Center Court With The Lady Wildcats
Expectations are cautiously high this season for the Wildcats. The loss of Nicole Ohlde, (now earning a paycheck in the WNBA) will not be an easy one to overcome in the treacherous and talented Big 12 conference.
One of the challenges facing this years Lady Wildcat basketball team was what coach Deb Patterson could get her front court players to produce. Senior Brie Madden, junior Jessica McFarland and freshman Shana Wheeler will all be depended upon to share the responsibility on both ends of the court, assert themselves and be counted upon throughout the season.
The Wyoming women came into Bramledge Coliseum with high hopes that were quickly dashed as the Wildcats used an aggressive man to man defense in holding the Cowgirls to only 26 percent shooting in a 85-42 victory to begin play for real this season. Then it was Pepperdine's turn to challenge the Wildcats, but they could only muster 36 percent from the field in a Kansas State 85-53 win.
The one constant that has been apparent early in the season is the Wildcats ability to start quickly and keep the defensive pressure on their opponents throughout as Wyoming turned the ball over 20 times in the game. The Waves of Pepperdine followed suit by turning the ball over 27 times. Even though K-State didn't start fast offensively against Duke the Wildcats still forced 26 Blue Devils turnovers in the loss.
It's no secret to anyone in the country that this is Kendra Wecker's team, but a balanced attack will eliminate teams just focusing on the Wildcats All-American candidate. The balanced attack has been very evident early in this season. There were 4 players scoring double digits against Wyoming, and 5 hit the mark against Pepperdine.
The games against Wyoming, Pepperdine and Illinois State were against teams that would be just average squads in the Big 12. Kansas State could out rebound, and push these teams around and it was great for the younger players to gain valuable playing experience. No disrespect to the before mentioned teams, but these opponents will not help this team get prepared for conference play. Playing and learning from playing the elite tradition.
To close out the week the Lady Cats spent Thanksgiving far away from the family dinner table, traveling to the Grand Bahama Islands to participate in the second annual Junkanoo Jam.
Player of the year candidate Kendra Wecker enjoyed one of the most memorable nights in the history of Kansas State basketball men or women with a school record 41 points as Kansas State slammed the Redbirds of Illinois State 105-61.
Wecker, scored the first nineteen points for KSU by going a perfect 9 for 9 from the field and hitting one free throw. In a game most players can only dream of. The 41 points broke the school record set by Shawnda Campbell in 1993 and Leann Wilcox in 1978 both players held the record of 38 points respectively.
A Pre-Season All-American Wecker is a player living up to all of the accolades bestowed upon her to start her senior season. She also had six steals, eight rebounds, and four assistants to conclude one of the most dominating performances by any basketball player wearing a Kansas State uniform.
Against Illinois State not only did Wecker have a huge game, but the Lady Cats were well balanced with three additional players scoring in double figures as Laurie Koehn, and Megan Mahoney each had 13 points and Claire Coggins added 11. The Lady Wildcats shot 50.6 from the field from the game and actually shot the ball better in second half. The front court success of the Wildcats is vital to this years team. To this point and the front court of the team had yet another solid outing winning the battle on the boards 47-37.
Illinois State also were held to a season low 30.8 percent from the field as their record fell to 0-2.
The championship game with the ladies from Duke proved my earlier comments about the frustrating trend that exposed a familiar weakness in the Kansas State game.
The Blue Devils held the Wildcats to only 27 percent shooting and shot an amazing 39 free throws to only 12 for K-State in a frustrating 63-51 loss to the 10th ranked team in the country.
There was a large amount of fouls called in the game and unfortunately for the Wildcats more were called against them that the Blue Devils. K-State was called for 26 fouls and Duke was only whistled 16 times.
The same problem as in the past reared its ugly head as a very physical Duke team pushed around the Wildcats throughout the game. The Blue Devils front line led by 6-7 center Alison Bales dominated the boards 47-35. Megan Mahoney had a solid rebounding effort with a hard fought 11 boards for the Wildcats.
The games against Wyoming, Pepperdine and Illinois State were against teams that would be just average squads in the Big 12. Kansas State could out rebound, and push these teams around and it was great for the younger players to gain valuable playing experience. No disrespect to the before mentioned teams, but these opponents will not help this team get prepared for conference play. Playing and learning from the elite, winning programs in the country like a Duke will only prepare this team, its players and the coaches for the style of play found in conference play and in the tournament.
Kansas State earned most of their points through transition and very few came from an offensive set. In the first three games the Wildcats ran their offense so well enough that it nearly looked in midseason form. Duke took the offense away from K-State by challenging every shot, with an aggressive and physical style more similar to a style played at some Big 12 schools.
The amazon-like size of the Duke women also forced head coach Deb Patterson to play a lot of zone to combat that advantage. This was one of the few times Kansas State has been taken out of their normal aggressive man to man. Last season in the same tournament K-State was pushed around by a rugged Penn State squad and found themselves on the short end of that score as well. This year's team is out sized and will be pushed to the limit by any team that puts a body on the Wildcat players underneath.
Duke had great starts to each half as they jumped out to a 12-0 start at the beginning of the game that set K-State on their heels. The Wildcats battled back and had a chance to close within a bucket but a missed finger roll by Kendra Wecker doomed the comeback and the momentum switched back to Duke before the end of the half.
The beginning of the 2nd half was more of the same as Duke came out and scored the first 14 points and though K-State never quit and played hard throughout, but never got closer than 8 points the rest of the way.
Many teams are going to look at the loss to Duke and take note that the way to beat K-State is to play a physical style of ball. This weakness is not a new discovery about Deb Patterson's Wildcats, but how this talented team battles and sticks together could be the difference between a trip to the final four or a 1st or 2nd round exit in March.
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