The Kansas State women may be opening their season on Friday against Idaho State, but at this point in the season, the Bengals are really just another opponent for the Wildcats.
K-State, coming off a pair of exhibition victories against Fort Hays State and Washburn, respects their opponent for sure, but right now, with a young team and just one returning starter available, the Wildcats are only concerned with themselves.
“We still need to work on ourselves to get to where we need to be,” senior guard Brittany Chambers said Wednesday. “We need to focus on improving what we do right now and getting each player better each day.”
The Wildcats, who tip at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Bramlage Coliseum, did a lot right on Monday when they closed out their exhibition slate with a 75-42 victory over the Lady Blues. It was a huge leap from K-State’s first showing against Fort Hays the week before when the Wildcats trailed for much of the first half and hung on for a 68-57 win.
“I felt it during the week, but we weren’t sure if we would see it translate,” K-State coach Deb Patterson said. “You see flashes at practice, especially early in the season. But we did about everything at a better level than we had the first game.”
The Wildcats charged out to an 11-0 lead to start the game and then used a 19-2 run to open the second half and put Washburn away.
“I knew this team had a huge learning curve, but it was still fun to see it even improve from just one game,” Chambers said.
While the quick starts were good, the Wildcats’ go-to shooter wants more.
“We need to be more consistent,” Chambers said. “You saw bits and pieces of it at the beginning of the game and the beginning of the half, but then it died out, we had lulls. We need to find out how to be good in other areas if we aren’t scoring, making we sure we don’t go on a five- or six-minute stretch without scoring.”
That being said, for the Wildcats to make such big strides from one exhibition game to the next was a pleasant surprise for Patterson. Doing that week to week will be key for the Wildcats this season if they intend to make it three straight NCAA tournament appearances.
“I think we have to see those kinds of jumps if we’re going to be successful because the challenge is great,” Patterson said. “We’re young and small and our schedule is pretty merciless, so we’re really going to have to see big steps each week. This isn’t a team that can be content with where they’re at.”
The improvements K-State made on Monday were widespread — shooting nearly 42 percent from the field, winning the rebound battle, coming away with 20 steals and then making 11-of-34 from behind the arc, including five straight to open the second half.
It offered a glimpse at what this season’s Wildcats could look like when they’re firing on all cylinders.
“We haven’t really seen it all come together yet, but we’ve seen bits and pieces of it, which makes it more exciting now that we can actually see it happening,” Chambers said.
The Wildcats are a team that intends to shoot and shoot often, racing opponents down the floor for transition 3s and easy layups. And with a lineup that features no real post threat, K-State is built perfectly for the up-tempo style of basketball.
“This team has a lot of potential to make a lot of 3s, so being undersized you have to take advantage of what you’re good at,” Chambers said. “And I’m hoping as everyone gets more comfortable with the pace, reading each other better, that even more of those shots will start to fall more.
“We don’t have a heavy hitter down low, but we have five players or more who are consistent shooters. You can’t leave anyone open because any one of them can get hot any night.“We don