There hasn’t been a more dominant player in the Women’s NIT than Brittany Chambers. Though the senior guard finished with 23 points Thursday night, down the stretch, Kansas State needed the help of others to carry the Wildcats to a 60-48 victory over Ball State at Bramlage Coliseum.
With the win, the Wildcats advanced to the quarterfinals and will host Illinois on Saturday at 4 p.m. with a trip to the WNIT Final Four on the line.
Chambers had five of the Wildcats’ 12 3-pointers on the night — including three in the second half. But she wasn’t alone. Five different Wildcats connected from long range in the final 20 minutes — including a big 3 from Kendra Spresser to break a 9-3 run from Ball State that pulled the Cardinals within four points with 10:57 to play. Heidi Brown then added a 3-pointer of her own to ignite a 10-2 K-State run that put the game out of reach.
“It was wonderful to see individual players step up at different critical times in the game and really compete as a team,” K-State coach Deb Patterson said. “I felt like we did what we needed to do possession-by-possession to manage the game in a positive way.
“It was great to see how hard we competed and how smart we were. We made mistakes, but we bounced back from them. I felt like it was a complete team effort tonight.”
The Wildcats’ Haley Texada, who also hit a second-half 3, finished in double figures for the third straight game with 14 points. The sophomore also grabbed eight rebounds. Bri Craig scored eight points, including a pair of 3s, while Chantay Caron had six points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
Ball State (17-16) never had an answer for the Wildcats’ long-range attack, as seven of K-State’s eight second-half field goals came from behind the arc — including 12 of its 18 buckets in the game. The Wildcats also topped Ball State on the glass, 37-31, resulting in an 11-1 edge in second-chance points.
It was exactly the kind of showing Patterson wanted to see from her team after the Wildcats (18-17) struggled from the field in their win over Illinois State on Monday.
“To our credit, we played a much higher energy game than Monday,” Patterson said. “It was good to come off a second half like we did a game ago and compete like we did tonight. We had great resiliency.”
As hot as K-State finished the game, it was actually slow-going to start for the Wildcats, who missed 11 of their first 13 shots and trailed the Cardinals 13-4 in the game’s first 7 minutes.
“We took a day off and didn’t pay a lot of attention to the practice prior because Ball State is very adept and smart on the offensive end,” Patterson said. “We spent a lot of time in Ball State’s scouting and didn’t give our team an opportunity to get their feet on the floor — I would say about 5 minutes worth. I expected that we may get out of the gates slow, and sometimes you have to get a feel together and get a feel of the game.
“I felt like that happened tonight. That wasn’t unexpected and didn’t panic me at all because I had confidence in the attention our team brought to the shoot-around today.”
Chambers, who has 93 total points in three WNIT games, was one of those slow starters. Though she finished 7 of 12 from the field with eight rebounds and six assists, Chambers didn’t score until the 10:43 mark of the first half when she buried a 3-pointer.
That was all Chambers needed to get going from there, though, as she scored 12 points in the final 10 minutes of the opening half — including a three-point play and another trey with 4:26 to go before halftime to help key an insurmountable 21-4 run that gave the Wildcats a 31-20 lead the break.
“We were hesitant and that made our job way more difficult at the beginning because weren’t taking our shots that we would normally take,” said Chambers, who eclipsed 2,100 points for her career Thursday. “All five of us can shoot the 3 while we are out there. It’s important that early in the game we take them.
“Personally, I felt like I needed to get a feel for the game. I started to kind of force it a little bit, but thankfully backed off from that right away. The coaches got on us and told us that the shot wasn’t there and we found some other ways to score and that eventually came along.”