Turnovers doom K-State in NCAA Tournament loss to Colorado

MANHATTAN, Kan. – The Kansas State Wildcats’ season came to an end Sunday afternoon, falling to the Colorado Buffaloes 63-50 in front of a sellout crowd at Bramlage Coliseum.

The Wildcats led by as much as nine in the first half, but Colorado’s defense suffocated Kansas State in the second half, holding the Wildcats to just 15 points, and forcing K-State into a season-worst 22 turnovers.

“Yeah, I think it’s disappointing to lose when you don’t play very well and you don’t feel like that you did things as well as you could have, and there’s always regret that comes with that. You feel like you could have, should have done this, and — but at the end of the day, the game presents its challenges and there are moments that we didn’t handle those things very well,” said Kansas State Head Coach Jeff Mittie.

The loss stops one of K-State’s most successful seasons in program history, closing at 26-8 overall, falling just short of the team’s first Sweet 16 appearance since 2002.

“Obviously this really sucks,” said Kansas State Senior Gabby Gregory, fighting back tears. “Wasn’t expecting to be done so early. But I think
right now I’m just so upset that we are not moving on.”

Kansas State would hold a 35-33 advantage at halftime, but following the intermission would be when Colorado took over. The Buffaloes out-paced K-State 30-15 after halftime, holding K-State to just 22% shooting after the break (6-27 overall).

The turnover factor would be the biggest storyline however, as even the Wildcats’ most sure-handed guard, Serena Sundell, would turn the ball over nine times on the game, a season-worst mark for the team’s second-leading scorer.

Senior Center Ayoka Lee was never allowed to get comfortable either, tallying a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds, but only making five of her nine shot attempts in 37 minutes of action.

Colorado post Aaronette Vonleh did a masterful job of denying Lee in the post, denying anything and everything, and stealing seven post entry passes away in the game.

“It was incredible. I mean, I always talk about Kindyll’s defense, and so to hear that ‘Nette passed her first half scoring — or, I’m sorry, first half steals record is almost hard to believe,” said Colorado Head Coach JR Payne. “But yeah, it was pretty great to watch. Everybody had so much confidence in Aaronette to guard because she has done it night-in and night-out all year long.”

Vonleh would score nine points in the game, one of nine Buffaloes to register nine or more points. Maddie Nolan would lead Colorado with 11 points on 3-9 shooting from three point range. Quay Miller and Tameiya Sadler would each score 10 as well.

In the fourth quarter, Kansas State gave one last run at it, holding Colorado without a point for the first 6:19 of the period, but all K-State could muster was to whittle the lead down to six. The Buffaloes would then hold serve defensively in the final minutes, and make most of their free throws to ice the victory.

With the victory, Colorado notches its 23rd win of the season, and for now the second-straight year upsets a host team to advance t0 the Sweet 16. Colorado will take on the winner of Iowa/West Virginia in Albany, New York next week.