Women's Basketball Hosts WNIT
With tipoff set for 7 p.m., the Wildcats have spent the past three days focusing and preparing for tonight's competition and are excited for what the future holds entering the program's 18th postseason appearance.
"This is a great position for us to be in," said Wildcat senior forward Ashia Woods. "Last year we didn't see any postseason play at all, so this year, it's special. Our senior year gets to last as long as possible. I feel like going into the WNIT, it's winnable for us; I feel like we have a chance."
The Wildcats found out their postseason destiny on Monday evening and haven't stopped preparing since. Entering tonight's game with little familiarity with the Zips, it will mark the first time in program history that K-State plays Akron. Jeff Mittie, in his first season coaching the Wildcats, hasn't had a team match up with Akron during his 23-year coaching career, either.
"That's the fun part of it, we found out maybe 8:15 (Monday) night, so you're immediately jumping into a film session," said Mittie. "(Director of video operations) Tasha Dickey was working until whatever hour on (Monday) night getting the film prep ready. But that's the fun part about this time of the year, and we'll be ready on Thursday."
Akron enters tonight's game coming off a tough, 95-66, loss to Eastern Michigan in the Mid-American Conference Tournament third round. However, though the team is coming off a loss it will be no easy matchup for the Wildcats as it is a team filled with shooters.
The Zips have three players averaging double-digits in points and are led by junior Anita Brown and senior Sina King who averaged 20.7 and 20.3 points per game, respectively, during the MAC conference season. Led by head coach Jodi Kest (nine seasons with the Zips), tonight marks the program's third consecutive postseason berth.
"They're a nice team," said Mittie. "They've got a point guard that really pushes in transition, they've got two elite scorers, one averages 20 points a game, one averages 18 a game, and their third or fourth leading scorer has made 90 three's this year. So they score the basketball really well. They're a very talented offensive team."
While the Zips enter the game boasting a talented offense, K-State's defense prided itself in being one of the best in the Big 12. The Wildcats sit at No. 2 in the Big 12 in scoring defense as they hold its opponents to an average of just 57.5 points per game while the team is No. 3 in blocked shots with 147 blocks this season. It ranks No. 1 in the league in steals with 353, and the Wildcats have continued to grow every time they step on the court.
Excited to play another game, once the team found out it was playing Akron, it quickly began researching its upcoming opponent.
"I looked them up (online), saw who their competition was, who they had been playing, their players, size, all that kind of stuff," explained senior guard Haley Texada the morning after learning her team would be taking on Akron. "I think we all did that as soon as we got the brackets. That excites me because it lets me know that my teammates care and are interested in who we're playing and have already started preparing on their own."
Prepared and ready to go, there is one more thing that will make tonight's game special to the Wildcats. Not only does the team have the opportunity to continue its season, but it has the opportunity to continue its season in the place it loves the most.
"It will be extremely beneficial to be in Bramlage. Bramlage is our home, it's where we like to play," said Wildcat sophomore guard Kindred Wesemann. "We love it there. Our fans love us and we love them, so it's great. They always have our back and they're always cheering as loud as they can."
The winner of tonight's game will take on the winner of the Northern Iowa (17-14, 12-6 MVC) and Missouri (17-2, 7-9 SEC) game in the WNIT's second round sometime between March 21-24. A win tonight for K-State could, potentially, put them back in Bramlage Coliseum this weekend.
"I've been in the WNIT a couple of times, and this tournament gets more fun as you go because it can be a home tournament," said Mittie. "That can really build momentum for your home fans, your home city. It can really build momentum. If we play well and we can advance through this tournament, it'll be special to our players and our staff being that it's the first year at K-State."
For game notes and more information on tonight's game, please click here.
Tickets for Thursday night's game are available now by calling the K-State Ticket Office at (800) 221-CATS, visiting www.kstatesports.com/tickets or by stopping by the K-State Athletic Ticket Office in Bramlage Coliseum. Tickets are priced at $15 for chair backs, $10 for adult general admission and $5 for student and children. Priority seating for season ticket holders will not be available for the WNIT, with all tickets made available on a first come, first serve basis.
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TAKING THE GAME OUTSIDE
It's been 12 days since the Wildcats last played in a game. With so much time between the conference tournament and postseason play, Mittie said it's important to create opportunities that keep the team interested and having fun while also working hard.
So, on Monday afternoon when the sun was shining and the temperature read 85 degrees in the Little Apple, there was just one thing to do.
Take practice outside.
"I didn't figure it'd be 80 degrees in Manhattan until June, so why not get out there and take advantage of it?" laughed Mittie. "We went on the rec courts. It was kind of nice to coach in sunglasses. It was different, but you kind of have to do some of those things because if not, you're just wasting time doing the same old thing."
It was something different, something unusual, but it was something the team enjoyed.
"It was awesome," said Woods. "The sun was shining, and it's our Spring Break right now, so it was fun to get out and do something different. We'd never done that before, but I think it was just to loosen us up and have a good time. We didn't come to the gym like always. We just kind of had some fun. It brought us back to when we were kids at school or playing at the park."