K-State Gets Defensive in Season-Opening Win

MANHATTAN, Kansas – K-State rode a strong defensive performance to secure the 2023-24 season-opening win over Presbyterian, 69-35, at Bramlage Coliseum on Monday night.

The Wildcats tallied 18 steals and 11 blocks on Monday night. The combined total of 29 blocks and steals are the most in the Jeff Mittie era in a single game. Of the 11 blocks, seven different Wildcats recorded at least one including K-State’s tallest player, Ayoka Lee with three, and K-State’s shortest, Taryn Sides with one.

– After a poor shooting effort in the first half, K-State blistered the nets by comparison in the second half as the Wildcats shot 60.0 percent (15-of-25) and outscored Presbyterian in the second half, 41-20.
– K-State used a 12-2 run midway through the third quarter to turn an 11-point lead into a 21-point advantage, 40-19, with four minutes remaining in the quarter.
– A Jaelyn Glenn three-pointer started the run and was followed by a free throw from Serena Sundell and a steal and layup from Brylee GlennJaelyn Glenn registered a diverse line of 11 points on 3-of-6 shooting including 2-of-4 from 3-point range, six rebounds, four steals and a blocked shot.
– After a Presbyterian timeout with 7:10 remaining in the third quarter, Ayoka Lee carded consecutive jumpers and the run was capped by a Zyanna Walker layup. Lee ended the night with a game-high 14 points and seven rebounds, while also adding in three blocks, two steals and two assists in 22 minutes.
– Walker helped the Wildcats close the quarter on a 9-2 run to build a 49-26 lead entering the fourth quarter. Walker, playing her first game in a K-State uniform, tallied a corner three-pointer and then another layup. Walker would end the night perfect from the field, shooting 5-of-5 including 3-of-3 from beyond the arc for a career-high 13 points in 12 minutes off the bench.
– K-State shot 32.4 percent (11-of-34) from the field in the first half to hold a 28-15 lead at halftime.

– Monday’s game was the earliest season-opener in program history.
– Kansas State is 47-9 (.839) in season openers and have won 21 of the last 23 season openers, including 13 straight.
– The Wildcats have won 29 of its last 31 home openers in Bramlage Coliseum. The Wildcats are 47-9 (.839) all-time in home openers and 32-4 (.889) in openers in Bramlage.
– K-State owns a record of 381-154 (.712) during its time in Bramlage Coliseum. Head coach Jeff Mittie is 111-46 (.707) in home games with the Wildcats.
– K-State has won 22 straight non-conference home games dating back to December of 2020. The Wildcats were 10-0 in non-conference home games in 2022-23. Kansas State is 222-29 (.884) against non-conference foes, while Mittie is 68-8 (.895).
– K-State is 1-0 in the series against Presbyterian. The Wildcats are 1-1 against current members of the Big South Conference.

– K-State’s starting five consisted of guards: Jaelyn GlennSerena SundellBrylee GlennGabby Gregory and center Ayoka Lee. This was the first time this starting five has been used in a regular season game. This was the 88th career start for Lee, the 79th collegiate career start and the 33rd start at K-State for Gregory, the 70th career start for Sundell, the 66th career start for Jaelyn Glenn and the 60th career start for Brylee Glenn.
– The Wildcats held a 28-15 lead at halftime on Monday. K-State was 16-1 when leading at the half in 2022-23. Under head coach Jeff Mittie, K-State is 130-17 (.884) when leading at halftime.
– Over the last 21 seasons, Kansas State is 129-3 (.977) when holding opponents to 49 points or less. K-State has held seven of its last eight season-opening foes to 49 points or less.
– K-State is 20-1 (.952) in the Mittie era when registering a combination of 20 or more blocks and steals in a game.

– With her 14 points on Monday night, Ayoka Lee moved into seventh on the K-State career points list with 1,675. This was Lee’s 80th career game with 10 or more points.
– With her five made field goals on Monday night, Ayoka Lee moved into fifth on the K-State career field goals made list with 670.
– Jaelyn Glenn pocketed four steals on Monday. This was Glenn’s 14th career game with four or more steals.
– Junior guard Serena Sundell handed out six assists. With her total, Sundell moved into 11th on the K-State career assists list. This was her 43rd career game with five or more assists. Sundell led K-State in assists for the 57th time in her career.
– Sundell blocked three shots on Monday. She owns 52 blocked shots in her career, improving on her school record for career blocked shots by a K-State guard.
– K-State head coach Jeff Mittie announced postgame that freshman forward Alexis Hess and sophomore guard Mikayla Parks will redshirt this season.

