big 12 Player of the Week and ESPN.com National Player of the Week.
“I think it’s an honor,” Lee said. “People were telling me congrats this morning, and I didn’t know why, so I had to figure that one out. But yeah, it’s an honor. There’s a lot of basketball left to play, so we just have to keep improving and keep playing well as a team.”
The award is Lee’s first Player of the Week honor and the first for K-State since Peyton Williams won the honor in February 2020.
Lee won the Big 12 Rookie of the Week award 12 times during her freshman season, which set a league record.
The junior center averaged 28.7 points on 72% shooting with 10.3 rebounds, 3 steals, 2.3 blocks and an assist in just 26.3 minutes in K-State’s first three games. After those three performances, she led the nation in total points (86) and total field goals made (36), ranked second in the country in scoring average and fifth nationally in total rebounds (31).
2 Wildcats named
to All-Tourney team
Lee and Sundell were named to the Preseason WNIT All-Tournament Team.
Lee ended the weekend averaging a tournament-best 24.7 points on 76% shooting while grabbing 11.7 rebounds and posting 3.3 blocks.
Sundell averaged 7.3 points, 5.0 assists, 2.7 rebounds per game.