Wildcats rally late to defeat Cowgirls

By Joshua Kinder

One was bound to go in Wednesday night, and it did, at just the right time for the Kansas State women’s basketball team.

Mariah White was the first to break the seal on the rim against Oklahoma State, burying the Wildcats’ first 3-pointer with 9 minutes to go in the game, fueling a 10-0 run on a night when the outside shots simply weren’t falling.

White’s trey jumpstarted the Wildcats’ offense down the final stretch, as K-State rallied to defeat the Cowgirls 53-50 at Bramlage Coliseum.

K-State missed its first 11 shots from behind the arc before White drained one from the baseline in transition off a pass from Brittany Chambers to give the Wildcats their first lead of the second half at 37-36.

“You have to believe your next shot is a great shot,” K-State coach Deb Patterson said. “There is no one that I put on the floor tonight that doesn’t have a green light. You have to continue to put pressure on the defense and believe in your team. If you do, the result is going to be what you saw. Mariah stepped up and hit big shots.”

The Wildcats, who improved to 18-9 overall and 9-6 in the Big 12, never trailed again after White’s 3-pointer. Though the game was far from over.

Trailing 36-32, Branshea Brown ignited the 10-0 run for the Wildcats with a jumper at the free throw line. White followed with the first of two 3-pointers to give K-State the one-point advantage. Jalana Childs then scored on a jumper in the paint to put the Cats ahead 39-36, before Chambers connected on her first 3-pointer of the game to make it 42-36 with 7:34 to play.

Oklahoma State, which led 23-22 at halftime, responded and tied the game at 42 with six straight points — including four from Liz Donohoe, who finished with a team-high 12 points and 12 rebounds.

K-State, which shot 48 percent from the field in the second half, charged back in front on another jumper from Brown, followed by Chambers’ second 3-pointer to make it 47-42 with 4:19 remaining. Brown finished with 10 points — including eight in the second half.

Chambers, who had 10 points and seven rebounds, struggled from the field all night — a very different kind of game for the junior who burned the Cowgirls in Stillwater earlier this season with five 3-pointers and a season-high 29 points in a 67-56 K-State win.

Tiffany Bias, originally from Andover, carried the load of defending Chambers, but when she got into foul trouble late, the Wildcats got their chance to make their run.

“That changed the complexion of the game,” Oklahoma State coach Jim Littell said. “She has to be on the floor for us. I thought her going to the bench changed the complexion of the game and allowed Chambers to hit two 3s in the last 8 or 9 minutes of the game.”

The Cowgirls fought back yet again, though, tying the game at 47 after five straight points, including a 3-pointer from Goddard product Lindsey Keller with 1:11 to play.

Then on the ensuing possession, White got open for another 3 and drained it off a pass from Childs inside to make it 50-47 with 48 seconds remaining.

Oklahoma State (13-11, 5-10) had one more chance to tie the game, but Keller’s shot at the other end missed and was rebounded by Tasha Dickey, who was fouled. Because K-State wasn’t in the bonus, the Wildcats inbounded the ball and made a series of passes to find Dickey under the basket, where she was fouled with 15 seconds left. She connected on 1-of-2 to make it a two-possession game.

After another OSU misfire, Chambers was fouled and sent to the line where she made both shots to seal the Wildcats’ second straight win — their third straight at home — and sweep the Cowgirls.

When the shots weren’t falling early, it was Childs who kept the Wildcats in the game against the Cowgirls, who lost for the seventh time in their last eight games. The senior forward finished with a game-high 22 points, but she accounted for 18 of K-State’s 22 first-half points.

“There was a lot of pick-and-pop basketball going on,” said Childs, who was 11-of-20 from the field in 36 minutes. “That’s not the game I prefer, but if I’m open, I’ll take the shot. I was feeling good tonight and my teammates got me the ball…

“At a point in the first half, I realized that I was the only one who was really scoring. I felt like the ball kept coming to me.”

Littell said he was pleased with his team’s defensive effort on Chambers, but credited Childs for making the tough shots when K-State needed them.

“Childs just killed us in the first half and really hurt us on a lot of pick-and-pop opportunities,” he said. “She stepped up and hit open shots and that’s what a great player, especially a senior player, does in this league. I thought she was definitely the difference in the ballgame.”

The Wildcats will now hit the road for two straight games — at Missouri this Saturday and then at Iowa State on Wednesday — before closing the regular season at home against Texas Tech on March. 3.

Chambers said Wednesday’s win, though challenging, was good for this team going forward — just two weeks away from the Big 12 tournament and a possible NCAA tournament berth to follow.

“I think it’s good for our team to find a way to win,” she said. “Besides Jalana, we were hitting nothing in the first half and somehow, we found a way to stay behind by one at the half, which at that point, it could have been a 10-point deficit. We weren’t hitting anything, but we kept grinding along and kept making baskets and fighting it out in the end.

“I think that’s something that we have improved on. When things aren’t going well offensively, we still find ways to win. I think that’s something that we didn’t do at the beginning of the year. I look at this game as a positive. Now that we have the win, we need to figure out how to be better next time.”

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