Saturday, October 19th, 2019

Eighth-seeded Kansas State needs “very best” to survive top-seeded Connecticut

Published on March 19, 2012

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Kansas State's Brittany Chambers. Photo: Cheryl Vorhis.

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Kansas State coach Deb Patterson was thrilled with the performance of her posts during her Wildcats’ victory over ninth-seeded Princeton in the first round of the NCAA Division I tournament. She was not so thrilled with the guard play. She did feel that it was a problem more for her coaching staff than her players.

“We have to evaluate this film [the Princeton game] and work extremely hard to put our perimeter players in a position where they can be their best for Monday night,” Patterson explained.

“We know we’ll see a whole lot of pressure, we’ll see athletic guys and there’s no question whatsoever we have to be better out there in our next game. But that’s something I’m sure we can be, and will be, and the bulk of that responsibility is in our lap relative to game planning.”

Statistically, the numbers are not terrible. Against the Tigers, the Kansas State starting guard trio of Brittany Chambers, Tasha Dickey, and Mariah White combined to shoot seven of sixteen from the floor for 25 points, had seven assists and four turnovers. Not bad numbers, but no one is going to confuse the pressure Princeton puts on the opposition’s guards with the pressure from Connecticut anytime soon. Most notably Chambers, a fourteen point per game scorer, was held to six by Princeton. Patterson knows the difference very well.

“I don’t know that anybody plays harder than Connecticut, every single possession, up and down the floor, we’ll have to handle pressure, we’ll have to control the transition game.”

That will not be an easy task against the four-guard offense of the Huskies. Saturday’s game versus an Prairie View A & M team showed how difficult it is to deal with all of the Husky guards. Tiffany Hayes sat out the second half to rest her sore foot, but scored seven points in the first half and had three assists. Bria Hartley found her wayward shooting touch to pour in 18 points, while Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis tied the UConn record for most points in a debut tournament game with 21 (tying former Husky assistant and current Cincinnati head coach Jamelle Elliott). Kelly Faris put in a typical game, with six points, six rebounds and eight assists, while committing no turnovers.

Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma knows that Patterson will try to dictate the tempo and pace of the game.

“They are very patient. They are always disciplined every year, and they try and force you to play their style by controlling the tempo, and I’m sure tomorrow [tonight] it will be the same thing.”

The surprise for Kansas State came from the post game of senior Branshea “Brandy” Brown. It is usually the other senior post for the Wildcats, Jalana Childs, that teams have to worry about. Childs averages 14.5 points per game, Brown just 5.7 points per game. Against Princeton though, it was Brown that could not be controlled, and to the credit of Kansas State, they kept getting her the ball where she could use her size and strength to do some damage. Childs got her 15 points, but Brown poured in 22 on 10-17 shooting.

“We all knew Brandy had this kind of game in her,” Childs said, “she has stepped up during the Big 12 conference games and made plays for us.”

Patterson talked about how important that strong post game was for her team’s survival and advancement in the tournament.

“I think most people would agree you have to have some quality presence on the inside. We were able to establish that today. Brandy Brown was just a consistent target and really made herself available, and quite frankly gave us a chance when we weren’t necessarily very sharp on the perimeter today.”

Auriemma has said that the key to a Husky run through the tournament would be their post play, led by sophomore Stefanie Dolson and freshman Kiah Stokes. The duo combined their strong play witnessed in the Big East tournament, with a combined 21 points, nine rebounds, three assists, and five blocks. They will need to stay strong and stay out of foul trouble against Kansas State.

“We feel good,” Dolson said. “We know we have to be focused on ourselves. Mostly we just need to want to stay focused on our game plan.”

Patterson praised both of the Husky centers.

“With Dolson you have to understand she can be beastly, even though she doesn’t please Geno all the time, she definitely is someone who will draw a great deal of our attention going into the game, as well Stokes coming off the bench.”

For his part, Auriemma just wants to see consistency and effort from his team, and he knows that should be enough for them to advance.

“Hopefully, we can play a good, solid forty minutes of basketball. This tournament is all about the mindset you bring in and whether you are ready mentally.”

Childs and Brown both expressed their excitement to play against Connecticut.

“I’m prepared to play anyone,” Childs began, “it’s going to be a great opportunity for us. I’m excited to be in the second round. This is my last tournament so I’m going to make the most of it.”

Brown is ready for a physical matchup. “We’re always up for the challenge, we all know Connecticut is a great team, we just have to play our game, and do what we do best. And fight, like we always do.”

In the end, though, Patterson expressed what it will take for Kansas State to defeat such a multi-faceted UConn team.

“Pick a name any name, when you play the best, you’ve got to bring your best,  so nothing less than us competing at our best will give us a chance against a basketball team as high a caliber as Connecticut.”


 

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