Here is everything you need to know about the Kansas State Wildcats and the Washington State Cougars in our Kansas State vs. Washington State NCAA Women’s Tournament preview.
Bridgeport Region – First Round
No. 9 Kansas State (19-12) vs. No. 8 Washington State (19-10), 10:30 a.m. CT, Saturday, ESPN2, Reynolds Coliseum, Raleigh, NC
How They Got Here: Kansas State received an at-large bid out of the Big 12. Washington State received an at-large bid out of the Pac-12.
Winner Gets: A second-round meeting with the winner of the N.C. State vs. No. 16 Longwood/Mount St. Mary’s game on Monday.
Projected starting lineups
Kansas State: C Ayoka Lee, G Serena Sundell, G Brylee Glenn, G Jaelyn Glenn, G Emilee Ebert.
Washington State: G Krystal Leger-Walker, G Charlisse Leger-Walker, F Ula Motuga, G Johanna Teder, F Bella Murekatete.
Players to watch
Kansas State F Ayoka Lee: You may have heard of Lee. She’s the one that dropped 61 points on Oklahoma in January, setting a new Division I record for most points in a single game. She’s been her most dominant this season, and she’s been named to four different All-America teams, either as a first-team or second-team member. She is the first player in program history with 675 or more points, 300 or more rebounds and 90 or more blocks in a season. Lee is the only player in the nation to average 20 or more points, 10 or more rebounds and 3 or more blocks. She was also picked to the Heartland College Sports All-Big 12 First Team. And, she’s not going anywhere. She told everyone in January she intends to return next season.
Washington State G Krystal Leger-Walker and G Charlisse Leger-Walker: The sisters from New Zealand are a big part of the reason the Cougars are back in the NCAA Tournament. Charlisse leads the Cougars with 16 points per game, but in last year’s NCAA Tournament she scored 18 points in the Cougars’ first-round loss. She leaves the shooting from distance and the passing to her sister, Krystal. She has an assist in 94 straight games, leads the Cougars with 134 assists and shoots 35.7 percent from the arc, second only to Johanna Teder. Krystal is averaging 7.9 points per game.
Kansas State: You don’t want to say the season has already been a success for the Wildcats, but in some ways it has. Kansas State’s 10-win improvement from last season is the largest win improvement under head coach Jeff Mittie and tied for the second-largest win increase from one season to the next in program history (14, 2001-02). That just happens to be the year the Wildcats made the Sweet 16. The Wildcats are more than just Lee. Serena Sundell was a unanimous Big 12 All-Freshman Team selection after averaging 10.6 points per game and finishing second in the Big 12 with 171 assists (5.5 per game). In fact, no Big 12 freshman had more Freshman of the Week honors than Sundell, who is the nation’s only freshman with 170 or more assists and 40 or more 3-pointers.
Washington State: WSU is making just its third NCAA Tournament appearance, but it’s the second season in a row the Cougars have danced. After reaching the 1991 Tournament, WSU didn’t get back until last season when they were to the bubble in San Antonio. But, the Cougars have yet to win an NCAA Tournament game in two tries, losing to Northwestern in 1991 and South Florida last season (the Bulls squeezed by, 57-53). The Cougars have a uniquely motivated team. The Cougars not only return all five starters from last season’s loss to USF, the Cougars return all eight players that played in last year’s game. That includes Charlisse Leger-Walker, scored 18 points against USF, which qualifies as the most any WSU player has scored in the tournament. Johanna Teder added 16 points and holds the record for most WSU 3-point field goals in an NCAA Tournament game with four.
Washington State and Kansas State will be meeting for the fifth time. The Wildcats lead the all-time series 4-0, but the two teams haven’t played since 2009. Plus, it’s a reunion of sorts. WSU associate head coach Laurie Koehn played for the Wildcats, helped them to the 2002 Sweet 16 and, up until the middle of this season, held the Big 12 record for most 3-pointers in a career (392). Oklahoma’s Taylor Robertson passed Koehn in January.
Kansas State 67, Washington State 63. It’s one thing to watch Ayoka Lee on film. It’s another to solve her in a one-shot deal.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.