Jalana Childs and Kansas State have waited a while for a game like this, especially at home.
The senior forward scored a game-high 18 points on Sunday — 15 in the second half — to lead the Wildcats to a nail-biting 47-43 victory over rival Kansas at Bramlage Coliseum.
Childs, who had just eight points combined in the last two games, put K-State on her back in the second half and made clutch basket after clutch basket down the stretch to help the Wildcats break a two-game losing skid and a three-game slide at home.
“I think this really goes back to the player I want to be, and the one that I’ve been in the past,” said Childs, who was 6-of-14 from the field and 6-of-8 at the foul line. “These past few games, I haven’t really been showing up for the team offensively and it was time for a change.”
Childs scored just three points in the first half, but got going in the second — especially late when during one stretch she scored 10 of the Wildcats’ 12 points in a span of 7 minutes. Childs’ surge put the Wildcats (16-8, 7-5) ahead 45-43 with 3:04 to play.
“I really wanted to show up for my team,” Childs, who also grabbed four rebounds, said. “In the first half, I wasn’t making a lot. I just told myself that I wasn’t going to stop shooting. I wanted to go at it, play my game and get comfortable out there because these last few games, I haven’t been myself.”
The Jayhawks (17-7, 6-6) went the final 3:34 without a basket of any kind, as K-State continually came up with big rebounds on the defensive end — none bigger than the one Childs hauled down after a miss by Monica Engelman with 8 seconds left. The 6-foot-2 Orlando, Fla., native grabbed the board and tossed it out to Brittany Chambers, who was fouled instantly — sending her to the line where she buried both shots to seal the season-sweeping victory of KU.
Though Chambers had an off night offensively — just seven points on 1-of-10 shooting — her two free throws with 6 seconds remaining to seal the win could not have been more important in a game that saw 11 lead changes. For the night, the Wildcats were 12-of-15 from the line, while Chambers extended her streak of consecutive free throws to 27 straight.
“In this particular game, you just knew that little things were going to separate you — one rebound you do or don’t get, one foul shot, one stop, or one big play that an individual makes —so those free throws were absolutely huge,” K-State coach Deb Patterson said.
The Jayhawks, meanwhile, had a rough day — not just in terms of losing to their rival for the 21st time in the last 23 meetings — but they had to play the majority of the game after appearing to lose their leading scorer Carolyn Davis for the season.
Less than four minutes into the game, Davis put up a shot in the paint — in front of the K-State bench — and went to the floor, holding her left knee. After a delay of more than 10 minutes, Davis was rolled off the court on a stretcher and takento the hospital.
KU hasn’t released details of Davis’ injury, but if she’s out for the season, it would be a major blow for the Jayhawks, as she’s second in the league in scoring at 17.3 points per game, behind only Baylor’s Brittney Griner.
“It all happened so fast, it was just a usual play,” KU guard Angel Goodrich said. “We see (Davis) coming down the court and we give her the ball, and then I didn’t even see it until she was on the ground. I didn’t see what happened.”
Despite the injury, the Jayhawks gave the Wildcats all they wanted, even leading K-State by seven with 12:59 to play in the opening half. Both teams struggled to hold onto the ball and make open shots, as they combined for 17 first-half turnovers.
KU, which got 12 points and 17 rebounds from Aishah Sutherland, shot only 25 percent in the first half and yet K-State never led by more than two until the final 4 seconds when Mariah White scored on an offensive rebound — giving the Cats a 21-17 halftime lead.
“It was one of those games where we talked about the fact that no one is really scoring at a real efficient pace or stringing together makes,” Patterson said. “You have to find a way to battle the game, keep it close and step up and make enough plays to separate yourself.”
K-State, which shot 35 percent from the field, did that — with Branshea Brown scoring 10 first-half points and then Childs taking over the second half of a game that was pivotal in the Big 12 race. Both teams entered the game tied for fourth and the Wildcats now have third all to themselves, just one game behind Texas A&M and Oklahoma, which are tied for second.
The win was especially important for the Wildcats after losing their last three in Bramlage to Oklahoma, Iowa State and Baylor.
Sunday’s win also gives K-State a chance to move into a tie with OU with a win Wednesday when the Wildcats travel to Norman, Okla., to face the Sooners.
“It was vital — we needed it,” Childs said. “We just really needed this one. I talk to the team seconds before each game and I always say, if we’re at home, ‘we have to protect our home court,’ because we need wins here. It’s important for us to build confidence, stay together and stay focused.”
Patterson likened Sunday’s game — and all with the Jayhawks — to a heavyweight title fight, which in many ways is like the Big 12 right now with eight teams separated by four games going down the final stretch of the season.
“These two programs, at tip-off, are just nip-and-tuck,” she said. “In this league, headed down the stretch, these games at home, with matchups like this, are just critical — the losses we had at home prior, the two we were just coming off from, still being nip-and-tuck and looking ahead to the future.
“All of those things weighed into this game. Then, when you say it’s a rivalry game — ours tend to be heavyweight boxer fights.”