MANHATTAN — – Kansas State’s season women’s basketball season came to a painful end in the semifinals of the WNIT on Wednesday at Bramlage Coliseum.
After completing a furious 14-point rally to force overtime, the Wildcats were unable to close the door on Utah in overtime and lost 54-46 in front of 2,750 fans.
“It’s sad to see it come to an end, no question,” K-State basketball coach Deb Patterson said. “I thought we did a great job battling back. I thought we had all the momentum in the world. I thought we had a couple of good looks the last couple possessions and again got back to that inability to finish.
“We seemed a little disjointed the last couple possessions. That was frustrating, just really working so hard to get to that point but not being able to separate at all. You had all the momentum, but you just couldn’t separate.”
In many ways, the loss was fitting.
Teams that possess a mixture of depth and height have caused problems for the injured and small Wildcats all season, and K-State was once again unable to overcome those obstacles against Utah.
The Utes’ front line of Taryn Wicijowski and Michelle Plouffe, who both stand taller than 6-foot-3, combined for 42 points and pounded K-State inside from start to finish. Wicijowksi posed the biggest challenge, spinning off defenders and using her post skills to finish with 18 points and 17 rebounds. Plouffe led all scorers with 24 points to go along with 13 rebounds.
“We got pasted on the boards,” Patterson said, “particularly with second and third chances.”
Utah led by as many as 14 points early and held a 26-17 advantage at the half. K-State fought all the way back and tied the score 39-39 with 2:21 remaining when senior guard Brittany Chambers rebounded her own miss and made a layup.
Behind 16 points and 10 rebounds from Chambers and 11 points from Haley Texada and Chantay Caron, K-State put itself in position to win the game. But neither team scored again until overtime, and the Utes answered all of the Wildcats’ challenges in the extra period.
They began to pull away when Rachel Messer hit a contested three from the corner to put Utah on top 46-41. After scoring 13 points in the second half, Utah erupted for 15 in overtime.
It now advances to the championship game of the postseason tournament, where it will face Drexel. The Wildcats hoped to be in that position, given that they entered the game with a 13-0 record at home in WNIT games.
But their perfect hosting record is no more. K-State finished the season 19-18.
“With everything that we have gone through,” Chambers said, “and the young players we have on the court we are very lucky and privileged to be playing in the postseason this far. It’s a credit to our coaches and a credit to our players working harder as the season went on and not giving in when we could have.
“It was a tough season. We found a way to make the postseason and then fought to make the Final Four of the WNIT. For the group we have, that is a successful season.”
Still, Patterson wanted more.
“We aren’t happy falling short,” Patterson said. “We still had an expectation that there was one more step to take.”
UTAH: Wicijowski 8-16 2-2 18, Plouffe 8-20 6-6 24, Rodrigues 1-8 2-2 4, Messer 1-2 0-0 3, Rodriguez 0-0 0-0 0, Wilson 1-2 0-0 2, Bridgewater 0-0 0-0 0, Dunbar 1-2 0-0 3. Totals 20-50 (4-12) 10-10 54.
KANSAS STATE: Caron 4-11 2-4 11, Texada 3-12 4-4 11, Chambers 5-21 5-6 16, Craig 1-6 0-0 2, White 3-5 0-0 6, Brown 0-3 0-0 0, Spresser 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-58 (3-27) 11-14 46.
Halftime — Utah 26, Kansas State 17. Regulation — Tied 39-39. 3’s — Utah 4-12 (Plouffe 2-6, Rodrigues 0-1, Messer 1-2, Wilson 0-1), Dunbar 1-2); Kansas State 3-27 (Caron 1-6, Texada 1-7, Chambers 1-7, Craig 0-3, White 0-1, Brown 0-3). Rebounds — Utah 43 (Wicijowski 17); Kansas State 28 (Chambers 10). Assists — Utah 8 (Rodrigues 3); Kansas State 6 (Chambers 4). A — 2750.