It was all hands on deck for the Kansas State women’s basketball team Wednesday night against the top-ranked Baylor Bears.
Though the Brittney Griner-led Bears eventually pulled away for an easy 90-69 win at Bramlage Coliseum, the Wildcats did their best to make a game of it early.
K-State only trailed 46-37 at halftime and much of that first-half success is a credit to what K-State’s bench was able to do against the bigger, more athletic Bears.
With 5:57 to go before the break, a 3-pointer from rarely-used sophomore Heidi Brown brought the Wildcats to within nine points of Baylor. A little more than a minute later, Brown grabbed an offensive rebound, which led to a layup from Ashia Woods that closed the gap to seven.
After a media timeout, Brown, who hadn’t played in a Big 12 game this season, again came up with another big play. The Plains native — who finished with six points in 14 minutes — got a steal on one end before junior college transfer Ashlynn Knoll buried a 3-pointer on the other.
Knoll, like Brown, hasn’t had her number called much of late. The 5-foot-11 junior had played just 16 minutes total in four Big 12 games before Wednesday night. Her trey brought K-State within five points of the Bears with 3:14 to go in the first half. She finished with five points in seven minutes.
Though K-State was never able to get closer than five points the rest of the night, it was the closest halftime score the Bears have had in Big 12 action this season.
Only two teams have played as competitive first halves against Baylor all year — No. 6 Stanford and No. 2 Notre Dame.
The fact that K-State was able to do so with significant play from Brown and Knoll was not lost on head coach Deb Patterson. She was especially impressed with Brown’s minutes.
“I thought it was awesome play by Heidi tonight,” she said. “In evaluating the last game (against West Virginia) I was just disappointed in myself that I didn’t give her a window of opportunity, because I thought we had played well in the second half.”
Patterson said Brown was very accountable.
“She had a nose for the ball and the boards and really worked extremely hard to play true to what her team needed from her during those minutes,” she said. “She didn’t try to step outside her own limitations and when she had shot opportunities she stepped up with confidence and did what she does very well, which is to hit 3s. It should be a great confidence builder for her tonight.”
Patterson also praised Knoll, and said both players’ efforts against Baylor may warrant more minutes in the immediate future.
“We also got a few good minutes out of Ashlynn tonight, and any little improvement there is going to be a foundation for her to build off of,” she said. “As we go down to TCU, I feel good about having a little contribution there, in particular, from those two players.”