K-State braces for No. 1 Baylor

By Joshua Kinder

Brittany Chambers was just 12 years old the last time Kansas State defeated Baylor. It’s been nine years and 13 straight losses since the Wildcats’ last win in the series with the defending national champions.

No K-State team has ever defeated the nation’s top-ranked team.

That’s what the Wildcats are up against on Wednesday when they host No. 1 Baylor at 7 p.m. — televised on FSN.

And yes 6-foot-8 Brittney Griner is still there.

“I think they’re the most dominant athletically and they have the most unique player the game has ever seen,” K-State coach Deb Patterson said.

The Bears enter the game at 14-1 overall and 4-0 in the Big 12 — their only loss coming to No. 6 Stanford. Baylor is coming off an 82-60 victory at Kansas on Sunday. The Wildcats, meanwhile, are hoping to snap a two-game losing streak, a loss at Texas Tech and then at home this past Saturday to West Virginia.

Getting back on track against Baylor, though, is obviously a tall order for the undersized Wildcats (10-6, 1-3). Considering that, K-State is looking at this game against the Bears as just another opportunity to get better, whatever that may look like.

“Us playing well against Baylor will help us get better for the next game and the next game after that,” said Chambers, who leads the Wildcats at 18.5 points per game. “It’s another game and another time for our younger players to get more experience against the best. Playing the best allows you to be the best you can be.”

Patterson doesn’t want her team to get too lost in one game against Baylor. There is far more remaining in the season than Wednesday night’s game, no matter what happens.

“You need to challenge your players relative to who are we and you can’t just look at things in the immediate sense,” she said. “You have Baylor coming into the your house and that’s a team that’s steamrolling everybody. You take the floor with the disposition of competing as hard and as well as you can and being better than you were the last night out.

“You understand the magnitude of the immediate challenge ahead of you, but in Big 12 play, you’re one of 10 teams. You’re going to be competing through the first of March and if you let a game or two or three, four or even five games prevent you from continuing to get better when you walk into the gym because you’re about to play juggernaut, you’ll never become what you’re capable of being.”

But judging improvement against a team like Baylor can be difficult. After all, it was just last week when the Bears outscored Iowa State 50-0 in the paint, an amazing number considering the Cyclones’ top three leading scorers are 6-2 or taller.

“You’ll have to create intrinsic measures that you’ll evaluate on film, evaluate individually,” Patterson said.  “But I don’t want to throw in the towel. I want to compete extremely well. I think the greatest challenge they present to us is how do you stop Griner when your biggest post player is 5-11? That’s a tough matchup for us, but its tough for teams that have one or two at 6-3 or 6-4. Welcome to playing Baylor.”

What makes the Bears so difficult to slow down is the fact that they have more than just Griner, who collects most of the headlines. The Bears also feature junior guard Odyssey Sims at 12.7 points per game and veteran senior forward Destiny Williams who comes in at almost 10 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. Then there’s 6-1 forward Brooklyn Pope at 11.5 points and 6.3 rebounds a game.

“Its an unbelievably talented team,” Patterson said. “Odyssey Sims, I don’t think Baylor would be quite the same without her. They’d be amazing, but they would not be the same…

“You go through the roster and you see great athleticism and strength and players any coach in this league — one through eight on their roster — that you would take in a blink of an eye.”

Wednesday’s game will be the last at home for the Wildcats until Jan. 23 when K-State hosts Oklahoma State at 7 p.m. The Wildcat will be at TCU this Saturday night.

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