K-State bracing for Baylor

By Kelly McHugh

The Kansas State women’s basketball team saved its toughest contest for last.

While playing on the road in the Big 12 is never easy, playing on the road in Waco, Texas, against the top-ranked Baylor Bears is as tough at it can get.

But K-State head coach Deb Patterson said if her team plays as competitively as it did in its 68-62 victory over Texas Tech Saturday afternoon at Bramlage Coliseum, you never know what could happen tonight when the Wildcats face the Bears at 7 on FSN.

“It’s just owning what it is that felt like today,” Patterson said Saturday. “To play that hard, to be that tough-minded, to battle every possession with your whole heart and your body… once you’ve felt that I think it propels you to step up and accept the biggest challenge that you can face, which is Baylor on the road.”

Baylor (28-1, 17-0 Big 12) is looking to finish its second straight unbeaten Big 12 season, led by a cast of talented seniors, and none bigger, figuratively and literally, than 6-foot-8 Brittney Griner, who will be playing the final home game of her career.

Needless to say, K-State (14-15, 5-12) will have its hands full, even with hot-handed Brittany Chambers leading the way. The senior is coming off back-to-back 30-point games — a career-high 36 points scored at West Virginia on Tuesday and a 31-point and nine-rebound effort Saturday against the Red Raiders. She’s second in the Big 12 in scoring at 20.2 points per game, behind only Griner at 22.3 points per game.

Chambers scored 23 points in the Wildcats’ first meeting with the Bears at Bramlage Coliseum on Jan. 16 when Baylor won 90-69. Despite running away with the game late, the Bears only led that game by nine at halftime. Late, though, it was the Griner show, as she capped a 29-point night with a dunk in the closing minutes.

There’s no doubt Griner and the Bears have big things ahead of them as the season winds down, but the Wildcats are also chasing hopes of still making the postseason with a possible WNIT berth later this month. To do that, it’s a safe bet the Wildcats will need more of what Chambers provided this past week, as she needs just 37 points to reach 2,000 for her career.

“Brittany was just extraordinary,” Patterson said. “She just refused to lose and brought a smart, intelligent and aggressive disposition to her decisions on the offensive end. When she does that, all things come together.”

Baylor is coming off an 80-49 win at West Virginia Saturday night when Griner scored 28 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked 10 shots. It was Griner’s fifth-career triple-double, tying her with K-State’s Shalee Lehning for the Big 12 record.

“They’re No. 1,” Patterson said. “We’re headed on the road and we want to repeat that competitive feeling that we brought to the floor today, and then the chips fall where they may.”

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