Leading Arkansas State 45-31 with 16:26 left on the clock, it looked as though the K-State women’s basketball team was well on its way to its first win of the 2009 season.
But the Red Wolves had other plans.
K-State (0-2) extended its lead to 14 points after taking a 35-27 lead in a relatively uneventful first half, but Arkansas State (1-1) refused to go away. Little by little, the Red Wolves chipped away at the deficit, and a two-point bucket by Lyndsay Schlup put the them up 59-58. It was their first lead since going up 4-2 less than two minutes into the game.
“I think that’s a bit of the personality of our basketball team at this point,” said K-State head coach Deb Patterson. “Not necessarily having a real, cut-throat mentality as we compete each possession. We don’t necessarily have an identity at this stage of the game when we’re ahead. I’ve seen some personality from our basketball team, but, in both scenarios, not enough and too late.”
The Wildcats mounted a thrilling last minute charge that featured some late heroics by freshman guard Brittany Chambers. Chambers, who led all K-State scorers with a career-high 20 points, connected on a three-pointer with 90 seconds left to knot the score at 65-65. Just over a minute later, she dropped in a layup to give K-State a two-point lead with 38 seconds left in regulation.
But, as they had all night, the Red Wolves responded. Linsay Henke hit a jumper with 25 seconds remaining to tie things back up, giving the Wildcats one last chance to clinch the win. But Ashley Sweat’s last second layup clanked off the rim and her put-back attempt fell through the net just a hair too late, so the contest went into overtime.
Arkansas State opened the period with back-to-back field goals to jump out to a four-point lead, but K-State answered with a 10-2 run – capped off by another clutch three-pointer by Chambers – to go up 77-73 with 1:41 left. The Red Wolves’ Ebonie Jefferson, who led all scorers with 22 points, knocked down two straight shots to even the score once again. K-State’s Ashley Sweat came up big on a pair of free throws to give the Wildcats the lead with 24 seconds left.
“We just wanted to do whatever we could to win the game,” Chambers said. “I don’t really think there was much thinking put into it. Good passes were made to me and I felt like I should take the open shot.”
Once again, K-State had its foot on the opponent’s throat and once again, the Wildcats could not close the door.
Arkansas State’s Meghan Lewis rattled in a trey from the top of the key with 9.6 seconds on the clock. Arkansas State 80, K-State 79. It was just the second three-pointer of the night for the Red Wolves, but it was all they needed as time ran out on K-State.
After the game, Sweat, who was held to just seven points after halftime, placed some of the blame on her own shoulders, admitting she struggled in the paint.
“I don’t really think there’s any excuse for the physical nature of the game,” Sweat said. “As a senior, I’ve played against people in the Big 12 who are just as physical, if not more physical, than that. It’s just something that we’ve got to try to work through.”
Sweat finished with 16 points while guard Kari Kincaid and forward Jalana Childs added 15 and 10 points, respectively. Between the teams, seven scorers reached double figures.
Patterson acknowledged the Wildcats have a list of things that need significant improvement, but she said those improvements can’t be made slowly.
“We’ve got to learn these lessons quick because we’re lining up against teams that really don’t care about our learning curve,” she said. “They’re taking the floor and finding ways to win, so it’s time for us to do the same.”
The Wildcats will return to action when they welcome Washington State to Bramlage Coliseum this Friday. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m.