Offense hasn’t come easy for Chantay Caron this season.
The junior took big steps to change that on Saturday when she buried the game-winning shot with 3 seconds remaining to give the Wildcats a 59-58 victory over TCU at Bramlage Coliseum.
Caron scored all nine of her points in the second half, but saved the best for last when she took the feed from Brittany Chambers deep in the paint for the score. She also came away with a clutch steal with 19 seconds left to get the ball back trailing by one.
“We thought we would see zone and had a play drawn up against the zone and they didn’t zone,” K-State coach Deb Patterson said. “We had the little handoff, the rub screen with Mariah (White) and Brittany (Chambers) and found a way to get the ball back in the middle of the floor.
“Chantay had a great duck-in and it was a good, strong turn — lot of priority, defensively, goes Brittany’s way at the end of every play — so it was good to see us make that next pass. It was really just quality players making quality plays.”
But for Caron, Saturday’s performance might be the kind of game she could use as a turning point for a season in which K-State is relying so heavily on 3-pointers. Caron — at just 5-foot-11 — is one of the biggest players on the floor for the undersized Wildcats, so much of her responsibility has been to play inside against much taller opponents.
“In the last two games, we’ve seen spurts from Chantay that have really helped change the nature of the game,” Patterson said. “Her growth is very important to this team, her willingness to by physical. She’s defended extremely well the last two games and I just see her as an important element because we’ve got to have the presence inside.
“She does a blue-collar job down there, stepped to the foul line and made the big free throws and took the final shot of the game — we need that because she’s the truest post we have who plays major minutes.”
K-State, which shot 40 percent from the field, trailed by five at halftime and tied the game at 31 on a 3-pointer from Haley Texada. But the Wildcats didn’t take the lead until the 12:45 mark of the second half when Caron buried two free throws to put the Cats head 40-38.
Then Texada — who had a career-high 22 points — drained a 3, followed by a three-point play from Caron to extend the K-State lead to 46-41. The Wildcats led by as many as eight, but it wasn’t safe.
TCU, which shot 36 percent from the field, came storming back with an 11-2 run of its own — with much of it coming from the line where the Horned Frogs were 6 for 6. The run gave TCU (7-6, 0-2) a 58-54 lead with 53 seconds left — capped by a 3-pointer from Zahna Medley, who finished 12 points.
Bri Craig pulled the Wildcats within one at 58-57 on a 3-pointer in the corner with 43 seconds to play before Caron hit the game winner. Craig finished with 14 points.
The Wildcats started the game with three straight 3-pointers, but only led 9-8. K-State relied so heavily on the deep ball that of 18 of the Wildcats’ 27 attempts came from behind the arc in the first half.
For the game, K-State was 10 of 35 from long range with Texada and Craig making four apiece. Chambers, who was just 2 of 12 from deep, struggled from the field and finished with just 10 points, with only two coming in the second half.
The senior said it was nice to see her team get a win on a night when she perhaps wasn’t at her best and others had to find a way to pick up the slack.
“It was great to see Haley and Bri step up and make big shots,” said Chambers, who also had five rebounds and four assists. “Playing in the Big 12 and getting a win when I wasn’t playing very well tonight is really big and shows how much our team is growing as a whole — and players are growing individually as well. It’s a huge win for us.”
K-State will travel to Texas Tech on Wednesday to face the Red Raiders before hosting West Virginia on Saturday at 3 p.m.