SE: K-State WBB Rides Stingy Defense, Home Crowd to First Round Victory Over Drake

Kindred Wesemann ran off the court, giving K-State’s crowd the thumbs up and a smile. She knew they would be seeing each other again after the Wildcats’ 67-54 victory over Drake on Saturday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Bramlage Coliseum. 

“Our fans are some of the best in the country. They sure showed that tonight. They were so loud. They brought the energy,” said Wesemann, who poured in 16 points, dished out five assists and snagged two steals in the victory. “Sometimes crowds don’t appreciate defensive stops or rebounds or hustle plays, and ours really does. You couldn’t ask for a better crowd.”

K-State, the seven seed in the Lexington Regional, couldn’t ask for a much better defensive performance against Drake’s potent offense.  

Drake, a No. 11 seed, came in averaging 83 points a game. By the start of the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs weren’t even halfway to that total. Their previous scoring low for the season was 63 points back in November, and their last loss was in December, 22 games before meeting up with K-State. 

“I thought our defense was outstanding,” K-State head coach Jeff Mittie said. “I thought our group had a good awareness to them. I thought our group had a good connectivity to our rotations. All of those things were pretty good.”

K-State, averaging 15.3 points per game off turnovers before its battle with Drake, nearly surpassed that total in the first quarter. The Wildcats scored 14 points off of the Bulldogs’ seven turnovers in the first quarter, finishing the game with 22 points off 17 forced turnovers. 

“I thought we got them to turn it over. I thought we got them hurried at times. That was critical. We felt like we had to mix defenses up because they’re such a good rhythm offensive team,” Mittie said. “It was like looking in the mirror, both of us. We were both mixing things up, trying to confuse each other, but I felt like we were really able to take advantage of some of those.” 

Drake came in with the nation’s eighth-best assist-to-turnover ratio (1.4). The Bulldogs left having recorded 17 turnovers to 14 assists, marking only their fifth game this season with more turnovers than assists. 

Additionally, the Bulldogs converted 36.5 percent from the field and 29.2 percent (7-of-24) from beyond the arc — 11.7 and 7.3 percent below their season averages, respectively. 

“We did very, very well on defense. Our transition defense was much better today than it has been in the past. We were getting deflections,” Wesemann said. “We were very aware of all of the players on the court, knowing what they wanted to do, and it was a pretty good guess that they all wanted to shoot the three, so we just had to commit to the arc and let (our forwards) take care of it on the inside.”

K-State senior center Breanna Lewis, at 6-foot-5, took care of business on both ends of the floor. She used her height advantage to the tune of 23 points and 11 rebounds over Drake, which doesn’t list anyone taller than 6-foot-2 on its roster.   

“I felt like my teammates did a great job of giving me the ball. Making sure I had a strong post presence was my main focus and it paid off,” said Lewis, who faced constant double teams and some face guarding as well. “I’ve seen it before, but I felt like my teammates did a great job of, when I was open, passing me the ball. Moving around and trying to play through it was really helpful. As a 6-5 player, I expect to get face guarded or doubled, so I was just trying to play through it and keep going.”

When Drake tried to make a run, K-State had an answer. The Bulldogs cut K-State’s lead to six early in the fourth quarter, but the Wildcats rattled off a 7-2 run in less than a minute to push their lead to double digits. 

At one point in the fourth quarter, the Wildcats made 7-of-8 shots, including five in a row, to put the game away. Wesemann accounted for three of those makes, scoring half of her game total in the fourth quarter to help her team secure a match-up with second-seeded Stanford on Monday in the second round. 

“At one point we were just trading baskets and we definitely needed to get some stops,” Wesemann said. “We strung together a few stops after we made some big plays on the offensive end, whether it was a three on a kick out or the interior passing of our posts. I think we have grown in that sense throughout the season.” 

Stanford (29-5) and K-State will meet up on Monday night at 5:30 p.m., which will be nationally televised on ESPN2. When it tips, Mittie expects the atmosphere to be as good or better than the advantageous environment Wildcat fans helped create in Bramlage on Saturday. 

“I thought it was good. I thought our effort probably energized our fans, so I think they got treated to a very good NCAA Tournament game, a very good first game as well. It was a great tournament atmosphere in there,” he said. “I was pleased that our fans really were enthusiastic about the game. I would expect that we will have a good, enthusiastic crowd on Monday.

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