By Mark Janssen
MANHATTAN, Kan. - Kansas State's women's basketball team will be trying to roll-on Saturday when it plays the University of Kansas in a 2 p.m., tip in Bramlage Coliseum.
With three straight wins and a 4-2 record in Big 12 play, the Wildcats find themselves only looking up to the three mega-powers of the league in No. 1 Baylor (6-0, 18-1), No. 6 Texas A&M (5-0, 18-1) and No. 13 Oklahoma (5-1, 15-4).
"I think the key thing is that we're not looking at ourselves as being successful right now," said K-State coach Deb Patterson. "We understand we have to continue to fight and that there is a big marathon ahead of us. I don't think we're overly captivated by having a few wins. This group seems very able to dial in to today."
For certain, K-State has been dialed in when it has faced Kansas in recent seasons. Outside of a hiccup last year in Lawrence, K-State had won five in a row over Kansas, and 17 of the last 19 games. In fact, the Wildcats have not lost at home to KU since 2001.
In those most recent five wins over the Jayhawks, K-State has limited KU to point totals of 35, 50, 39, 50 and 58, and it's that end of the floor that has keyed the Wildcats' success to a 4-2 Big 12 record and 14-5 mark overall in 2010-11.
K-State is giving up just 52.6 points per game this year, which ranks third in the league and ninth in the nation. Comparatively speaking, that's the lowest figure in modern time of K-State women's basketball. The last time the Wildcats gave up fewer points was, get this, 1972-73 when they allowed 49.2 points.
"We have a group of young people who are really committed to working hard," said Patterson. "They are buying into the value of playing hard and doing things the right way. They are buying into this is how we need to do things to give ourselves a chance, and are willing to play hard. The key there is 'willing.' We've had a group of consistent doers."
Patterson added that it hasn't been a fact of having one or two lock-down defenders emerge, but instead, "We really only evaluate matchups and it is more of a team effort. But what we do have is each individual taking to heart their job."
With a team scoring average of 62.4 points per game, which ranks 11th in the league, and shooting percentages of .401 overall and .301 from 3-point range, Patterson is the first to agree that this team defense has been the most significant reason for success.
"We know that if defensively we play tough, it gives us a chance on the offensive end," said Patterson.
Having scored 72, 63, 66 and 66 points in its last four games, Patterson does say of the offense, "I think we're beginning to adjust better and we're growing on offense, which is all you can ask for. You can't be something you're not, but you can certainly work to be the best you can be on any given possession."
The Kansas Jayhawks are in last place in the Big 12 with a 1-5 league mark and 14-6 record overall.
KU has lost four in a row by margins of 14, 18, 39, 14 in overtime and 4 points.
The Jayhawks' 1-2 scoring punch is Carolyn Davis (18.0, 4th in the league) and Monica Engelman (12.0), while Aishah Sutherland is second in the league in rebounds at 8.7 per game.
Still, Kansas is scoring better than 72 points per game on 46 percent shooting.
Long Trip Home
K-State's 72-59 victory over Colorado Wednesday was the good news about the trip to Boulder. The bad news was the return to Manhattan coming Thursday morning instead of after the game.
The team learned only after the game that the charter had mechanical problems and would not be able to bring the team home. Having already checked out of the team hotel, the Wildcats had to find a new hotel after the game, and then returned home on a mid-morning charter arriving in Manhattan around 12:30.
K-State One of the Best in Women's History
During the 2009-10 season, Kansas State became the 11th program in NCAA Division I women's basketball history to reach the 775-win plateau with its 73-59 win at UC Davis on Dec. 29, 2009. K-State's overall record in its 43-year history currently stands at 796-472 (.628).
With four more wins during the 2010-11 season, Kansas State will join the 800-win club which currently features just 10 members.