'It's our chance to stop them': No. 9 Texas ready for Kansas State star Ayoka Lee's encore
History was made in Kansas State's 94-65 win over Oklahoma last weekend. Playing inside her home gym, Wildcats center Ayoka Lee scored 61 points, breaking the Division I single-game scoring record.
For her encore, Lee will take center stage Wednesday night at the Erwin Center when No. 9 Texas hosts No. 25 Kansas State. And the Longhorns are quite aware of what she just accomplished.
"It was very, very cool to watch, and especially because we're playing them this week," UT guard Joanne Allen-Taylor said. "I'm just hungry and just ready to face an opponent like that.
"I think they'll be really excited to come in here and try to beat us. It's gonna be a big game. I just got excited when I saw that, it's our chance to stop them."
Before Lee, only two women had ever scored 60 points in a Division I game. Long Beach State's Cindy Brown scored 60 against San Jose State in 1987 and Minnesota's Rachel Banham matched that with 60 points in a double-overtime game in 2016.
Lee, a 6-foot-6 center, shot 76.7% from the field against the Sooners while making 23 of her 30 attempts. (Brown was 20-of-32 in her 60-point game; Banham went 19-for-32). Lee sank 15 free throws and did not try a 3-pointer.
With 2:53 left, Lee beat a double team for a lay-in. That basket gave her 61 points. When she was pulled a few seconds later, she had as many points as OU's entire team and the announced crowd of 4,347 at Bramlage Coliseum gave her an ovation.
"It's crazy. Coming into this game, I don't think anyone thinks that, 'Oh yeah, we're just going to set a record today,'" Lee told reporters afterward. "It just goes back to our preparation."
Lee made history at the expense of an Oklahoma team that was ranked No. 14 in the country. The Sooners, however, are both undersized and defensively deficient. Only one OU player taller than six feet logged 10 minutes of playing time in the Kansas State game. The Big 12-worst 75.7 points per game that OU is allowing this season is No. 336 nationally out of 348 teams.
Texas, on the other hand, leads the Big 12 with the 55.2 points it's allowing. But do the Longhorns have an answer for Lee?
Will UT take advantage of the height belonging to 6-foot-4 center Lauren Ebo, 6-4 forward Latasha Lattimore, 6-2 forward DeYona Gaston or 6-1 forward Aaliyah Moore? Are double- and triple-teams in order? Will the best defense be a good offense that controls the pace of the game and draws Lee into foul trouble? Will Allen-Taylor, who is 10 inches shorter than Lee, defend the post?
"Sure," joked Allen-Taylor, who also suggested that Texas could limit Lee by applying pressure to the Kansas State ball handlers.
Added Texas coach Vic Schaefer: "I think you have a smorgasbord of things to do. I think you have to be prepared to do a number of things, and that's what we're going to be prepared to do. I don't think it's just one way or the highway."
Last season, Lee was held to 14 points over two losses to Texas. She picked up five fouls in both games and the Longhorns only saw her on the court for 30 minutes.
Both teams have changed a lot since then. Charli Collier, the 6-5 All-American and the top pick in the 2021 WNBA draft, is no longer at Texas. Kansas State has surrounded Lee with a better supporting cast, and three Wildcats newcomers have been honored as a Big 12 freshman of the week this season.
Schaefer walked into a press conference on Tuesday with a computer that was playing film of last week's Kansas State-Kansas game. But that doesn't mean the tapes from last year's Texas-Kansas State contests have been destroyed.
"I watch this year's film, I watch last year's games when we play somebody," Schaefer said.
Schaefer then retold a story about the 61-56 win over Stanford earlier this season. While preparing for that game, he studied game film from when he was coaching at Mississippi State. During the 2019-20 season, Mississippi State played Stanford in a nonconference game that was held in Canada.
Texas junior guard Aliyah Matharu was then a freshman at Mississippi State. She put up six shots in that Stanford game. In November, she scored 17 against Stanford on 5-of-10 shooting.
"She got the same looks two years before and we ran the same exact set to get her those looks when she was shooting the ball from the top of the key and making those threes," Schaefer said. "I think you go back and you look at things."
Despite being ranked 16 spots below No. 9 Texas in the Associated Press Top 25, Kansas State (15-4, 5-2) sits a half-game above UT in the Big 12 standings. Kansas State, No. 13 Iowa State and No. 18 Oklahoma are all tied for first place.
Texas is 14-3 with a 4-2 mark in conference play. No. 11 Baylor (13-4, 3-2) and Kansas (12-4, 3-3) are also in the mix as the calendar nears the start of February.