ESTERO, Florida (KStateSports.com) – (16/22) K-State used a big second quarter and a season-high performance from Serena Sundell to ease past Western Kentucky, 77-61, at Hertz Arena on Friday in the quarterfinals of the 2023 Clean Simple Eats Gulf Coast Showcase.
K-State improves to 5-0 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.
HOW IT HAPPENED
– K-State trailed by two at the end of the first quarter, 16-14, but raced past the Lady Toppers with a dynamic second quarter.
– The Wildcats outscored Western Kentucky (5-2), 25-9, in the second quarter, shooting 76.9 percent (10-of-13) from the field to build a 39-25 lead at halftime. The 25-point second quarter equaled K-State’s top second quarter effort this season of 25 points at Little Rock on November 11.
– The Wildcats played 11 players in the first half with nine registering at least a point. K-State shot 57.1 percent (16-of-28) from the field in the first half.
– K-State held back Western Kentucky in the second half, winning the second 20-minutes, 38-36, which included a 64.3 percent (9-of-14) shooting effort in the fourth quarter.
– Sundell registered a season-high 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting, six rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots.
– Senior Ayoka Lee added 16 points, three rebounds, two blocks and a steal. With her three rebounds, Lee moved into fourth on the K-State career rebounds list, passing Carlisa Thomas (1984-87; 923) with 924 career rebounds.
– Gabby Gregory tallied a diverse stat line of seven points, a team-leading nine rebounds, five assists, a steal and a blocked shot.
– K-State ended the day shooting 51.7 percent (31-of-60) from the field and held a 48-32 advantage in points in the paint.
– The Wildcats also received 22 points from its bench, as Zyanna Walker scored seven, Taryn Sides added six and Heavenly Greer chipped in with five.
– K-State is 3-1 in the series against Western Kentucky. The Wildcats are 15-13 against current members of Conference USA.
– K-State head coach Jeff Mittie owns a career record of 623-362 (.632) and is 169-127 (.571) during his 10-seasons at K-State.
– Mittie is 73-50 (.593) in his career in games played at a neutral site, including a 18-17 (.514) mark at K-State.
– K-State played its first game as an Associated Press to-25 ranked team this season. The Wildcats own a record of 227-87 (.723) as an AP ranked team. K-State is 12-9 (.571) 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 fifth time this starting five has been used this season. This was the 92nd career start for Lee, the 83rd collegiate career start and the 37th start at K-State for Gregory, the 74th career start for Sundell, the 70th career start for Jaelyn Glenn and the 64th career start for Brylee Glenn.
– The Wildcats held a 39-25 lead at halftime on Friday. Under head coach Jeff Mittie, K-State is 133-17 (.887) when leading at halftime.
– K-State registered a season-high 48 rebounds on Friday. This is the fourth time K-State has outrebounded its opponent this season (4-0).
– The Wildcats scored a season-high 48 points in the paint. K-State is averaging 37.6 points in the paint this season.
– Lee recorded her 84th career game with 10 or more points. Lee has scored in every game of her career (92 games).
– With her four free throws made on Friday, Lee moved into third on the K-State career free throws made list with 351 made in her career passing Brit Jacobson (1994-98; 348).
– Sundell recorded 21 points on Friday, this was her 13th career game with 20 or more points and the 46th career game with 10 or more points including her first this season.
– Sundell knocked down two 3-pointers on Friday. This was her 16th career game and first this season with two or more connections from beyond the arc.
– Gregory dished out five assists on Friday. This was Gregory’s sixth career game with five or more assists and her second straight.
FROM THE HEAD COACH
K-State Head Coach Jeff Mittie
On overall performance…
“I thought the team was excellent in particular in the first 33-34 minutes of the game. They got real sloppy late, but I really thought our group really played well together and we knew that the chaos that Western Kentucky brings that we needed to be fundamental and keep things simple. We wanted to win the middle of the floor. I thought Gabby Gregory was excellent. Jaelyn Glenn played excellent in her role and was aggressive enough. I thought both Taryn (Sides) and Serena, Zy Walker came in, struggled a little bit early but then came back and made the adjustment so I thought all of them had really good moments.”
On Sundell’s performance…
“We’ve been really pushing her to be more aggressive, we don’t feel like we’re as good a basketball team with her just as a facilitator, she needs to be aggressive, she needs to take advantage because a couple things that we’re seeing on film are people are staying really close to (Ayoka) Lee. And so with her driving ability and her ability to score around the rim, she’s gonna have a lot of opportunities. It’s good to see her play that way good to see her play with that confidence. I wanted her to be aggressive earlier in the game, and she was still kind of in that mode of facilitating. But you know, once she got going, it was fun to see.”
On the second quarter…
“With Lee in foul trouble and on the bench for most of the second quarter, we need to be a team that’s capable of extending the lead not just holding the lead. And that was big for us because we were able to leave Lee on the bench. And this is different than when I played her at Iowa with two fouls. We got three games in three days. Right? So it’s a different decision if this was a one game or I had to put her back in because I’m not a big believer in sitting a kid. I think the player has to play and make that adjustment. But today is different because with three games in three days. It was a good opportunity for us to see what the bench could do and I really liked the way we played in that stretch.”
K-State continues play at the 2023 Clean Simple Eats Gulf Coast Showcase in Estero, Florida, at Hertz Arena on Saturday. The Wildcats will face (18/17) North Carolina at 4 p.m. (CT), in the semifinals.
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.