K-State Head Coach Jeff Mittie

On the defense…
“I thought it was pretty good. I thought from the assignment of what we wanted to do on their shooters. This is a team that shoots the ball well and they’ll spread you out. I thought we did a good job, but we wanted to be more active. I felt like we missed so many opportunities last game. I felt like we let Pitt State off the hook a lot when we killed the dribble. And we had a better killer instinct tonight. I thought we played more aggressively when we had opportunities to get steals. The other thing we spent a lot of time on in practice is keeping smaller guards in front of us, our length has got to play in that, you got to block some shots as a guard, not just Ayoka (Lee) you got to block shots as a team. I just feel like defensively we we had a better killer instinct tonight.”

On offensive struggles…
“We’re struggling offensively right now. And I think part of that is just that we’ve been pushing them to not settle for just good shots and get great shots. And then you look out there and we’re turning down great shots. So in the identification of that, I think we’re probably hesitant, and that’s a bad way to play. So we just got to work our way through that. With (Ayoka) Lee back, it’s a balance of being aggressive but also making sure that we get touches in the paint, so we just got to work our way through it and all you can do is keep grinding away at that.”

On what he has seen from Zyanna Walker
“Really hard worker and in the gym a lot. I’ve seen her kind of work her way through learning. And with that, it’s been some good days and some days where you can tell that she’s still processing a lot of information. So that was so good to see her play free tonight. She got the ball in good rhythm. She had her feet set ready to score and made really good plays and she plays the game as you saw with a lot of passion, a lot of fire, and that’s contagious.”

On Ayoka Lee’s first official game back from injury…
“I went through that Friday. Because it was the first game against another opponent. Now even though it didn’t count,  in her eyes it sure counted. She didn’t get to play in our closed scrimmage. She wasn’t quite ready for that. The crowd gave her a good ovation when she came into the game. So, for her to battle back, it was pretty special to see her back on the floor. Tonight was more business-like.”

K-State Senior Center Ayoka Lee

On her official return …
“I thought it felt really good. Definitely some things that are still coming back. Still working on some things to make them just feel a bit more natural, but it definitely helps when I feel we’re playing really well as a team. Especially on defense and just gelling really well, so that was good.”

On areas she feels good in and areas to improve on…
“I think on defense just being able to help and get back has been an area that I’ve been really pleased with. I mean, obviously defense or any part of your game can always improve, but that is one part that I think has been good. Parts that need to get better just like finishing in crowds, being comfortable with my footwork, that stuff and then, really just finishing around the rim with crowds.”

On playing without her knee brace…
“Man, it’s freeing. No, it’s not weird at all. I think after every rehab that I’ve been through, the goal has always been to play without a knee brace. I think the difference is the past two seasons that I’ve played, the condition of my knee was in that kind of in between, where like the brace helped. It was just anything that was going to help. I like playing without the brace, I don’t have to tug at my knee all the time, it’s nice. So it wasn’t like an adjustment.”

K-State Junior Guard Jaelyn Glenn
On the defensive performance as a team…
“As a team, I feel like our defense is really coming together. I think there is still some areas where we can improve. But it’s still early, but I think our communication and our connection as a team is really strong. So I think that’s going to help us a lot moving forward and improving our defense.”

On getting so many steals in the game…
“Anticipation. We knew we wanted to take away the three from this team coming into the game. So really just anticipating passes and knowing that my teammates are backside to help if you know, someone misses, or someone doesn’t get the steal. So yeah, just anticipation and trusting your teammates.”

On getting a lot of steals in the first part of the game…
“It feels really good. I’m very excited about it. I feel like it shows kind of, like you said, our emphasis and where we want to be really good. And that shows that we can be really good when we’re doing the things that we’re supposed to do well as a team, so that makes me really excited for the games to come.”

K-State Redshirt Freshman Guard Zyanna Walker
On how she feels on her debut…
“I felt great. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to play a game like that and play that many minutes. So just felt great to be out there and especially just with this new team, and we got a lot going for us this year.”

On how well and how long she got to play…
“You never know what to expect in a game. I mean, I just go out there and I take open looks and I just let the game come to me.”

On being in her home state and getting to play for K-State…
“It felt really good. I had a lot of family here so that’s different. Last year I didn’t get a lot of family at games. It felt good to play really well in front of them and get the win in front of them.”

The Wildcats return to action on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m., as K-State visits Little Rock. Saturday’s game can be seen live on ESPN+.