By Mark Janssen
MANHATTAN, Kan. - Remember Denis Clemente and Jacob Pullen and how when one thought of one, the other was automatic?
Well, that's the reputation that Brittany Chambers and Taelor Karr are developing on the women's side of Kansas State basketball.
Just 52 games into their K-State careers, the duo - Chambers, a 5-8 product of Jordan, Minn., and Karr, a 5-8 native of Paola, Kan. - has played in all 52 of those games, which includes 48 as backcourt co-starters.
Like Clemente and Pullen did, the Chambers and Karr tandem is starting to think as one.
"Along with Mariah, we're all starting to feed off each other. I'm not sure if we understood it last year, but during the summer we started getting that feeling of knowing exactly how the other one is going to play and where she is going to be," said Chambers.
Karr added, "The feeling is definitely there with Brittany and myself, but really it's all five of us being on the same page. We were so young last year we were just trying to survive as individuals, but now we know what each other is thinking, and we're just sophomores!"
Last year, Chambers averaged 12.1 points on 41 percent shooting (38 percent from 3) and handed out 80 assists; Karr averaged 9.1 points on 40 percent accuracy (39 percent from 3) and offered 55 assists from her off-guard position, plus led the team in steals with 49.
This year, Chambers is at 14.9 points per game on 41 percent shooting (36 percent from 3) and already has 60 assists and 24 steals in 20 games; Karr is averaging 10.6 points on 46 percent shooting (33 percent from 3) and has 41 assists and 32 steals.
Together, their 25.5 point per game average ranks fourth in K-State history for a 1-2 guard scoring punch only behind Laurie Koehn-Megan Mahoney (27.1) in 2002-03, Kimberly Dietz-Shalee Lehning (26.2) in 2007-08, and Koehn-Mahoney (26.0) in 2001-02.
With a half season to go, Chambers has 685 career points for her first two seasons, which ranks 10th in K-State history, and her 115 3-pointers is just two shy of Mahoney's 117, which ranks 10th in Wildcat history. Her 50 treys this season already ranks seventh on the K-State charts for sophomores.
Both, however, avoid talking about statistics when chatting about their success.
"We're mentally tougher," said Karr. "Last year we were super young and just thrown out there not really knowing what was going on. Now we're reading defenses better and doing a better job of leading."
Chambers echoed those words by saying, "We're mentally more mature. Physically we're better, but whatever is thrown at us mentally we feel we can handle without spazzing out. We're finding ways to help the team when our individual game isn't at the highest on that particular night."
Twenty games into last season, K-State was just 11-9 and 3-4 in the Big 12. This year the Wildcats are 15-5, which includes a fourth-place 5-2 record in the Big 12 heading into Saturday's 2 p.m,. tipoff at the University of Missouri.
While the improvement has been team-wide, coach Deb Patterson says the growth in her Chambers-Karr twosome has been a key.
"They are significantly tougher and have shown the ability to be tougher within the elements in their own game," said Patterson. "They may not open a game productively, but they don't emotionally check it in. They have a much better focus and have shown the ability to play through tough times with high quality minutes."
What's next for the two?
"Oh, so much," said Patterson, "but we have time. Mainly, it's just consistency."
With Chambers, Patterson said, "Its learning how to read defenses and putting her teammates in positions of strengths from her point guard position."
And with Karr, she continued, "She just needs to become more versatile with her ball handling skills. Her aggressiveness index has grown to a level I love. She's a great shooter, a very physical defender, but she just needs to be more versatile in terms of her handle skills."
Winners of four games in a row, Kansas State will put its 5-2, 15-5 record on the line Saturday afternoon at 2 against 3-5, 11-11 Missouri at Mizzou Arena.
The Wildcats have won five of the last six games against the Tigers, which includes a 37-33 and 65-50 sweep in 2009-10.
K-State's defense will be focused on slowing the talents of 5-8 Tiger guard RaeShara Brown, who is averaging 17 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game.
How the Standings Look
K-State has found itself in elite company nearing the midway point of the Big 12 season as it trails only national powers in No. 1 Baylor (7-0), No. 6 Texas A&M (6-1) and No. 13 Oklahoma (6-2 ... with losses to BU and A&M) in the standings.
Behind the 5-2 Wildcats are No. 22 Iowa State at 4-3, followed by 3-4 Texas Tech and Texas.
K-State has 797 all-time wins leaving it just three wins shy of the 800-win level that only 10 NCAA teams have reached. In addition, coach Deb Patterson is just six wins shy of the 300-victory mark.
K-State returns home next week to host 3-4, 14-7 Texas on Wednesday at 7 p.m.