The two losses to Iowa State this season were both very different games. In the first meeting at home, the Kansas State women’s basketball team let a close game slip away late. Then a week ago, the Wildcats played to a four-point deficit at halftime, only to get blown out of the gym in the second half and lose by 24 points.
About the only thing K-State coach Deb Patterson said was consistent in both games was the lack of competitiveness she saw from her team that enters the Big 12 tournament on Thursday riding a three-game losing skid.
It’s anyone’s guess how Thursday’s Big 12 quarterfinal game at 11 a.m. will shake down when the fifth-seeded Wildcats and fourth-seeded Cyclones meet at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo. — televised on FSN.
“Those games were night and day,” Patterson said Monday. “The game here, I felt was in our hands to take. The game there, I didn’t feel from halftime on that we even remotely competed at the level Big 12 competition requires. It’ll be an interesting matchup to see, again, these two teams with so much on the line for both of them, compete toe-to-toe.”
A little more than a week ago, everything seemed to be going the Wildcats’ way having won two straight games and eyeing a possible NCAA tournament bid that will be announced Monday.
But the final week to end the season changed some of that. K-State (18-12, 9-9) blew a lead at Missouri and lost in overtime, got blown out at Iowa State, and then capped the week by letting a 17-point lead disappear at home, only to lose by one to Texas Tech.
And while the NCAA tournament still appears to be in the future for the Wildcats, they know a win against Iowa State (18-12, 9-9) would go a long way in healing the recent wounds and to strengthen K-State’s case for the Big Dance.
“It’s not going to be all kisses and rainbows if we win,” K-State senior forward Jalana Childs said. “We just need to keep this serious and intense mindset. I mean, you heard Coach P today — she sounded like Frank (Martin) at the end of practice. We need to keep our heads together and stay tough.”
Helping K-State is that is that the Wildcats are No. 17 in the RPI, played the nation’s third-toughest schedule and finished tied for fourth in the top-ranked RPI conference in America.
“I think we have a lot to prove, that we’re going to be a national-caliber basketball team that lines up and works our tails off for 40 minutes,” Patterson said. “I think the rest will take care of itself. I think our strength of schedule and RPI are solid. I think if we play quality basketball, we’re going to be respected as such.
“There’s a great window of viewers at the Big 12 tournament and this is a great opportunity to show the very best of who we are.”
K-State junior guard Brittany Chambers would rather not leave the Wildcats’ NCAA aspirations up to the numbers to tell K-State’s story. She wants wins.
“We have to get a win,” she said. “We’re trying to get to the NCAA tournament and we know a win would put us in for sure. We want to control our own destiny.”
But in order to do that, something has to change for this team and fast.
“The last week has been a tough one because you had opportunities right in front of you and we haven’t matched the magnitude of the challenge,” Patterson said. “It takes a lot and probably takes a little more than some people have, but we’ve demonstrated during the year that we’re capable of bringing enough to be successful.
“It takes a lot extra when you get into early March. But it’s time. Other teams are stepping up and I want us to be one of them.”
To do that, Patterson said playing that full 40 minutes needs to the priority, especially during tournament time when every game could be her team’s last.
“Saturday was very disappointing because I don’t believe that we consistently competed at the level we’re capable of for 40 minutes,” Patterson said of her team’s 64-63 loss to Texas Tech. “If you walk away and you haven’t seen huge lulls, you feel better about it, win or lose. But we still have some improving to do and it’s a short window to do that between now and Kansas City.”
A year ago K-State lost both games to the Cyclones and then defeated Iowa State 56-53 in the Big 12 quarterfinals to advance to play Baylor. The top-ranked Bears will more than likely be waiting for the Iowa State/K-State winner in the semis this time as well.
Though Childs doesn’t put a lot of stock into the “it’s hard to beat a team three times” concept, she knows what the Wildcats did a year ago and said Thursday’s game is all she’s focused on this week.
“We have something to prove,” she said. “We really made ourselves look stupid the second time — the first time too. We need to get our heads together and really take this game seriously on Thursday.”
That was the message following the Wildcats’ practice Monday — a sense of anger — knowing they had their chance to finish the regular season strong and they didn’t.
“We had the opportunity to win all three of those games,” Chambers said. “Iowa State played really well against us, but two of those, no doubt should have been wins. We lost those two ourselves and they didn’t do anything to beat us. That’s disappointing. We’ll learn from it and move on.”
“I think we’re in the revenge mindset,” Childs said.
If her players are focused on revenge and righting this ship before it’s too late, what’s Patterson’s message in the locker room this week?
“I don’t think touchy-feely has a lot of meaning right now,” she said. “Go get it done, does. You’re at that point in the season where it’s not about Kumbaya. It’s about, ‘let’s go get a victory.’ I think if you have great chemistry, your fellow teammates step up and bring that maximum intensity to the floor.
“I believe our team chemistry is terrific and it’s within our ability to do and bring it. But we need to bring an edge that I haven’t seen in three or four games if we’re going to succeed.”
KANSAS STATE (18-12, 9-9)
Yr. Ht. Ppg. Rpg.
G — Brittany Chambers Jr. 5-8 14.3 6.2
G — Tasha Dickey Sr. 5-10 10.1 4.1
G — Mariah White Jr. 5-8 5.4 4.7
F — Jalana Childs Sr. 6-2 14.1 4.7
F — Branshea Brown Sr. 6-2 5.2 4.7
IOWA STATE (18-11, 9-9)
Yr. Ht. Ppg. Rpg.
G — Nikki Moody Fr. 5-8 9.6 3.3
G — Lauren Mansfield Sr. 5-7 7.6 3.1
G — Chassidy Cole Sr. 5-8 1.9 3.2
F — Chelsea Poppens Jr. 6-2 14.5 10.9
F — Hallie Christofferson So. 6-3 10.2 6.0