It wasn’t pretty, but at least it was a win.
Kansas State women’s basketball broke its streak of four straight losses Saturday night with a 64-48 win over Big 12 cellar-dweller TCU at Bramlage Coliseum.
The victory was just what the Wildcats (13-7, 2-5 Big 12) needed after dropping five of their first six conference games. They didn’t necessarily solve all of the problems they’d been experiencing throughout Big 12 play — particularly, their poor shooting numbers — but according to head coach Jeff Mittie, the win was a foundation they could use moving forward.
“We thought at Baylor (on Wednesday) that our ball movement was better,” he said. “We thought the shots we got there were better than the results. We didn’t shoot it well again tonight, but we had 11 assists on 12 field goals in the first half. Those are positive things that we can continue to build on. … If we can start to stack together some of those things, then I think it’s real beneficial.”
K-State shot 38% (20-of-53) from the field against the Horned Frogs and 33% (8-of-24) from long distance, which was its second-best 3-point percentage in conference games.
Gabby Gregory — who scored an average of eight points per game the last three outings after averaging more than 20 points per game most of the year — led the Wildcats with 21 points, 10 of which came in the first quarter and eight of which came in the fourth. Serena Sundell added 12 points and five assists while Jaelyn Glenn had 11 points and eight rebounds.
TCU (6-12, 0-7 Big 12) opened the game with a 3-0 advantage off a Tomi Taiwo 3-pointer. But a layup from Sarah Shematsi and two free throws from Gregory put K-State in front 4-3 at the 6:29 mark of the first quarter, and the Horned Frogs never led again.
The Wildcats played stringent defense throughout the game, holding TCU to 16 points in the first half and 25% (15-of-60) shooting in the game. K-State forced 18 turnovers and scored 16 points off of them. Taiwo was the only Horned Frog to score in double figures, finishing with 13 points.
“I thought our defense had really good awareness of (Taiwo),” Mittie said. “I thought our defense had really good awareness of where we wanted them to not take shots. The only problem I had with our defense was way to many second chances, particularly in the second half.
TCU had 14 offensive rebounds and 10 second-chance points.
The Wildcats built a double-digit lead when Heavenly Greer scored a minute into the second period to make it 17-7. They went ahead by as many as 20 in the second quarter before going into halftime on top 33-16.
That all happened with Gregory and Sundell out of the game after picking up two fouls each midway through the second.
“We have not scored the basketball well with both of them on the bench,” Mittie said. “I thought Sarah (Shematsi) played well in that stretch. Rebekah Dallinger hit a big 3 from the corner in that stretch. Jaelyn Glenn did a good job of running things, so that was a real positive.”
After the Horned Frogs cut their deficit to 44-32 at the end of the third quarter, K-State opened the fourth on a 9-0 run to build its biggest advantage at 53-32.
Despite a lackluster shooting performance, Mittie said he thought his offense played well. The ball movement was good, leading to quality, open shots. The problem was that the ball didn’t go through the net as often as the Wildcats would have liked.
“We’ve got some individuals that are struggling to shoot the ball,” Mittie said. “But I felt like that group moved the ball good. I felt like our shot selection was solid. I just kept encouraging them to keep moving the ball, keep moving the ball, keep finding each other and I think good things will happen.”
With the losing skid in the rearview mirror, K-State will look ahead to a rematch with the only other Big 12 team it has beaten this year: Oklahoma State. The Wildcats took down the Cowgirls 86-72 at Bramlage Coliseum on Jan. 4. Since then, Oklahoma State has won three of five — including victories over Baylor and No. 25 Texas, two teams that easily handled K-State earlier in the season — while dropping back-to-back close contests with No. 18 Iowa State and No. 15 Oklahoma.
The Wildcats and Cowgirls will meet at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
The goal for K-State is to maintain the momentum gained from beating the Horned Frogs.
“(Our confidence) is better now than it was before the game,” Mittie said. “That’s kind of human nature, right? You feel better. I think they feel like — and I would agree with this — that from an offensive standpoint, we’re moving the ball. We got very stagnant when things weren’t going well, got very stationary, very stagnant. I feel like we’re closer than we were a week or two ago.”