Jeff Mittie, TEXAS_KSTATE_122120_015.JPG

Kansas State head coach Jeff Mittie yells out instructions to his team during its game against Texas at Bramlage Coliseum on Dec. 21. K-State led West Virginia, 56-44, with 4:36 to play on Wednesday. The Mountaineers outscored the Wildcats 21-0 in the final three minutes to win 65-56.

In its first game in 30 days, Kansas State’s women’s basketball team looked well on its way to victory Wednesday night, up 56-44 on West Virginia with 4:36 remaining.

K-State, however, wouldn’t score again.

West Virginia ended the game on a stunning 21-0 run to hand K-State a 65-56 loss in Morgantown, W.V.

“We had the game where we wanted,” K-State head coach Jeff Mittie said. “We had the pace where we wanted, and we were executing things very well. Offensively, we were doing some good things. We just did not finish. We had things down the stretch that were a big problem against the press. From a basketball standpoint, we have got to handle those things better. We needed to handle the fourth quarter — specifically the last five minutes of the quarter — better.”

Turnovers were a big problem for the Wildcats (5-5, 0-3 Big 12). K-State turned the ball over 29 times, and it led to 36 points for West Virginia.

“It is hard to win when you are giving the ball to (the other team),” Mittie said. “That is a big concern. We are not controlling the ball well enough. Live-ball turnovers are a problem to stop, and you saw that in this game tonight. Ultimately that is what gets us beat tonight.”

Prior to the end-of-game collapse, the Wildcats had played solidly in their first action since Dec. 21 against Texas. After that 62-52 loss to the Longhorns, K-State had been on pause because of coronavirus issues within the program.

The Wildcats shot 49% from the field, and its top-two scorers ended in double figures: Ayoka Lee had 16 points and Christianna Carr had 15. All of Carr’s points came from beyond the 3-point arc, as she made five of her nine attempts.

“(Carr) had a really good performance and really good looks from 3,” Mittie said. “She had to shoot it in, for the most part, really small windows. She just really made some tough shots tonight. I thought Ayoka really battled. It was good to see both of them play well.”

K-State controlled the first half. Freshman Jada Moore, making her first career start, led the team in scoring with eight points opening 20 minutes. K-State had a 26-16 lead at 1:46 remaining in the first half.

West Virginia (11-2, 5-2) shortened K-State’s lead to 26-20 at halftime.

The Wildcats came out strong in the third quarter. They extended their advantage to 34-23 with 7:01 remaining in the quarter.

Then the Mountaineers surged to pull within one, at 34-33. K-State maintained its lead through the third quarter. Lee and Carr scored seven straight points to give the Wildcats a 47-39 lead heading into the final period.

Kansas State scored just nine points in the fourth quarter, compared to 26 points scored by West Virginia, including the 21-0 spurt by the Mountaineers to cap the contest.

The press of West Virginia crushed the Wildcats, resulting in 13 turnovers.

“We did not handle their press all night very well,” Mittie said. “We made some mistakes. We looked like we had a group on the floor that just was not very confidently going to get the ball. That is an area we got to improve.”

Mittie said it was irritating to see his team unravel in the final few minutes given its play up to that point.

“It is frustrating to have a game at the pace that you want, pretty much have the tempo doing some good things, and then having it slip away like that,” Mittie said.

After getting a game under their belts for the first time in nearly a month, the Wildcats are ready to continue the grind for the rest of the season.

“I thought our team did some great things tonight,” Mittie said. “It feels good to be playing again. This loss is obviously a tough one. I would rather be competing than not playing, so it was good to get back on (the basketball court).”

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