SE: Williams Starts Career with Wecker-Like Performance

Peyton Williams sees the name all the time; it hangs in the rafters of Bramlage Coliseum. To be brought up in the same breath as the name, however, left Williams somewhat at a loss for words. 

Williams, a true freshman out of Topeka, posted a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds in the Wildcats’ season-opening win (83-33) against Chicago State on Friday in Bramlage Coliseum. Her performance marked the first double-double in a career debut since Kendra Wecker, the program’s all-time leading scorer, started hers with one in 2001. 

“I’m speechless,” Williams said when told this. “I always look up and she’s up there,” Then the 6-foot-3 Wildcat began laughing at the thought of being in the same category as Wecker. “Yeah, I should probably stop talking,” she continued, concluding her answer with, “Yeah, that’s cool.” 

In her career debut, Williams turned some encouragement from her teammates and a repeated phrase from associate head coach Brian Ostermann into an impressive performance. 

“My confidence is definitely a lot higher than it was at the beginning. I can thank my teammates for that. They’ve been encouraging me from day one. Even if I miss it, they’re saying, ‘Keep shooting, keep at it,’ so this has been a big confidence booster,” she said. “Something that has encouraged me is Coach O constantly telling me, ‘Just shoot it, shoot the ball,’ so that is a confidence booster for me.”

As much as she credits others, Williams has helped her own cause by simply practicing hard and preparing well, her teammate Kayla Goth said. 

“She’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen. She gets in the gym all the time and during practice she’s working every rep, every play and she’s getting every single one that she can,” said Goth. “You can’t play slow or not very hard in practice and then walk into a game and expect to play fast. So I would say in practices she’s stepped up her game.”

Williams, a dual-sport athlete who redshirted in volleyball this year for K-State, went 6-of-10 from the field while grabbing six rebounds on offense and another six on defense. She turned three of her offensive rebounds into put backs. 

“Tonight was big for her,” K-State head coach Jeff Mittie said. “She’s still thinking a lot. I thought early in the game, she was not playing as explosive or as physical as we want, but she takes the halftime talk, she comes out and you could immediately see the first move she made was more explosive, more powerful. That’s big for her.”

A collection of minor injuries limited K-State’s full roster and forced a few players like Williams into major minutes. Williams put in 31 minutes of court action but her improved stamina helped her score eight of her 15 points in the fourth quarter.  

“That was a weakness a week or two ago,” Mittie said. “That’s the positive side of (the injuries).” 

Goth was another who received a boost in minutes, turning them into a career performance. In 29 minutes, the sophomore guard poured in a career-high 23 points on 9-of-11 shooting (3-of-4 from 3-point range). She also recorded career bests with eight rebounds and three steals.  

“It’s a really big game for me. It’s a big confidence boost,” said Goth, who also notched three assists in her second career start. “I had a really good offseason, so I was coming into the season pretty confident, but you never really know what you can do until you put it out there and find out.” 

Freshman guard Mercedes Brooks chipped in six points, putting K-State’s scoring total for underclassmen at 44 points. These youthful contributions left senior Kindred Wesemann in a good mood after the win. 

“That’s pretty much what I was smiling about the whole time. It’s just great to see the younger players getting in, getting their time and doing so well because they’ve worked so hard for it in practices,” Wesemann said. “They’ve pushed through a lot of hard workouts, a lot of hard practices, a lot of tough times and it’s just great to see it pay off. I mean, it’s my senior season and I want to win, and if they’re going to score like that, I feel like we’re going to win. I’m liking it.”

On a night when K-State’s usual scoring duo of Wesemann and Breanna Lewis combined for only 17 points, K-State proved capable of making up for it in other areas. While Goth and Williams highlighted this depth in scoring, K-State also received solid contributions from junior Kaylee Page (10 points) and senior forward Jessica Sheble (6). 

When expected starters in Eternati Willock and Karyla Middlebrook, along with bench pieces in Lanie Page and Erica Young, return ready to play, Mittie said the team’s true depth would become more evident. Until then, he added, players like Williams will benefit from being thrust into bigger roles. 
“We feel like we have more options this year, when healthy,” said Mittie, whose team will host Tulsa on Monday at 7 p.m., “but the silver lining is these players are being forced to play through things, and that’s the positive.”