Let Kayla Goth, who starred in Kansas State’s 87-69 upset victory over No. 11 Texas, take you through how she felt.
To start: K-State ambushed Texas and took a 19-point lead into halftime of Wednesday’s contest at Bramlage Coliseum.
“We obviously go up big on them in the first half and they’re obviously the 11th-ranked team in the country, so I’m sure they can come back from 20 down whatever night,” Goth said.
So, in the locker room, the senior point guard drove home a few messages. She preached shot selection, and controlling the pace and tempo.
“Because it’s really easy to lose that 20-point lead against the 11th-ranked team in the country,” Goth said.
K-State expected the Longhorns to punch back, and they did. They began the second half on a 7-0 run, forcing the Wildcats to call timeout.
Throughout the final 20 minutes, the Longhorns were better than they had been in the first 20. But K-State continued to answer each made basket.
Texas trimmed the deficit to 12 with the aforementioned run. It was as close as 14 on a few other occasions as the Longhorns tried to claw back.
“That whole second half, you’re on edge,” Goth said. “You’re that far ahead, you’re that close, you’ve just got to finish it out.”
Down the stretch, Goth drove the dagger further into Texas. She scored five of her 20 points in the second half, hitting all six free throws she attempted in the half.
Eventually, the final buzzer sounded.
“Relief,” Goth said of what she felt when hearing that buzzer, which signified a signature win for the program.
Texas marked K-State’s sixth matchup with a ranked opponent this season. The five prior game resulted in losses.
The last time K-State defeated an opponent ranked this highly was before Mittie arrived in Manhattan: the Wildcats upended No. 10 Texas Tech on the road in 2012.
The Wildcats’ last victory over a ranked team came on Jan. 13, 2018, when they defeated No. 20 Oklahoma State in Manhattan. Ten days before that, they defeated No. 12 West Virginia on the road.
But Goth said those two didn’t compare to Wednesday’s win.
“It’s probably the biggest win in my career,” Goth said. “I would say so.”
Days ago, K-State head coach Jeff Mittie questioned how his team could come out with such little energy in a rivalry game. He had just watched Kansas end his program’s 10-game winning streak in the Sunflower Showdown, and he didn’t feel his team fought.
His group responded Wednesday, and there he sat in the interview room talking about a wire-to-wire victory over a Texas team that was 14-2 overall, 4-0 in Big 12 play entering this game.
“We just competed,” Mittie said. “The one thing I kept telling them was, ‘When you do that, you give yourself an opportunity. When you don’t do it, you really aren’t ever going to have an opportunity to win big games.’”
Hours before tip-off, Texas head coach Karen Aston had an odd feeling.
“We did not have a very good shootaround today,” she said. “I was a little bit worried about this game based on our practice.”
Her gut feeling proved to be correct.
K-State blitzed Texas in the first half. The Wildcats turned 10 Texas turnovers into 14 points and added 14 second-chance points, meaning they took advantage of extra opportunities.
They also nailed six 3-pointers, including three in the first quarter alone from K-State forward Peyton Williams, who finished with 18 points and eight rebounds.
Williams scored 11 in the first quarter, tying her own record for points in an opening period. Goth assisted seven times in the opening quarter, which set the school record for assists in a first quarter. Goth finished with 12 assists, the most in a game by any Big 12 player this season.
K-State freshman Chrissy Carr added 19 points.
“I would like to say it was our lack of cohesiveness defensively that let them get off to a very positive start,” Aston said. “They felt confident about the way they were playing, and it snowballed on us a little bit. ... We gave them confidence, and that’s what happens when you give a home team confidence.”
Added Mittie: “I thought we made the extra pass in that stretch. There were extra passes being made tonight that were really, really good.”
Texas shot 43.9 percent ... and still lost by 18. That’s because K-State shot 53.6 percent. Perhaps the most impressive part is the Wildcats were at 50 percent through a half, and somehow managed to improve upon it.
Texas made 11 of 14 free throws. The Wildcats sank 16 of 18, their lone misses coming in the final minutes of the game (they were 14 of 14 at one point).
K-State drilled 11 of its 19 3-point attempts; Texas made 8 of 20.
Other than a firework-filled first half, K-State’s key to victory was how it held up in the second half. Texas went on that 7-0 run before two minutes had passed.
But the Wildcats regrouped. Texas never got the deficit below 12 points. It hovered from 14 to 18 points for much of the second half. K-State led by as many as 22.
“Everyone was focused, everyone was locked in,” Goth said. “We can be a pretty good basketball team when we can make that happen. It’s just making that happen.”
Defensively, K-State switched between zone and man. Aston felt her group didn’t attack the Wildcats like it could have, and those frequent switches could be the reason why.
“What we wanted to do was cause a little bit of doubt in their mind,” Mittie said. “What are they in? What coverage are they in? Where are they coming from?”
Between the first and second quarters, the Wildcats held Texas scoreless for more than four minutes. Danni Williams made two free throws with 7:09 to play in the second quarter to end the dry spell, but she and her team continued to struggle.
The Longhorns’ Joyner Holmes made a layup with 3:59 to play in the half. Before it, Texas hadn’t made a field goal since Destiny Littleton’s jumper with 1:10 to play in the first quarter.
Sug Sutton led Texas with 22 points, and Danni Williams added 18, but no one else scored in double figures.
When the final buzzer sounded, K-State had grabbed only two fewer rebounds than Texas. The Wildcats held their own in that area, because the Longhorns had entered the game with the third-best rebounding margin in the country (plus-14.6).
To top it all off, the crowd wasn’t big — probably because of the bad weather hovering outside Bramlage. Yet, the Wildcats felt they created their own energy to make up for that.
“It was one of the most fun games I’ve played in, too, because everyone was contributing, doing their job, everyone was hitting shots and it was just a fun atmosphere,” Williams said.
The next step for K-State, Mittie said, is to achieve a higher level of consistency. He wants his team to dig deep. He said it’s easy to do when shots are falling, but he wants to see that energy when things aren’t going well.
“We’re going to have games going forward where we’re going to be down seven,” Mittie said. “Can we have the same fight? Can we have the same enthusiasm? Can we have the same energy?”
The Wildcats now head to Lubbock, Texas, to face Texas Tech on Saturday. The Red Raiders are 10-6, but 1-4 in conference play. The Wildcats have a chance to go 2-1 in a stretch of three games in six days that began with the home loss against KU.
A few days back, Mittie criticized his team for not playing an entire 40 minutes against the Jayhawks.
His squad answered by playing a full 40 against the No. 11 team in the nation.
“I felt like we left it all out there,” Williams said. “I feel like we had players who were doing their job all over the place. I felt like it was a game we pretty much played the whole game, so I was just proud of that.”