By Mark Janssen
MANHATTAN, Kan. - The mark of good coaching is the betterment of players. The mark of good coaching is winning more games than expected. The mark of good coaching is doing the most with the talent you have.
According to the Big 12 Conference coaching fraternity, Kansas State women's coach Deb Patterson has done all of the above this season in leading her Wildcats to a 6-3 Big 12 record and 16-6 mark overall.
In a 4 p.m., tipoff today against No. 22 Iowa State in Hilton Coliseum (ESPN2), Cyclone coach Bill Fennelly will find out today what other coaches in the league have already learned. That K-State, a team the league coaches picked to finish ninth in the Big 12, is a vastly improved team, and winning without a collection of all-Big 12 candidates.
Last year Nebraska defeated K-State by margins of 15, 10 and 17, but this year the Cornhuskers lost to the Wildcats by 27, 64-37.
The difference between the two K-State teams according to Nebraska coach Connie Yori is, in a word, "... experience. Last year they had two freshmen guards (Brittany Chambers and Taelor Karr) and now those kids have grown up and are playing with more experience."
Plus, Yori added, "(Jalana) Childs is playing well and (Mariah) White has another year under her belt. Then, they all play with a commitment to defense. They're a very good and physical defensive team."
Also speaking of defense is Texas coach Gail Goestenkors, whose club defeated K-State by 10, 69-59, this past Wednesday in Bramlage Coliseum after rolling to a 62-41 win over the Wildcats a year ago.
"They play so smart. They play position defense and they play personnel. If a kid can't shoot, they're not out there guarding them," said Goestenkors. "They're just very intelligent on the defensive end of the floor. They keep you off-balance because they are constantly changing defenses."
Smart, says Goestenkors, and with chemistry.
"They share the ball so well and they all know their role. They know who's supposed to take the shot, where, when and how," said Goestenkors. "I think the other thing about K-State is when you lose a great point guard and a tremendous leader like Shalee Lehning, there's going to be a void. I think last year they saw that void and at times struggled with it."
Kansas split games with K-State last year losing to the Wildcats by 24, but then defeating the Cats by 10. This year K-State owns an early 65-60 victory over the Jayhawks.
In scouting the two K-State teams, Jayhawk coach Bonnie Henrickson says, "Childs has improved her ability to score in the block, and then they have those 3-point shooters around her, which gives her room to operate inside. And then White has embraced her role of driving and kicking."
Others are equally impressed with K-State.
Last week Missouri blew a 12-point second-half lead only to lose in overtime to K-State as Chambers poured home 27 points.
"They play with a passion for the game," said Tigers coach Robin Pingeton. "We had our game in control, but they (K-State) stayed the course and played as a very confident group. They are very skilled fundamentally and you can't just focus on one or two kids."
Down in Oklahoma, Sherri Coale offered, "They just seem very comfortable in their roles. I think they have an identity and they know who they are. They're growing up together and playing well off of each other. And then defensively they're better than they have been for a long time."
The Task at Hand
Today is one of those "must" games if a team wants to finish in the top four of the Big 12 standings and earn a first-round bye in the Big 12 Championships.
K-State holds ownership of fourth place with a 6-3 record, which puts them one-half game in back of third-place Oklahoma, and one game ahead of fifth-place Texas. Iowa State is stinging from two straight losses by a total of four points - a 65-62 loss at Oklahoma and an 86-85 overtime loss at Kansas -- leaving the Cyclones at 4-5 and 16-7.
Plaguing K-State against the Longhorns in Wednesday's 69-59 loss was the 3-ball. The Wildcats were a chilly 5-of-20, while the Longhorns nailed 10-of-18 treys.
"I think that we were very sporadic in respect to accountability. You have to credit Texas because they stepped up and hit their shots when we gave them an open look," said Patterson. "They were good from the 3-point line, which is an important point because we are about to go up to Iowa State, where instead of shooting 18 3-pointers, they shoot 30 3-pointers. Hopefully there are some positives that we can take from this one with respect to how accountable you have to be out on the floor."
Iowa State's game is from beyond the arc as it has connected on 163 3-balls, which compares to K-State's total of 125. Kelsy Bolte, a 6-foot-1 senior, leads the Big 12 with 46 percent accuracy on 3-pointers and her 2.91 makes per game ranks second in the league. Overall, Bolte averages 18.2 points per game.
By comparison, Brittany Chambers averages 2.59 treys per game to rank third in the league and scores 15.4 points per game.
Two others to watch from the Cyclones are freshman Hallie Christofferson, who hits .556 of her field goals, and, Lauren Mansfield, who ranks second in the Big 12 in assists at 5.78 per game.
Kansas State owns 798 all-time victories, which ranks 13th on the all-time women's basketball charts. Deb Patterson's career win total is at 295 - 295-170 (.634).
K-State returns home to play host to Colorado on Wednesday at 7 p.m., and then will travel to Nebraska on Saturday.