The Kansas State women may be second-to-last in the Big 12 right now, but have a chance in the final five regular season games to make up some ground before the league tournament next month.
Beginning Wednesday night at TCU, the Wildcats (10-14, 4-9 Big 12) will play three games against two opponents just ahead of them in the standings.
The Horned Frogs (14-11, 5-8) make their return trip to Manhattan on March 3 and K-State wraps up its season series with the rival Jayhawks (12-14, 5-9) on Feb. 26 when it travels to Lawrence.
K-State’s other two opponents could be the make-or-break games that determine the Wildcats’ postseason fate — at home this Saturday against second-place West Virginia and then March 1 at third-place Oklahoma State.
“These are really huge opportunities for us,” K-State coach Deb Patterson said Monday afternoon. “The teams we’re battling with in the league standings right now are the teams we have left to play, with the exception of West Virginia (and Oklahoma State). We get TCU twice and KU — we’re all right there in the same spot, or very close to one another in that clump. It’s a great challenge, but we have to find a way to separate ourselves.”
K-State took care of business on Saturday behind a game-high 19 points from Leti Romero to snap its three-game losing skid with a 60-54 victory at home against Texas Tech, sweeping the season series with the Red Raiders.
And though TCU doesn’t appear to be the most daunting of tasks facing the Wildcats, winning on the road has been. K-State has just one Big 12 road win this season — a 72-65 win at Texas Tech more than a month ago — to go along with five road losses.
“The road will distinguish the top two or three teams in the league — who gets wins on the road,” Patterson said. “Whatever the league is, whatever the gender is, the road is really tough. The great teams are the ones that act like they’re not on the road. That usually takes maturity and a very talented team.”
That said, the Horned Frogs — led by sophomore guard Zahna Medley at 16.5 points a game — are stuck in a two-game losing streak and have lost five of their last seven overall.
One thing TCU has done well is play defense. The Horned Frogs are second in the Big 12 in scoring defense at 57.8 points a game, evident in their last outing when they held West Virginia to 61 points, albeit a loss.
“They’ve been very effective with it all season long on the defensive end,” Patterson said. “It’s one of those games that’s different than most you play because that zone is very legit — you can be tempted into trying to make all 3s, but we’ve got to be very sure about penetration passes and some presence in the paint as well.”
One way to attack that zone is with the long ball — something K-State continues to live and die by this season, as the Wildcats are second in the Big 12 in 3s made, but second-to-last in 3-point shooting percentage.
“That’s one way to go, and obviously when you get open looks against the zone, you’re not going to win if you don’t make them,” Patterson said.