The numbers weren’t entirely telling the truth as Kansas State took a 26-point lead over Kansas heading into the final quarter of Sunday’s game.
The Wildcats were performing well offensively, making 44% of their shots from the floor. The Jayhawks weren’t far behind, having made 41% of their tries.
Normally, a 3% difference doesn’t lead to a blowout with one quarter remaining. This time, however, it did.
K-State crushed KU in its final regular-season game, 83-63. However, by the time the game was over, the Jayhawks had outshot the Wildcats 46% to 42%. It’s an atypical stat line, but a result K-State will take.
To see where the lopsided margin stemmed from, look no further than the fundamentals of the game. Rebounding, turnovers, foul shots: all were areas where Kansas State (16-13, 10-8 Big 12) thoroughly dominated KU at Bramlage Coliseum.
“The two areas we talked about with us was we needed to have extra opportunities,” K-State head coach Jeff Mittie said. “We needed to be at the free throw line a lot. We needed to own the glass. Those were areas we felt like we could.”
Those were areas where K-State struggled initially, as the Wildcats were out-rebounded 12-9 and gave up three more foul shots than they earned themselves in the opening quarter. The result was a 14-14 tie heading into the second period.
That’s when everything changed.
Suddenly, center Ayoka Lee was back to her normal self after having a lackluster first quarter, grabbing five rebounds in the quarter while the team snared 11 as a whole. Three of the rebounds were offensive, while Kansas (15-14, 4-14) didn’t record a single offensive rebound in the second period.
“Rebounding is a mentality,” K-State forward Peyton Williams said. “It’s fundamental. You work on it every day in practice. It’s a mindset of finding your person. (Mittie) talked with us before the game about five-person box outs and limiting second-chance opportunities.”
While K-State awarded itself extra opportunities on the offensive glass, the Wildcats didn’t hand Kansas any additional possessions in the form of turnovers. Kansas State only turned the ball over nine times throughout the game. KU finished with 15 giveaways.
Four players recorded at least one steal for the Wildcats, with forward Jasauen Beard leading the way with three. She also tied Lee for the team-high in blocks with two.
“Lately, since Mittie has been having me guard the ball full court, I’ve been picking up my pressure and my timing is starting to get better as far as knowing when to go for steals and not taking myself out of plays,” Beard said. “Him putting me there these past few games is what’s made me get better on the defensive end.”
The takeaways led to breaks, which allowed K-State to run the floor or set its offense up before KU could readjust. The Jayhawks poor positioning gave K-State more chances to draw fouls as defenders scrambled to catch up.
Kansas State went 20-of-22 from the free throw line, while KU made seven of its 12 foul shot attempts.
Despite the lopsided win, there still are areas Mittie wants his team to clean up before the Wildcats travel to Kansas City, Mo., to take on Iowa State in the Big 12 tournament Friday.
K-State split its regular-season series with Iowa State, losing 73-59 in January on a visit to Ames, Iowa, before winning 60-51 at home in late February.
The Cyclones are one of the Big 12’s top offensive teams and are coming off an upset of No. 2 Baylor. Allowing them to shoot 46% from the field is not a recipe for success for K-State.
“Our communication in this game was not as good,” Mittie said. “That’s why you see a higher shooting percentage for them. Those are areas we’ll have to address in practice. ... Whether you end on a win or a loss, you’ve got to make some corrections.”