MANHATTAN, KS. – Northwestern State came out ready to compete on Saturday against Kansas State and led after the first 15 minutes of play. The Wildcats needed every bit of their size, shots to fall and second-half pressure defense to fend off the Lady Demons for the 70-36 win.
The Wildcats (6-1) took the early lead but the evidence of NSU’s (3-2) quickness and aggression to start the game frustrated the home team for most of the first half.
Not shying away from the heavy Kansas State post presence, NSU consistently drove the ball into the paint and found their way to the free throw line. A jumper from Candice Parramore started the 6-0 NSU run that closed the small gap and Monette Bolden put the Lady Demons on top at the midway point of the first quarter with a jumper after a Jiselle Woodson steal.
The quick hands and feet of the Lady Demons forced three turnovers in the first quarter and tough shots for the Wildcats who started the game 5-for-23 from the field, including an 0-for-8 stretch that allowed NSU to move ahead.
A pair defensive stops for NSU late in the quarter allowed Jordan Todd to provide the go-ahead layup with 25 seconds remaining that gave the Lady Demons the 13-11 lead after the opening quarter.
“We haven’t played incredibly well in the first quarter in our first four games so for us to come out and be the aggressors I think we gave them all they could handle,” head coach Anna Nimz said. “It showed and we won the first quarter.
“If we can continue to capitalize on that, and it’s not going to be a full 40 minutes from the jump, I’m excited. We had some pretty bad quarters at the end, but we had so many positives and it started with how we came out in the first.”
The shift for the Wildcats began in early in the second as began to feed the ball to their 6-foot-6 matchup advantage at the basket and create some open looks from their high post play to complement.
Parramore evened the game at 18 with 5:31 left in the half but the shots that were falling for the Lady Demons through the first 15 minutes began to fall out over the next two-plus quarters.
NSU finished the half 0-for-9 from the floor with a mix of tough shots and quality looks all missing the mark. Meanwhile the combination of Ayoka Lee on the block and Emilee Ebert in the high post for Kansas State carried the Wildcats to a 12-2 finish the to half and a 29-18 lead after the first 20 minutes.
Bolden ended the long scoring drought with the first shot of the third quarter, a tear drop runner in the lane, seconds into frame. But it wasn’t until the three-minute mark that Woodson scored the next NSU field goal to snap a string of nine consecutive misses.
The Wildcats continued to pound the paint and turned up their pressure defense in the final five minutes of the quarter to force five NSU turnovers in the span of three minutes to turn a nine-point lead into a 55-25 advantage after the third quarter.
“We’re going to have some ups and downs and that’s part of our maturation process and learning how to handle adversity,” Nimz said. “We talked about that moving into the fourth quarter. We took out lumps, but I felt like we really ran the first half. I know the score’s not indicative of that but how we feel we played was really good. It’s about learning how to sustain that energy we had from the jump through the entire game.”
Parramore finished the game with a team-leading nine points, with a perfect 5-for-5 effort from the free throw line. Bolded ended with eight points and sliced through for nine rebounds in the game. Both Lee and Ebert finished the game with double-doubles for the Wildcats.
“We have what it takes to compete at a very high level,” Nimz said. “Now it’s continuing to get kids that might be in a slump at times to still believe in themselves. We’ve got some really good players and the shots just aren’t falling like they’re used to, especially today.
“When they hit though they’re going to catch fire. We believe in our team and even for how well they played in that first half we have so many tools that haven’t quite had that “ah-ha” moment yet. I’m excited for them and the program going in that direction.”
Photo: Kansas State Athletics