By Mark Janssen
MANHATTAN, Kan. - Kansas State women's basketball coach Deb Patterson calls this "go time."
"Everyone is capable of whooping up on you by 30 if you're not ready to go," said the Wildcats' women's coach. "It's go time."
After starting the Big 12 season 1-2 with a win over 0-3 Oklahoma State, and narrow losses to 3-0 Oklahoma and 3-0 Texas Tech in double-overtime, Kansas State now faces a favorable next month of the schedule.
That starts tonight at 7 against the 1-2, 9-8 Missouri Tigers, and continues Saturday at 1 against 1-2, 11-6 Nebraska with both games being in Bramlage Coliseum.
In fact, K-State's next nine games are against all teams that are no better than 1-2 to start Big 12 play, which includes playing Missouri twice, Nebraska and Colorado twice, plus Iowa State, Kansas and Texas once. Five of those eight games will be played within the friendly confines of Bramlage Coliseum.
"This is a real opportune time for us because we're home," said Patterson. "When you're at home, it doesn't matter who you're playing, you've got to put every ounce of what you have into it to find a way to win. You just have to beat these teams in the middle of the pack, or in the lower pack. Right now we're all jumbled up from fifth to 10th, so this is our time to find a way to separate ourselves with home floor wins."
Ironically, all six teams from the Big 12 North are 1-2 in Big 12 play. Kansas and Iowa State have the top overall records at 14-3, 13-4, respectively, and only the Cyclones are ranked at No. 20.
"In the North, we're tough and scrappy," said Patterson. "For North teams to win it's going to be the system and the toughness that you play with that is going to allow you to win when going against the great talent in the South Division."
As for her own Wildcat team, Patterson says, "We're going to have to be so disciplined. Everyone else will be faster, quicker, stronger, with longer limbs and more experienced, so we have to play with great discipline and bring an attention to every pass of the ball and have to play great as a team defensively because we're not a juggernaut on offense.
"To have a chance, we have to rebound and play great team defense," said Patterson. "It's our only chance."
It's also a vital month of the season as K-State will not play the two giants from the Big 12's South Division until Feb. 23, when it travels to No. 1 Baylor, and on March 2 when No. 6 Texas A&M visits Bramlage.
Of the top-ranked Bears, Patterson said, "They have that one real exceptional element in sophomore Brittney Griner. She makes them the best team I've seen in the Big 12 for a real long time. They're playing with a dimension that we've never seen which makes them real unique."
Griner, all 6-foot-8 of her, is averaging 22.0 points on 55 percent shooting, plus controls 7.4 rebounds per game, not to mention her 4.9 blocked shots.
Entering play this week, the Big 12's top four teams - Baylor, Texas Tech, Texas A&M and Oklahoma - are all 3-0 and all from the South Division. In this week's national poll, BU is No. 1, A&M No. 6, OU No. 14 and Tech No. 26.
"Absolutely that's where the power is this year," said Patterson of the Big 12 South. "When you look at A&M and Baylor, you're watching teams that are as good as any in the country. When they step on the floor in the Big 12, they're a notch better. We honestly have two teams that can play with anyone in the nation."
Good News; Bad News
Good news - K-State's scoring defense of 52.5 points per game, which ranks 5th in the league and 12th in the nation; bad news - K-State's scoring average of 61.5 points ranks 11th in the league and 209th in the nation.
Good news - Kansas State's field goal defense of .344 ranks 4th in the league and 20th in the nation; bad news - K-State's field goal percentage of .398 is 11th in the league and 149th in the nation and its 3-point percentage of .297 ranks 10th in the league and 205th in the nation.
Good news - K-State has three twin-figure scorers in Brittany Chambers (15.0), Jalana Childs (10.9) and Taelor Karr (10.2), who rank 14th, 24th and 27th, respectively, in the Big 12 Conference; bad news - K-State does not have anyone in the Top 20 in rebounding.
Good news - Mariah White is 8th in the league in assists (4.6), 13th in steals (1.8) and 6th in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.9); bad news - as a team, K-State ranks 10th in assists-to-turnovers at 0.8.
Filling Up the Purple Palace
Kansas State has continued to be one of the nation's leaders in attendance this season, as the Wildcats are averaging 3,941 fans this season after eight home games which equates to 31,527 total fans. K-State ranks 20th in the nation for average home attendance.
During the last nine seasons, K-State has ranked among the top-30 in the nation for attendance including a high of sixth during the 2002-03 campaign.
Since the start of Deb Patterson's tenure in the 1996-97 season, K-State has seen 1,129,000 fans (avg.: 5,275 per game; 214 games) pass through the turnstiles of Bramlage Coliseum.
K-State moved into Bramlage Coliseum prior to the start of the 1988-89 season and has seen 1,220,039 fans pass through the doors.
Oh, Oh, Voronenko
Alina Voronenko has emerged in the first three games of Big 12 action as an offensive weapon for the Wildcats. She is averaging 10.0 points and 5.0 rebounds.
In K-State's Big 12 opening win over Oklahoma State on Jan. 9. The junior forward from Sacramento, Calif., tallied a career-high 16 points on a career-best 6-of-9 from the field including a career-high 4-of-6 from distance. Entering the game, Voronenko's previous career-high was seven points and she had scored a total of 18 points in her previous 12 contests. For her career before the Big 12 opener, Voronenko was 6-of-30 (.200) from beyond the arc.
At Texas Tech on Jan. 15, Voronenko provided a lift off the bench with nine points and a career-high 11 rebounds in a career-best 30 minutes of action. Entering the contest with the Lady Raiders, Voronenko had pulled in just 24 rebounds in 14 games (1.7 rpg). It was her first career game with five or more rebounds.