Somehow, some way, Kansas State (3-1) found itself in a one-possession game against UT Arlington (4-0) with less than a minute left Sunday afternoon in a 57-53 loss at Bramlage Coliseum.
Most things went wrong for the Wildcats in their first lost of the season. Twenty-three turnovers, 17 fouls, a depleted depth chart and a poor shooting effort plagued the Wildcats. But the misfortune started before the game.
Playing UT Arlington (3-0) was an uphill climb to begin with considering major blows to the Kansas State (3-0)roster. Rachel Ranke got to rest with a sore ankle while Cymone Goodrich (shoulder) and Savannah Simmons (hip) were unavailable with injuries.
“We had some players playing positions they hadn’t even practiced until yesterday,” Wildcats head coach Jeff Mittie said after the game. “That’s probably my fault. We were hopeful that we were going to have a couple players and things didn’t materialize. They just didn’t make the progress. Until yesterday (Laura) Macke and (Emma) Chapman weren’t in the guard rotation.”
While he knew they were banged up, Mittie was surprised when he found out Ranke and Simmons wouldn’t be available. That forced Mittie to practice Chapman, a freshman, and Macke out of their positions.
“Rachel was available emergency only,” Mittie said. “I don’t know what you define an emergency, I just felt like it was in her best interest not to play her.”
Peyton Williams had the biggest impact for the Wildcats with her 16 points and 18 rebounds. But even she struggled to score outside of the paint and had the Lady Mavericks collapsing on her when she got the ball under the basket.
Besides Williams, offense was a glaring problem and Mittie couldn’t figure out the remedy.
“I wish I had that answer,” Mittie said. “We didn’t obviously have that answer. We had a number of our players out there struggling so we were trying to get to the free throw line and get Peyton as many touches without her having to navigate the physicality across the lane.”
Chrissy Carr played, scoring 15 points on 4-of-12 shooting with five turnovers, but even she had to recover from dealing with strep throat during the week leading up to Sunday’s matchup.
Depth is normally a strength of head coach Jeff Mittie’s team. The Wildcats’ 6-foot-3 Chapman played against the Lady Mavericks as a guard and struggled in the first half. The Wildcats didn’t have room for error on the perimeter.
Kansas State went into the half in a 32-20 hole, shooting poorly from the field and losing possessions. Significant foul trouble hindered Jasauen Beard (3), Ayoka Lee (2) and Carr (3) in the half.
That being said, the Wildcats weren’t out of it. Kansas State chipped at the gap to make in a nine-point game going into the fourth quarter.
Kansas State was fighting itself even during its best moments. Carr nailed a second-chance 3-pointer with under three minutes left but Ayoka Lee picked up a foul on the same play, though the basket counted. The Wildcats would get a turnover, then take contested shots or give it right back.
Still, the Wildcats chipped away. UTA was clinging to a five-point advantage with a minute left. What happened here? The Lady Mavericks turned the ball over and gave Angela Harris a pair of free throws. She made both.
Harris had the game-sealing jumper made against her on the next possession. UT Arlington’s Terryn Milton knocked it down.
“It’s tough to compete when you’re not having a great shooting day and the other team just goes down and, in critical moments, hit tough shots,” Williams said. “Angela in that last play, she gave her best defensive effort she could give and it still goes on.”
Mittie said he didn’t chalk the loss to a scoring hangover after the Wildcats hung 109 on Oral Roberts on Monday. He hopes to take a healthier team to the Junkanoo Jam in Bimini, Bahamas, where the Wildcats play Memphis on Friday at 2 p.m.
“I think this was just some circumstances that we didn’t handle as well as we could have,” Mittie said. “I thought our group was trying. This game is easy when you don’t have to think real hard. Against Oral Roberts it was easy. We were playing and it was easy. Now you have a bunch of players out of position trying to do a bunch of things, doing things differently and we are trying to coach them as best we can. I just think it was a combination of things today, we just couldn’t will our way to victory.”