Nothing came easily for Kansas State on Sunday.
In the Wildcats’ 88-71 loss to Baylor in the Big 12 women’s tournament semifinals at Chesapeake Energy Arena, pace of play, rebounding and even free throws proved difficult for K-State, the tournament’s fourth seed.
“You can’t do that against a team that’s in the top five in the country,” K-State coach Jeff Mittie said. “You’re not going to win games if you’re losing those kinds of plays.”
Facing Baylor, the nation’s No. 2 team and the top seed in the tournament, the Wildcats (22-10) couldn’t afford to give away points or possessions but consistently did so.
Down 52-38, K-State’s first possession of the second half ended with the ball dribbling out of bounds to Mittie, who pounded it on the court before handing it to an official. It was a frustrating afternoon for the Wildcats, who made only 11 of their 25 free-throw attempts.
Mittie struggled to find words for why his team couldn’t perform at the line.
“Players have to go through their routine, step up there, knock ’em down,” Mittie said. “Tonight we didn’t do that.”
The Bears (30-2), however, were seamless and efficient. They shot 54.1 percent overall and 50 percent on three-pointers. They also were 16 for 17 at the free-throw line. Baylor grabbed 14 more rebounds than K-State, leading to a 17-9 advantage on second-chance points. Baylor guard Kristy Wallace set a tournament record with 15 assists, four more than the Wildcats had as a team.
Mittie said K-State wanted to get three consecutive stops against the Bears. The Wildcats did so three times. The first came on Baylor’s first three possessions as K-State took a 2-0 lead, the only time it was ahead Sunday.
Center Breanna Lewis recorded a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds, while guard Karyla Middlebrook led K-State with 20 points.
“We set a lot of high ball screens, and I was taking advantage when they were going under,” Middlebrook said. “Sometimes they were late on that, and I just had a quick step.”
With the game already out of reach late in the fourth quarter, Pleasant Hill’s Kindred Wesemann, a member of the All-Big 12 first team, got tangled up with Baylor’s Lauren Cox. When Cox spun out of the entanglement, Wesemann fell to the court, holding her right arm in pain.
Her elbow was examined on the bench before she went to the locker room with members of the training staff. Mittie said he was unsure of Wesemann’s condition but hoped it was nothing more than a pulled muscle.
Despite the injury and the Bears’ advancement to Monday’s championship game, the Wildcats can find comfort in knowing they achieved one of their early season goals: “Leave no doubt.” An NCAA Tournament bubble team a year ago, K-State is assured of hearing its name called when the bracket is announced March 13.
“I think we have the toughest league in the country in regards to schedule,” Mittie said. “I do think that prepares you for the NCAA Tournament. There isn’t anything this team hasn’t seen. There isn’t anything we haven’t experienced.”