LAWRENCE — When Kansas’ Aishah Sutherland spun in a layup to tie the game at 47 with 5:05 to play, Kansas State got its quick answer from Brittany Chambers.
The Jayhawks were in the midst of a 6-0 run with four straight points from Sutherland, when the KU forward went in for another shot that spun around the rim and fell off the left side for a K-State rebound.
On the other end of the floor, Chambers moved off a screen from Branshea Brown and put up a tough shot from the right arc that dropped in to give the Wildcats a three-point lead and sparked a 9-2 run that helped K-State win 63-57 on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse.
Both teams entered the game having beaten top 25-ranked Big 12 teams and were looking to get off to 2-0 starts in the conference schedule. K-State coach Deb Patterson said what resulted was a classic rivalry game in the Sunflower Showdown.
“I think you could say that was a classic rivalry game, it was just, from a coach’s perspective, and possibly our players would say — gosh it was ugly,” she said. “There was so many hard fought possessions that really weren’t very productive at times for both teams, and I think what separated us was we had a couple of big shots in critical situations.”
The Chambers shot came at the most opportune time possible for the Wildcats, as it helped them grab a lead with just 4:01 to play. Brown added a 17-foot jumper with 3:34 remaining that extended the lead to 52-47. Patterson said those two buckets were the key plays of the game.
Chambers said he shot was completely thanks to the screen from Brown, which gave her a chance to release what Patterson called the toughest shot of the game.
“I thought that was a very hard 3 to get off and how she got it off and how she got the make, the only way I can describe it is that’s Brittany Chambers,” Patterson said. “She makes circus plays, circus shots, impossible shots in critical situations at times.”
Chambers led the Wildcats with 23 points on 7-of-13 shooting and 5-of-7 from 3-point range. All of her 3s seemed to come at times when the Wildcats needed that extra spark, and she rarely ever had the space for an open shot.
“They had a lot of different players on me, KU is very athletic so they make it hard to get catches,” Chambers said. “I think last year I had a rough game getting open at all, so I knew it would be like that in this game.”
Brown added 12 points in the win and Childs finished with 15 points. Carolyn Davis had 19 points for KU — 12 of which came in the first half — and Engelman scored 13.
The Wildcats opened the second half down by four points, but Jalana Childs opened up an 8-0 run with five straight points that was completed by a 3 from Chambers to put K-State ahead 36-32.
After a basket from Kansas’ Monica Engelman at the 13:21 mark, neither team would make another field goal until Sutherland made her first basket in the Jayhawks 6-0 run prior to the 3-pointer from Chambers that changed the game. During that stretch, the Wildcats made six free throws and Kansas added five.
Patterson said the Jayhawks seemed to respond to every run her team made in the second half, and no team seemed to ever be able to pull ahead for good until the closing minute.
She said that’s why the run Chambers sparked with her fifth 3 of the game was so key.
“KU had made that little run, and I didn’t feel like we were competing real well at that point offensively,” Patterson said. “We had gotten a little space and then we went into a lull, which is sort of what this game was about — put your foot on the accelerator and then pull back. I felt it was that way for both teams.”
KU scored the opening points of the game on an inside shot from Davis, but the Wildcats answered with a 9-2 run to take a 9-4 lead. The Jayhawks countered with a 6-2 run to pull within one point of the K-State lead at 11-10 with 12:58 left in the first half.
Brown made a long jumper and Chambers added a 3-pointer to push the Wildcats’ lead out to 16-10, but the Jayhawks responded with a 9-0 run that featured seven points from Engelman and reclaimed the lead at 19-16 with 7:55 to play in the half.
A three-point play from Ashia Woods at the 4:27 mark helped K-State claim a 24-23 lead, but then KU made another run. The Jayhawks got a 3-pointer from Tania Jackson and a pair of free throws from Davis and Natalie Knight to go ahead 30-24.
After a basket from Childs, Davis scored for KU with 32 seconds left to bring her first-half total to 12 points. Chambers knocked down a layup with 9 seconds to play — giving her a team-high 10 points for the half — to bring the Wildcats within four points at the break.