By. Luke Lazarczyk
K-State outlasts BYU and college’s leading rebounder with strong offensive second half.
Bramlage Coliseum was home to another nail-biting finish Saturday with the Wildcats ending as the victor. The No. 4 Kansas State Wildcats women’s basketball battled back-and-forth defeating the BYU Cougars 67-65, continuing their perfect Big 12 record.
Throughout the four quarters, the Wildcats constantly dealt with one major problem: BYU forward Lauren Gastin.
The leading rebounder in all of college basketball controlled the game inside, finishing with a statline of 25 points and 21 rebounds. Head coach Jeff Mittie sent a plethora of players to attempt to stop Gustin.
“Looking at the numbers … we didn’t do a very good job, and we had different people on her,” Mittie said. “She’s a heck of a player. I told her that after the game. I’m like, ‘You’re a heck of a warrior out there.’ Twenty-five and 21, that’s a heck of a performance.”
On the K-State side, offense struggled early. The Wildcats found themselves down 26-23 at the half, greatly because of a 23.5 shooting percentage.
“We missed a lot of layups in that first half,” Mittie said. “A lot. I don’t know what the number was. … We just talked about being stronger at the rim.”
Each team came out of the first half firing on all cylinders offensively. The Wildcats’ 64.3% mark from the field in the third quarter barely outdid the Cougars’ 61.5%. Led by guard Gabby Gregory’s 10 points after going 0/7 in the first half, K-State retook the lead 48-45 with a quarter left.
“It feels good to see the ball go in the basket,” Gregory said. “Obviously, I need to try to get that to spread to the other quarters.”
K-State kept the lead away from BYU in the fourth quarter until a pair of free throws from BYU guard Amari Whiting flipped the score 64-63 Cougars with 44 seconds left. Guard Serena Sundell took a quick drive to the lane and was fouled. She knocked down both free throws, regaining the lead. The Wildcats never gave the lead up again and secured the win despite not making a shot for the last 4:35 of gametime.
“I know we were a little tight in that stretch, but the resiliency to dig deep, find a way to get to the free throw line, find a way to manufacture some points that way [was important],” Mittie said.
K-State stayed in the lead for the majority of the quarter partially thanks to the work of forward Gisela Sanchez. Sanchez scored eight of her team-high 18 points in the quarter, knocking down two 3s in the final period of play. Her scoring output was a major bounce back after playing only five minutes against Baylor with only three fouls on her statsheet.
“I just feel like today it was good, but we need to continue working,” Sanchez said about her performance in the offense.
As well as Sanchez having a strong outing, Sundell recorded another all-around performance with 14 points, seven rebounds, eight assists and four steals.
“[It is] good to see Serena be aggressive, good to see her look for her shot,” Mittie said.
The Wildcats record extends to 20-1 and 3-0 without center Ayoka Lee. K-State has a chance to move its undefeated Big 12 record with a road game against Oklahoma at 6 p.m. Wednesday.