By. Luke Lazarczyk
No. 4 K-State hosts BYU, attempting to keep perfect conference record.
No. 4 K-State 19-1 (8-0)
The loss of center Ayoka Lee for a projected four weeks was a heavy blow but hasn’t slowed down Kansas State. The No. 4 Wildcats won both games without the All-American. This includes coming back from 13 points against No. 13 Baylor, a win showing promise and some concern. Multiple players, including guard Serena Sundell and forward Eliza Maupin, stepped up, but the Bears driving inside revealed a lack of interior strength. K-State must find solutions to keep its perfect Big 12 record.
BYU 12-8 (2-5)
The BYU Cougars are a team with peaks and valleys. While ranking 42nd in field goal percentage and 17th in 3-point percentage, BYU is near dead last at 340th in free throw percentage. BYU started the season 6-0, but has since lost eight of 14 games. Big 12 play showed its defensive struggles, allowing over 71 points per game. The team’s strengths of outside shooting and having forward Lauren Gustin, the leading rebounder in all of college basketball, have not sprung the Cougars loose in Big 12 play.
Matchup to Watch: K-State team rebounding vs. Lauren Gustin
K-State has a tall task in compensating for the loss of Lee’s rebounding, who led the team with 8.2 per game. Sundell has just over half of that at 4.2. Lee’s 6-foot-6 height is replaced by a trio of shorter players in Maupin and fellow forwards Gisela Sanchez and Imani Lester. The trio, alongside Sundell and the rest of the guard rotation, must make a collective effort to fill in the gaps. The team struggled mightily to contain Baylor on the boards throughout their matchup, but eventually found a way to battle back and win the game.
The task won’t be any easier against BYU. Gustin is easily the most dominant rebounder in the country, grabbing 15.1 per game — nearly three more than anyone else. Standing at just 6-foot-1, height is not a strong suit. The new all-time rebound leader in BYU history controls the paint by pure will and strength. She used that to collect 18 double-doubles on the season, missing the double digit mark in points and rebounds just once apiece.
Stopping Gustin will truly be a team effort. Everyone must box out and play physically. K-State could also lessen her impact by both forcing her into foul trouble and fouling her. Without Gustin, the Cougars won’t have nearly the same impact inside. Along with that, Gustin is a BYU liability at the charity stripe, knocking down under 40% of her attempts. The mission will truly be a tough one for the Wildcats as they again enter the cage without their All-American post player.
Forward Eliza Maupin
Guard Jaelyn Glenn
Forward Lauren Gustin
Guard Kailey Woolston
Prediction: K-State 67-61