While the Wildcats have played well since the student body left for winter break, it is their most recent win that has been the young season’s biggest highlight.
The Wildcats (9-6, 1-0) opened Big 12 Conference play with a tough matchup, No. 24 Kansas. K-State held a narrow lead at halftime, just 24-22, but it widened the gap while its defense held Kansas to zero made field goals in its first 14 attempts.
They would go on to win 59-35, holding KU to just 13 second-half points. The Wildcats were led by their starting frontcourt, senior Ashley Sweat and junior Jalana Childs, who combined for 39 points to outscore the entire Kansas team.
“We knew going into Big 12 play that that was something that most teams probably weren’t expecting from us,” head coach Deb Patterson said after the game. “These two (Sweat and Childs) were just extraordinary with respect to their timing, their decision-making and the aggressiveness that they both showed at the right time.”
More shocking than the win itself was the way the team won — with strong team defense. The Wildcats had not held a league opponent to less than 35 points since a 68-33 win over Iowa State in 2004. The win was also the ninth consecutive win in a Big 12 home opener.
“We did a great job, and they struggled today, and that’s just the way the game played out,”Patterson said. “I give all credit to our team really being attentive on each possession to their job and communicating. They played extremely well together today and, I thought, rebounded at a level that gave us a chance to limit possessions.”
Patterson also said rebounding was important in limiting Kansas’ looks at the basket and holding them to such a low score.
“A lot of our defensive possessions ended with a defensive board, and I thought that was a big part of our success today,” Patterson said. “It was a great performance defensively.”
Of course, K-State did not play perfectly over break. They are currently on a season-high five-game winning streak but opened up the winter break with back-to-back losses to Northwestern and Hawaii. Besides the win over Kansas, the Wildcats beat Virginia Commonwealth, Texas-San Antonio, UC-Davis and Yale over break.
This season the Wildcats are led by Ashley Sweat, who is averaging 18.5 points and six rebounds a game. Freshman guard Brittany Chambers is also averaging in double figures with 12.7 points per game.
Also over break, the K-State added former player Shalee Lehning to the coaching staff as a full-time assistant coach.