RALEIGH, NC ( Associated Press) — Ayoka Lee had 20 points and 15 rebounds as No. 9 Kansas State overcame a frustrating defensive scheme from No. 8 Washington State and won 50-40 in the first round of the women’s NCAA Tournament on Saturday.
Lee, a second-team Associated Press All-America selection, made just one shot from the floor in the first half, but rallied in the second to lead the Wildcats (20-11) to their first tournament victory since 2017. Brylee Glenn added 14 points for Kansas State.
Washington State (19-11) was powered by Charlisse Leger-Walker’s 20 points on offense. Ula Motuga grabbed 14 rebounds and scored five points.
Defensively, the Cougars used a total-team effort in an attempt to stifle Lee and disrupt Kansas State. Early on, it worked. Washington State led by as many as nine points in the first half and held Lee to just six points in the first 20 minutes.
But the Wildcats got their offense humming in the second half, breaking off runs of 12-1 and 8-2 to erase the deficit.
The Wildcats didn’t allow the Cougars to make a field goal in the final five minutes of the game.
Kansas State: Lee wound up finishing with close to her scoring average of 22.4 points per-game. She was freed up a bit after the Wildcats got back-to-back three-pointers to fall in the second half. Still, the Wildcats will have to shoot sharper overall if they want to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2002. Their field goal percentage of 26.4% on Saturday was their second-worst of the season.
Washington State: The Cougars couldn’t sustain their airtight defensive play that mucked up the first half. Washington State is still searching for its first-ever NCAA Tournament victory in program history. Leger-Walker’s older sister Krystal is out of eligibility, but Charlisse and the rest of the Cougars starters are expected to return next season.
The Wildcats will face the winner of No. 1 NC State and No. 16 Longwood on Monday in Raleigh.
More Associated Press women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https:// twitter.com/AP_Top25