K-State takes down Portland for NCAA Tournament win

MANHATTAN, Kan. – The Kansas State Wildcats earned a tough win on Friday afternoon, defeating the Portland Pilots 78-65 in the first round of the 2024 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. 


A charged up Bramlage Coliseum hosted the opening contest of the Manhattan pod, with a near capacity crowd roaring as the Wildcats hosted the Opening Round for the second time under Head Coach Jeff Mittie, and the sixth time in program history. 


“Obviously I was really trying for that sellout, but we were really close. I mean, it was amazing in there. Like, right when we came out to shoot our layups like right before tip, I mean, I was just — had a huge smile on my face because that is the crowd that we want to play in,” said K-State Senior Gabby Gregory. “I mean, I think it really just speaks to the growth of the game of women’s basketball, that we get to play in front of almost sold out crowds and things like that now. But I think it was tremendous and I can’t wait to have a sellout on Sunday.”


Though not a sellout Friday, Gregory and Ayoka Lee each lobbied for fans to hit that high mark on Sunday, as the Wildcats advanced in the NCAA Tournament.


“Yeah, I think we didn’t sell out today, but Sunday’s just another opportunity to do that,” said Lee. “And I think, I don’t know, you’re silly if you’re not buying tickets, so, yeah.”


The atmosphere provided the Wildcats instant-energy, jumping on Portland early, reaching a lead of as many as 15 points at the end of the first quarter, and as many as 20 in the game. 


“I think as teammates, we want to pull one another up, lift each other up, and I think the crowd just adds to that,” said Lee of the energy provided by the crowd. “They just stayed in the game with us, especially down the stretch. So, yeah, I think it definitely adds to the environment and, yeah, it gives us some extra juice.”


Portland, though, would battle back to within as few as eight points in the second half, a stretch where K-State lulled slightly on both ends of the floor, but according to Gregory, the Wildcats’ veteran leadership carried them through that tough stretch.


“I think Yoky and myself are very good vocal leaders, so we’re able to talk to our teammates and let them know things throughout the game, things that we’re seeing,” said Gregory. “We’ve been in tight games many, many times, played in front of crowds and things like that, so we just try to use our experience that we have and maybe pass that down to the younger kids on our team.”


Kansas State Head Coach Jeff Mittie was pleased with his team’s effort in the victory, but noted that a game like this was good for his team.


“Well, this time of the year you take some commonalities that your next opponent might face, but there might not be very many, so you go to the next game, you go to the next scout, you do what you can do better. I think that we got to correct — when they made their run, regardless of who we play, I did not like our discipline on the back doors, and on out of bounds plays, we had some players fall asleep on some pretty simple things. We’ve got to correct those things,”  said Kansas State Head Coach Jeff Mittie. “But having said all that, I think that we needed a game like this. I do. I think we needed a game that, we were under duress. I think we needed a game where we had to handle some chaos, handle some shot clock things, and I think we got a good test and that will benefit us going forward.”


The Pilots pressured Kansas State all day, but the Wildcats stood strong, for the most part. K-State managed just 14 turnovers, and still found efficient ways to score. 


The ‘Cats saw three players score in double-digits, led by a game-high 22 points from Gregory, while Ayoka Lee put up 21 points and a team-high nine rebounds. Serena Sundell added in 16 points on the day as well. 


The 78 points scored is K-State’s most since a 96-93 double-overtime loss at Iowa State on February 14th. The Wildcats improved to 106-21 when scoring 70 or more since the start of the 2014-15 season. 


K-State also managed to hit 26 of its 51 field goal attempts, for 51% on the day. Adding yet another impressive tally to the list, improving to now 37-5 since the start of the 2014-15 season when shooting 50% or better from the floor. 

Kansas State now sits at 26-7 overall on the season, and will face the winner of 12th-seeded Drake and 5th-seeded Colorado on Sunday.