Kansas State uses big first quarter to defeat Portland 78-65 in women's NCAA Tournament first round

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Gabby Gregory had 22 points and Ayoka Lee scored 21 to lead Kansas State to a 78-65 win over Portland in the first round of the women's NCAA Tournament on Friday.

The fourth-seeded Wildcats built a big first-half lead and then kept the No. 13 seed Pilots at an arm’s reach the rest of the game. They led 25-10 after one quarter and 34-14 at one point, but the Pilots closed the gap to 40-28 at halftime.

“I think we needed a game like this,” Kansas State coach Jeff Mittie said. “I thought we got off to a great start today. I thought our players were playing extremely well. I feel like the ball was moving. I thought we were getting the ball to some really really good spots of the floor.

"But we couldn’t run away from Portland.”

K-State will face the winner of the Colorado vs. Drake game on Sunday in the second round.

Serena Sundell added 16 points for Kansas State (26-7).

While the Wildcats were not pleased with their inability to put the game away, they were thankful they had the cushion.

“There are some people on the team that play with a lot of emotion,” Gregory said. “But there are some people on the team that don’t really do that. But we saw some of that (emotion) today.”

Portland (21-13) was led by Maisie Burnham, who had 17 of her 21 points in the second half. The Pilots also got 12 points from Kianna Hamilton-Fisher.

“Once we started scoring, we could get into our pressure a little bit,” Portland coach Michael Meek said. “I felt like the tempo became a little bit more in our favor. I couldn’t be any more proud of the fight that our team put forth.”

The game became chippy in the second half as there were 10 fouls called before the midway point of the third quarter. There were 15 total fouls called in the third quarter.

“Playing in the Big 12 prepares you to play against very physical teams," Gregory said. “That was just another game of physicality.”

Lee, who was 7 of 8 from the free-throw line but could have gone even more often, added, “I don’t think it was anything we hadn’t seen before. Down the stretch just came down to us being smart.”

Lee, who finished with nine rebounds, had 11 points in the third quarter as the Wildcats maintained a 12-point lead.

K-State shot 26 of 51 from the field, including 7 of 16 on 3-pointers. The Wildcats, however, only made 65.5% of their free throws.

Portland shot 44% for the game.

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AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-womens-bracket/ and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness