Kansas State may have its troubles on offense from time to time, but the Wildcats’ defensive effort has been nothing but solid most of the season.
It’s because of that stout defense that the Wildcats are positioning themselves for another NCAA tournament bid next month.
Entering their game with Oklahoma State on Wednesday, the Wildcats rank second in the Big 12 in scoring defense and 37th nationally, holding opponents to just 55 points per game. K-State (17-9, 8-6) has allowed the second-fewest 3-pointers in the Big 12, while holding their opponents to the third-lowest shooting percentage behind the arc in the league at 27 percent.
“Our defense is the reason we feel we’ve won a lot of games, because our offense has been up and down,” K-State junior guard Brittany Chambers said Monday. “The offense is coming around, but we’ve had nights when we’re off and haven’t been able to score. That’s when we have to play defense — it wins us games we probably shouldn’t when our offense has been streaky.”
K-State, which is coming off a 65-45 win over Texas on Saturday night, has held 11 of its 26 opponents to fewer than 49 points this season, something that hasn’t been done by a Wildcats team since the 1975-76 season.
“I think for this team, our defense dictates how we do on offense,” K-State senior guard Tasha Dickey said. “We’ve struggled to score points, but if we can hold a team defensively, then we have a chance.”
That was exactly the case on Saturday when the Wildcats clamped down on the Longhorns and completed the season sweep of Texas. K-State flustered the Longhorns’ Chassidy Fussell all night, who entered the game averaging nearly 17 per contest. But on Saturday, she was held to just eight. The Wildcats also shut down Yvonne Anderson, as they held the speedy guard to just four points on 1-of-8 shooting, eight points below her season average.
“I think it was neat to see both Tasha Dickey and Ashia Woods have that opportunity to defend those perimeter players from Texas at such a high level,” K-State coach Deb Patterson said. “At the same time, it was interesting because there were possessions when they switched on Brittany and switched on Mariah (White). That’s what I liked, that all of our perimeters were on-point.
“If we did get into a matchup that we hadn’t planned on, the substitute, so to speak, continued to defend, relative to our gameplan. That shows some real maturity and focus.”
Chambers understands the frustration by the Longhorns’ players.
“For me, offensively, that’s the most frustrating thing in the world, when everyone is accountable defensively,” she said, “and that’s something we brought. I know how it feels to be frustrated when everyone’s on the same page defending.”
And K-State will need to bring more of that to the table as the Wildcats close out the regular season. The Wildcats have four games remaining before heading to Kansas City for the Big 12 tournament March 8-11.
If the Wildcats take care of business, they appear to be in good shape for the postseason. After, K-State boasts the No. 11 RPI and the nation’s second-toughest strength of schedule with a 6-7 record against top-50 RPI teams.
“We’re really close right now and we think we need a couple more wins to get in the NCAA tournament,” Chambers said. “We need to play at the level we’re at right now and continue to get better because you don’t want to go backwards this late in the season.”