By Mark Janssen
MANHATTAN, Kan. - What will be the dominating factor: K-State has hope; Baylor will be irate?
On Saturday, Baylor, ranked No. 1 in women's basketball, lost at Texas Tech, 56-45. Wednesday at 7 in Waco, Texas, the Wildcats will be the Lady Bears next opponent.
Yes, the Brittney Griner-led Lady Bears can be beaten giving Deb Patterson's Wildcat hope, but how peeved will the ladies of Kim Mulkey be in losing their No. 1 national ranking, and how hungry will they be leading the Big 12 by just one game with their 11-1 record?
Saturday, Mulkey said of her club's play, "We were just stuck in mud. We didn't move."
Not even the 6-foot-8 Griner could move as she was held to 15 points, or seven less than her season average and only one above her season low.
Now, it's K-State's turn to try to slow Griner and the Lady Bears. A year ago BU scored a 65-47 victory with Griner scoring 26, plus swatting away a Bramlage Coliseum record of eight blocked shots. Oh yes, one of Griner's field goals was a dunk, one of four she scored last year.
"They have that one real exceptional element in Brittney Griner. She makes them the best team I've seen in the Big 12 for a real long time," Patterson said prior to the season. "They're playing with a dimension that we've never seen which makes them real unique."
This year Griner, a product of Nimitz High School in Houston, Texas, is averaging 22.3 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. Her 123 blocked shots are 27 more than any other league player, her 222 free throw attempts are 73 more than any other Big 12 player, and, her 171 made free throws are 49 more than any other league player.
Oh, for the record, Griner has an 88-inch reach from finger tip to finger tip, and she has a standing reach of 9-feet-2 inches.
Laughing, K-State's Jalana Childs said, "She's a beast. It's going to be a challenge. She looks like she would be weak with that skinny body, but she's actually strong and very talented."
A year ago, partially against Griner, Childs was held to nine points on 4-of-12 shooting. Reflecting on that game, Childs said, "You can go in with a mindset of how you want to play, but she has a way of changing your mindset. She is definitely a challenge, very intimidating. There's no question that you have to change your game to score over someone 6-8."
This year, Griner's going to have to retool her game to go against the Wildcats' 6-2 junior, who is coming off seven consecutive games of 17 to 22 points. Saturday, Childs netted her career high of 22 in a 69-64 victory over Nebraska for K-State's 800th all-time victory.
Oh, the Wildcat coaches have been talking to their junior about stepping up her game up for quite some time, but even she says, "I listened, but it was up to me to change. Last year it didn't sink in. I was mentally weak. Now, I'm much stronger."
By nature, Childs said, "I like to succeed in things. I want people to look at me and say, 'She does the right things. She is golden. This is a total performer. She does it all.' But that wasn't me last year. Last year I was just lost and as a freshman I was just totally lost. Now I'm reaching my potential."
"She has really looked good," said Patterson. "I honestly believe that she has the potential to be someone that the next level (WNBA) takes a look at."
Childs is currently averaging 13.5 points per game overall, but 16.3 in Big 12 games, which ranks 11th in the league. And again, in the last seven she has averaged right at 19 points per game, plus five rebounds per game.
"I'm so excited about the way Jalana is playing," said Patterson. "Her game has matured so much. She can now start a game slow, but finish strong. Last year if she missed early shots, she was done. She has just grown up so much from the shoulders up."
The Orlando, Fla., native points to her 8-of-16 shooting, 19-point effort at Missouri on Feb. 5 as her breakout game. Since then, there have been scoring games of 17, 21, 18 and 22 against Texas, Iowa State, Colorado and Nebraska, respectively.
"I have a phrase that goes, 'Kick The Door Down.' On that day I wore a piece of tape on my arm with 'KTDD' on it. I'm not even sure players on my team knew what it meant," said Childs. "It was just for me. It meant, 'I am here. I can be a dominator on the court'."
What Childs has done is lead K-State, a team picked to finish ninth in the league by the coaches, to a fourth-place 8-4 record and 18-7 mark overall.
Big 12 Standings
Baylor continues to lead the Big 12 at 11-1, followed by Texas A&M at 10-2, Oklahoma at 9-3 and K-State at 8-4. Tied for fifth are Texas Tech, Texas and Iowa State at 6-6.
Six members of the K-State women's basketball team earned spots on the Academic All-Big 12 team announced last week.
First-team members (3.2 GPA or better) included Brittany Chambers, JuliAnne Chisholm, Kelsey Hill and Shalin Spani. Second-teamers (3.0 or better) were Taelor Karr and Alina Voronenko.