The emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion that occurs after a series of games against conference leaders and nationally ranked opponents finally caught with the Cats' in a contest where the K-State bench outscored the starters 19-13 in the first half.
The Cowgirls (6-13, 1-8) opened the game on a 10-3 run in the first four minutes with sophomore guard Destanie Sykes setting the tempo on offense winning the tip and taking the ball in for an uncontested lay-up.
Coming out of the first media time-out a hockey style line-change took place and the Wildcats had five fresh faces on the court. Senior center Brie Madden led this new group with six quick buckets including a jumper in the lane to give K-State its first lead 12-11.
Senior All-American Kendra Wecker was held to one point in the first half, a free-throw at the 1:25 mark.
"Things weren't going well for me offensively," Wecker said. "Our bench play was huge for us tonight, because the starters weren't doing anything early in the game."
Overall, Wecker shot 3-for-16 from the field, with five or her 11 points coming from the free-throw line. Credit O-State's Sykes, who was assigned one of the hardest jobs in Big 12 basketball, defending Wecker.
"I can tell you I probably worked the hardest I've ever had to in practice these past two days," Sykes said.
The Wildcat bench shot 45 percent from the field and had only one turnover compared to the struggling starters who shot 38 percent and turned the ball over 12 times.
Kansas State's final statistics are a perfect reflection of what can happen to a team after two weeks of highs and lows. The Cats' picked up a rare win at Texas Tech, dominated a very-talented Iowa State squad, struggled at Colorado and lost at No. 8 Baylor.
"I think there are going to be games, if you have a stretch like we just had, where it really is hard to regenerate energy and focus again," K-State Coach Deb Patterson said.
"Our bench players were so critical and so big because they didn't have that same level of depletion as our starters. They came in, they did their jobs, and they carried the game until the last seven minutes."
Senior guard Nina Stone, who led all scores with 17 points, made two consecutive baskets, a bank shot, followed by a steal and a lay-up to cut the Wildcat lead to four. It was the kind of jolt the Wildcat starters needed to finally pull away from O-State.
Minutes later Wecker chased down her missed shot and found a wide-open Megan Mahoney underneath the basket to extend the lead to eight.
"It was like watching Kansas State basketball again," Patterson said. "And the majority of the game I think we were very sluggish and seeing that elevated everyone. I think everyone took a sigh, ‘Oh, there it is. There's our game, there's our aggressiveness.' And it was really a lightning bolt."
Nevertheless, a team is more than the five players it puts on the court to start the game.
The Wildcat bench stepped up and found a way to win Saturday night.
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