Kansas State stayed within striking distance of No. 18 West Virginia at times Wednesday. The Wildcats even led briefly: 59 seconds of game time in all, initially at the end of the first quarter and then at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
The Wildcats scored the first five points of the fourth quarter to take a 56-55 lead.
But the Mountaineers quickly took back the lead their following possession and went on a 14-8 run to win 72-64 in the Wildcats’ final game of the season at Bramlage Coliseum.
“(West Virginia) spread us up a lot in the half court,” K-State junior guard Christianna Carr said. “(Their pressure) is one thing that got us out of control there in the fourth quarter.
Star center Ayoka Lee led K-State (8-16, 3-14 Big 12) with a game-high 26 points. She made 11 of her 18 field goals attempts.
“We knew we could get it inside,” said Lee, who also led all players Wednesday with 14 rebounds to notch the 26th double-double of her K-State career, which ranks seventh in school history. “(West Virginia) does not have a ton of size. We just struggled to get a good flow on offense early, so that just kind of hurt us.”
With the size advantage, K-State scored 30 points in the paint compared to West Virginia’s 20 points. The problem was that the Mountaineers (19-4, 13-4) shot well from the perimeter: The visitors made 10 3s.
“We just have to learn to separate the two ends of the floor,” Lee said. “(We) need to adjust to the baskets they are making.”
West Virginia was on top of the scoreboard for the vast majority of the contest: They led for 38:19.
West Virginia connected on 50% of its field goals on 54 attempts. And the visitors also knocked down 10 of their 19 3-pointers (53%).
Esmery Martinez posted a double-double for the Mountaineers, leading the team in points (23) and rebounds (12).
“Defensively, we were not very good tonight,” K-State head coach Jeff Mittie said. “We were not as locked in as we needed to be against a quality team. (West Virginia) is a really good offensive team. We had some blown assignments. We just were not very good against them in that area.”
Other than Lee, the Wildcats had one other player with a double-figure scoring performance: Carr made two 3s as part of her 15 points. Junior guard Rachel Ranke scored nine points and Sydney Goodson had seven.
“I thought (West Virginia) made plays where we had mistakes,” Mittie said. “We had a couple of pushes at them. Give West Virginia credit. They are a really good basketball team. We just could not get enough consistently behind our offense to push by them.”
Despite the loss on senior night, Mittie said he was proud of the effort overall, especially the fight his team showed when it took the lead at the beginning of the final period.
“I liked when we made some runs at them. We dug pretty deep and made some good plays,” Mittie said. “We rebounded the ball well down the stretch.”
It was the small things that K-State needed to do better to pull off the upset Wednesday.
“We missed a lot of layups and blown assignments and we just were not very good against them in that area,” Mittie said. “We just could never make easy plays tonight. (We were) real sporadic all night. We made a couple of runs at them, but we just could not get over the hump like we needed to.”