Thursday, October 8, 2015

Off week came at good time for K-State

The Kansas State women’s basketball team was only a few days removed from beating Oklahoma for the first time in 10 years. Yet a week off was looking pretty good for the Wildcats.

Staff photo by Fran Ruchalski
(Kansas State’s Katya Leick tries to get past Oklahoma’s Nicole Griffin on Jan. 29 at Bramlage Coliseum. The senior forward scored 22 points in the Wildcats’ victory over the Sooners).

That’s the way K-State’s season has been, one celebrated moment, or a step forward, followed by a dud and a step back. Three days after beating the Sooners in Manhattan, the Wildcats lost by 19 at Iowa State, a team K-State defeated by six earlier this season at home.

“It’s who we’ve been this year,” K-State head coach Deb Patterson said this week.

That said, with no midweek game, the Wildcats (9-12, 3-7 Big 12) were able to get some extra work in this week, a chance to focus on themselves a little before the tough February run gets underway this Saturday with a 1 p.m. game at No. 17 West Virginia (19-3, 8-2).

“We had the big game against OU, but we didn’t perform the way we wanted to against Iowa State,” senior forward Katya Leick said. “This week was good for us to get in the gym, not just in practice, but outside of practice and get those shots up, take those free throws, get the work done that needs to get done and get that edge back before playing West Virginia on Saturday.”

Such is the life for a team with seven freshmen — the Wildcats’ youngest team since the 1977-78 season.

“While this learning is going on, every next game is almost like a brave new world,” Patterson said. “You play at Oklahoma the first time, the second time you play them, they’re going to look different. Iowa State, whole new location, whole new environment, they’re defending us differently this time around and they’re defending us differently than Oklahoma did. How do we adjust?

“That’s the challenge of being a young or an inexperienced player and learning those lessons in two days and making those kind of decisions every two days with new opponents. It’s challenging.”

Despite their youth, the Wildcats — who are 1-4 on the road in the Big 12 this season — have shown flashes of good things to come with this group, led by freshman and leading scorer and rebounder Leti Romero. But Patterson wants to see that second and third scorer emerge on a more consistent basis.

“We’ve been in the pursuit of finding three consistent scorers and if you find that consistently, you probably find yourself on the upside of some victories,” she said. “That’s who we are and we have to continue to challenge ourselves to grow consistency individually with production.

“We’ve discovered that when we work extremely hard, the five of us on the floor, when we’re all playing at our best level, we can do that.”

Romero leads the way at nearly 15 points and six rebounds a game. The Spanish import has led the Wildcats in scoring 12 times this season, scoring 20 or more points five times.

Behind Romero, however, it’s been pretty hit or miss most of the season. Leick has had her moments, coming up big for the Wildcats in their two biggest wins when she scored 23 points against Iowa State and 22 points against OU. But she failed to score double figures in seven other Big 12 games.

Ashia Woods has had a similar season offensively, scoring in double figures nine times, including 27 against Baylor and 25 last Saturday at Iowa State. But in three straight games recently — the first meeting with the Cyclones, at Baylor and at home against Kansas — Woods scored just 10 combined points.

“Until you get it consistently, you get flashes, and generally, flashes are tough to live with,” Patterson said.

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