Sooners use swarming defense to snap Wildcats’ winning streak

By Joshua Kinder

With 9 seconds to play Tuesday night, Brittany Chambers dribbled across halfcourt and lost the handle out of bounds to Oklahoma.

Though the game was out of reach at that point, the turnover signified the kind of night it was for No. 23 Kansas State, which entered the national rankings on Monday and now has to go on the road to No. 1 Baylor Saturday.

Chambers, like many of the Wildcats, never found an offensive rhythm against the smothering Sooners’ defense, as K-State played catch-up most of the night and lost 65-57 at Bramlage Coliseum.

The loss snapped the Wildcats’ five-game winning streak and extended K-State’s losing skid against OU to nine games.

“On a night where we wasted a lot of offensive possessions, give credit to Oklahoma,” K-State coach Deb Patterson said. “It was a situation where they went zone and really just changed the look. They threw three or four possessions of the trap at us, mixed up the zone and man-to-man to keep us off balance.

“I felt we looked extremely unprepared for what we saw and we didn’t bring the poise that Oklahoma brought to the floor with their changing defenses.”

Chambers, who entered the game averaging a team-best 16.3 points per game, was held in check all night, as the junior guard finished with 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting, with just three points at halftime. Facing constant pressure on the perimeter, Chambers attempted only three shots in the second half, while scoring four points from the free throw line.

“Brittany is a very smart player and she is a very tough basketball player, so we really challenged our guards about not leaving her,” OU coach Sherri Coale said. “She makes big shots. Her release is such that you think you have her guarded, but you don’t really have her guarded.

“When we really made her curl or made her put it on the floor, I thought our bigs did a good job of helping and collapsing on the lane as well. It takes a great deal of discipline to stay with that. They run her off so many screens an she is so good without the ball in her hand.”

Meanwhile, the Sooners didn’t miss very often, as OU was led by a game-high 31 points from Aaryn Ellenberg, who also came away with nine steals on defense, many resulting in runaway layups on the other end.

The sophomore guard was 11-of-22 from the field, while making 5-of-8 from behind the arc -—all in the first half.

“Our perimeter decisions tonight were not good,” Patterson said. “Ellenberg had a great feel of when we were going to over-penetrate. We were so uncertain of what we were looking for on the offensive end from possession to possession. We have got to be better prepared because our decisions seemed so out of character. Ellenberg was reading any opportunity for a steal.”

K-State (13-4, 4-1) led early at 8-3, but that was short-lived as OU quickly answered with the long ball, burying shot after shot in the first half to sour the Cats’ hot start.

The Sooners (11-5, 2-3) used a 20-4 run that covered nearly eight minutes and made 8-of-10 from the field during the surge to take a commanding 23-12 lead with 8:35 to go in first half — capped by a 3-pointer from Ellenberg, who scored 10 points on the run.

Oklahoma’s decisive run erased a 1-for-6 start to open the game, while silencing K-State’s hot start in which the Wildcats made four of their first six shots.

It was downhill for K-State from that point on, as the Wildcats ended the first half trailing 33-25 and just 1-for-16 from behind the arc. K-State, which shot 36 percent (21-of-58) from the field, finished 3-for-22 on 3-pointers and turned the ball over 18 times.

“Like coach said, we were a little unbalanced, and we let it affect us too much,” Chambers said. “As upperclassmen, we need to step up and take control, but we didn’t. I credit Oklahoma because their defense was good. They changed it up on us, but it was an immaturity on the court on our part.”

The Wildcats, who had a team-high 18 points from Tasha Dickey, used a 13-4 run to start the second half and take its first lead since the 14:01 mark of the first half at 38-37, but even that didn’t last too long, as Oklahoma answered with four straight points to take a lead it would never surrender the rest of the way.

OU, which shot 41.5 percent (22-of-53) from the field, pushed its lead back to nine points on the back of Ellenberg, who scored 10 of the Sooners’ 12 points in a span of four minutes — including a pair of steals and layups — to make it 51-42 with 9:38 to play.

K-State cut the deficit to two points at 58-56 when Chambers keyed a 7-0 run with five points -including her second 3-pointer of the night. But the Wildcats, who were edged 15-6 on second-chance points, went flat again, scoring just one point in the final 2:45 on a free throw from Jalana Childs.

The Wildcats hit the road again this weekend, as they travel to Waco, Texas to face the top-ranked Baylor Bears at 7 p.m. K-State returns home again Jan. 25 to host Iowa State at 7 p.m.

Childs reaches

1,000 career points

The senior forward became the 38th Wildcat to reach 1,000 points scored for her career on Tuesday night, finishing with 16 points and eight rebounds. Childs, who joins Chambers as the only current Wildcats to reach the milestone, was 5-of-11 from the field and 6-of-10 from the free throw line in the loss.

“It is a great honor to be put in that category along with Brittany and others in the past,” she said. “I knew it was coming this game because I had Twitter updates and texts about it. I wasn’t trying to focus on it, but it feels good that it’s over with.  I don’t have to think about or worry about it now.”

Finding her groove

Junior point guard Mariah White entered the game fifth in the Big 12 assists and did nothing to hurt her standing on Tuesday, as she finished with a game-high nine assists against the Sooners. With 88 assists this season, White moved into 15th place in school history with 250 for her career.

White, who finished with three points and three rebounds, is averaging seven assists per game during Big 12 play. She had a career-high 23 points and eight assists in the Wildcats’ 72-46 win over Missouri last week.

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