SE: K-State WBB Ready for Tougher Tests in Paradise Jam

With each non-conference game so far this season, the challenges presented to the K-State women’s basketball team have increased in strength and style. This trend will continue when the Wildcats land at St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands for the Paradise Jam to play three games in three days.  

“I think we’ll get a little bit of everything. It’s great competition,” K-State head coach Jeff Mittie said after his team topped Lamar, 68-43, on Sunday in Bramlage Coliseum to improve to 3-0. “I think Lamar is certainly an athletic team that we knew was going to be pesky all day, which they were. As the schedule has progressed, we’ve advanced in terms of competition.”

In the Paradise Jam, K-State will face off with North Carolina State (3-0) on Thursday at noon (CT), LSU (3-1) on Friday at noon and UTEP (1-2) on Saturday at 2:15 p.m. 

“NC State played in the (ACC Tournament quarterfinals) last season. LSU is very athletic, tough on the glass and plays a little bit like (Lamar). El Paso is coming off a 29-win season, so I think it’s a quality field,” Mittie said. “Probably won’t get as much sunshine or beach, but that’s OK. I’ll be able to look at the water and we can play some basketball.

“These tournaments are always fun. You’re obviously at a great venue, you’re playing good competition, it’s a holiday break and you don’t have to worry about school. It’s a business trip and we’re going there to see how well we can play, and if we play well than I think it’ll be a hell of a tournament.”

Playing three games in three days should be a good test of where K-State is at from a conditioning standpoint. Fortunately, K-State is getting closer to sporting a full and healthy roster. 

Redshirt freshman Lanie Page made her first appearance as a Wildcat against Lamar and should see more minutes in the future, Mittie said. Karyla Middlebrook, a junior transfer, saw 20 minutes of action against Lamar while freshman forward Eternati Willock logged 15, both of which Mittie said were positive signs moving forward. 

“I wanted to get (Middlebrook more minutes) to build her up because I think she’ll be ready to go 25, 30 minutes and I think she’ll be ready to play back-to-back-to-back days,” Mittie said. “I would’ve liked to get (Willock) a few more minutes today but I think it was good to get her in the chaos of this type of game. 

“Once again, I get back to this was a different style than we’ve seen all year. So I thought we’d have our struggles today and it didn’t disappoint.”

Lamar may have lacked size, with its tallest player listed at 6-foot-1, but the Cardinals made up for it with pesky play that included a high dose of defensive pressure. The result? K-State turned the ball over 22 times and struggled at times to score at the rim, which Mittie said he hopes can be lessons for his team. 

“We’ll see how we respond to it, but you’re going to have to handle some of those things,” he said. “It may not be a 40-minute stretch, but you’re going to have to handle them in some five-minute stretches. Certainly in late-game situations when you’re up, you’re going to face a team that’s going to trap you and press you.”

Part of it, Mittie added, is the process of building chemistry and figuring out roles has been slowed down by injuries. The biggest adjustment, he said, has been getting Kindred Wesemann and Middlebrook on the same page in the backcourt. 

“They haven’t played a lot together. Middlebrook has practiced five times in four weeks,” he said. “Willock is going on her fourth practice in maybe two weeks. You don’t want to make excuses, but you also know that it’s going to take us some time to gel the pieces together.” 

What Mittie did like from the Wildcats’ final home game of November was their defensive awareness, which helped limit Lamar to 25 percent shooting from the floor that included a 4-for-21 performance beyond the arc. 

“I thought our awareness was pretty good out there,” said Mittie, whose team has held opponents to 27 percent shooting (50-of-182) through three games. “That’s the area I felt like from the scouting report we really played well today, better than we had in the previous games.” 

A video broadcast of K-State’s three games in the Paradise Jam will be available on FloHoops.com and an audio broadcast will be available on the K-State Sports Network and for free at www.kstatesports.com.