ESTERO, Florida (KStateSports.com) – With a career effort from Gisela Sanchez and double figure performances from Serena Sundell and Ayoka Lee, (16/22) K-State picked up its second win over a ranked opponent with a 63-56 win over (18/17) North Carolina on Saturday in the semifinals of the 2023 Clean Simple Eats Gulf Coast Showcase at Hertz Arena.
K-State improves to 6-0 on the season. This is the second straight season the Wildcats have started a season with a five-game or better winning streak and the fourth time under head coach Jeff Mittie.
Sanchez tied her career-highs with 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting and five rebounds, leading a K-State bench effort that outscored the Tar Heels, 22-18. The redshirt sophomore from Barcelona, Spain, made four straight free throws in the last 20 seconds to seal the win.
For the second straight game, Sundell reached double figures with a game-high 16 points and was 7-of-10 from the foul line, pulled in five rebounds and dished out five assists.
Lee tied the school record for career double-doubles with her 52nd, joining Kendra Wecker (2001-05) atop the list. Lee finished with 14 points, 12 rebounds and a blocked shot.
HOW IT HAPPENED
– K-State pounded its way to a 32-22 lead at halftime over North Carolina (5-1). The Wildcats shot 48.1 percent (13-of-27) from the field in the opening half and held the Tar Heels to a 29.0 percent (9-of-31) effort, including an 0-of-10 performance from 3-point range.
– The Wildcats used a 12-2 run in the first quarter to build a 16-8 advantage after the first frame.
– In the second quarter, K-State built its lead to as much as 14, 30-16, following an Lee jumper with 2:31 remaining in the second.
– The Wildcats were led in the opening half by the trio of Sanchez (8 points), Sundell (7 points) and Lee (6 points). The eight points by Sanchez were a season-high.
– North Carolina closed the gap in the third quarter by winning the stanza, 18-13, as K-State shot 38.5 percent (5-of-13) as the Wildcats led by five, 45-40, entering the fourth.
– In a hotly contested fourth quarter, the Wildcats were never tied or surrendered the lead. The Tar Heels would close to within two points twice, including with 1:54 remaining in the fourth.
– Kansas State iced the game from the foul line with under a minute to play, as Lee and Sundell each made two free throws and Sanchez made her four.
– K-State shot 43.5 percent (20-of-46) from the field and outrebound North Carolina, 46-25.
– Defensively, the Wildcats held the Tar Heels to 37.1 percent shooting (23-of-62) including 10.0 percent (2-of-20) from 3-point range.
– K-State and North Carolina met for the first time in the history of the series. The Wildcats are 9-11 against current members of the ACC.
– K-State head coach Jeff Mittie owns a career record of 624-362 (.633) and is 170-127 (.572) during his 10-seasons at K-State.
– Mittie is 74-50 (.597) in his career in games played at a neutral site, including a 19-17 (.528) mark at K-State.
– K-State owns a record of 228-87 (.724) as an AP ranked team. K-State is 13-9 (.591) all-time when ranked 16th in the nation.
– K-State’s starting five consisted of guards: Jaelyn Glenn, Serena Sundell, Brylee Glenn, Gabby Gregory and center Ayoka Lee. This was the sixth time this starting five has been used this season. This was the 93rd career start for Lee, the 84th collegiate career start and the 38th start at K-State for Gregory, the 75th career start for Sundell, the 71st career start for Jaelyn Glenn and the 65th career start for Brylee Glenn.
– The Wildcats held a 32-22 lead at halftime on Saturday. Under head coach Jeff Mittie, K-State is 134-17 (.887) when leading at halftime.
– K-State registered 46 rebounds on Saturday. This is the fifth time K-State has outrebounded its opponent this season (5-0).
– Lee recorded her 85th career game with 10 or more points. Lee has scored in every game of her career (93 games).
– Lee hauled in 12 rebounds on Saturday. Lee’s effort was her 54th career game with 10 or more rebounds. This was her 85th career game with five or more rebounds and her fifth this season.
– This was Sundell’s 47th career game with 10 or more points including her second this season.
– Sundell handed out five assists on Saturday. With the effort, Sundell moved into sole possession of eighth on the K-State career assists list with 384.
FROM THE HEAD COACH
K-State Head Coach Jeff Mittie
On North Carolina’s defensive pressure…
“They amped up their defensive pressure and, you know, they, they really were forcing us into, you know, some tough decisions and we didn’t handle that stretch very well. We’ve got to handle the basketball better, man. We’ve got to play more boys than that, but I give them credit. They’re there. They can turn it up. You saw that last night, Vermont. You saw that the last five minutes of the game, they’ve got real chaotic, and they’ve got good players that can do that.”
On the poise of K-State…
“I wouldn’t say that. I wouldn’t say it was as good as that. I would say that we were a little bit flustered, but I do think we hit the correct button pretty quick. And I was really proud of Serena really proud of Gisela to step back in after she’d missed two free throws earlier to not to down and a critical point. So I do think we showed more poise through each kind of challenge. You know, early, not so much. A little more as the game went on. A little better as the game went on, and I think you play in these tournaments to put your team through those. And you want to learn about your team and you know, we’re learning about each other better as we go and you play a quality opponent like North Carolina, they’re exposed some things that you’re not ready for. And we’ve got to get better at that. But I’m pleased with that. We came through it and showed some boys.”
On the defense against North Carolina…
“We wanted to get in the gaps better to show more help early because we knew how well they drove the ball. And their guards are so physical that if they get you inside 10 they can really punish you. Now, what we wanted to do, we knew they had good mid-range shooters, but we’ve also got some length to us. And if we can keep people in front and get in that shot line, that’s a shot that we’re okay with, if we’re keeping them in front, we feel like we’re in good rebounding position. We feel like we’re in a good spot where they had success. They got us deeper than that, where we had success. We forced them to take guarded shots and that’s what we were trying to do.”
FROM THE FLOOR
K-State Junior Guard Serena Sundell
On scoring in double figures in two straight games…
“I’m just going to be more aggressive. Overall, I feel like I’ve been tentative when it comes to finding my shot and I’m a pass first player and I’ll continue to be that way but I want to be more of a threat to score and that’s going to help my teammates get open too if I’m being more of a threat.”
K-State Senior Center Ayoka Lee
On the rebounding effort of the team…
“I mean honor and pride. We knew that they were good offensive rebounders so we knew we’d have to get on the glass and Gabb did her assignment really well. She boxed out (Alyssa) Ustby. And just like being in the right position. And just going to the glass and setting that tone early was what was important and I think we executed really well.”
On being a facilitator in the offense…
“That was an adjustment we had to make. I tried to just kind of go in there and just be smart, not get frustrated because it’s a long 40 minutes and defenses break down. So just being ready for whatever they throw at me.”
On tying the school double-doubles record…
“I think every record is special like in some way. I think it just goes back to taking pride in playing for K State. And being able to do that well and have my name among people like Kendra Wecker and it is really cool. It’s exciting. I didn’t know that.”
K-State concludes play at the 2023 Clean Simple Eats Gulf Coast Showcase in Estero, Florida, at Hertz Arena on Sunday. The Wildcats will face (5/6) Iowa at 6:30 p.m. (CT), in the championship game.
All of K-State’s games can be seen on FloHoops (subscription required) and can be heard on the K-State Sports Network, on the K-State Sports app and on kstatesports.com.