DALLAS — Depleted and taken to the limit, Kansas State found a way to advance in the Big 12 women’s basketball tournament.
The Wildcats used six players, three of whom played at least 37 minutes, but it turned out to be enough when senior guard Brittany Chambers turned a broken play into a winner in the final second Friday night to pull off a 51-49 victory over Texas at American Airlines Center.
“Chambers did what great players do,” Texas coach Karen Aston said. “She went back door while we stopped and they made a play.”
K-State (15-16), the No. 8 seed, will face top-seeded Baylor in the tournament quarterfinals Saturday at 1:30 p.m. Kansas also moved on, crushing TCU 83-61, and will meet No. 2 seed Iowa State at 6 p.m.
With 10.8 seconds left in a tie game, K-State coach Deb Patterson called a play for guard Mariah White to drive to the basket, hoping for a layup or to kick the ball outside for Haley Texada. But White’s drive was stopped and she found herself surrounded by the Texas defense.
With time running out, White saw Chambers racing to the basket on a backdoor cut, and Chambers’ layup at the buzzer bounced twice on the rim before falling.
“I thought for sure I had missed it,” Chambers said. “I told coach P it would have haunted me the rest of my life. It felt like it was on that rim for 10 minutes. It was terrible.”
The officials studied the replay before ruling the basket good, setting off a raucous celebration.
With the team down to seven active players as a result of five season-ending injuries, the Wildcats left standing have been doing a lot of that lately. Friday, they found themselves even further understaffed when guard Bri Craig picked up her second foul barely two minutes into the game.
Craig, one of the conference leaders in minutes, played only 16 minutes because of foul trouble. Chambers and Texada each played all 40 minutes, and White played 37.
Not that Chambers had a problem with that.
“We’re used to it,” she said. “We’re in the best shape we’ve ever been in. And sometimes when you play with five players it can be an advantage. When you’re subbing people in and out, sometimes people get out of rhythm. We have five players who have played every minute together this year, and we can get in a rhythm quick.
“Instead of looking at it as a negative, we’re taking advantage of what we can do.”
Lacking the numbers and the size to combat ninth-seeded Texas (12-18) and its 6-7 freshman center Imani McGee-Stafford, the Wildcats spread the court offensively, let the shot clock run down – they were called for four shot clock violations – and worked the ball deliberately, looking for an open three-pointer.
Indeed, 32 of K-State’s 51attempts for the game were threes, including 20 of their 28 in the first half – not a surprise for team whose 884 three-point tries has obliterated the Big 12 season record. And while the Wildcats made only five of those first-half threes, but combined with a collapsing man-to-man defense that held the Longhorns to miserable 26.7 percent shooting, it allowed them to open a 27-17 halftime lead.
“We were looking to limit possessions,” Patterson said, “because, I don’t know about you, but every time Texas went up the floor, I was expecting Imani or [6-1 forward] Nneka [Enemkpali] to score.”
But McGee-Stafford, bothered by constant double-teams inside, missed six of her eight shots in the half, most of them from point-blank range. She finished with 20 points but shot a frigid 7-for-20. Enemkpali had 12 points and seven rebounds.
Chambers and Texada carried the Wildcats offensively, combining for 39 of their 51 points. Chambers had nine rebounds to go with her 20 points, while Texada scored 15 of her 19 in the first half, and both hit three 3-pointers.
When it came down to it, though, the Wildcats ignored the long ball and went to the basket for the winning shot.
“It’s kind of crazy that we scored in the lane, but they were expecting us to shoot a 3,” Chambers said. “We didn’t back cut all game … but we were looking to shoot 3s all night, so that back cut was wide open because for 39 minutes, all we were doing was popping for 3s.”
Kansas 83, TCU 61 – Angel Goodrich raced around and shot over TCU’s overmatched defense for 16 points, five rebounds, eight assists, two blocked shots, two steals and no turnovers as Kansas overwhelmed the Horned Frogs.
Despite targeting Goodrich and Carolyn Davis with a triangle-and-two, TCU (9-21) couldn’t keep up with Goodrich. Her outside dominance was the catalyst for a powerful offensive performance by the seventh-seeded Jayhawks (18-12).
Five Kansas players scored in double figures, and the Jayhawks shot almost 51 percent, including 55 percent in the second half. KU also outrebounded the 10th-seeded Frogs (9-21) 50-34, led by Chelsea Gardner’s career-high 19 boards – her prevous career high of 18 was also set against TCU.
Davis added 12 points and nine rebounds, and Asia Boyd scored 12 on 5-of-7 shooting.
KU never trailed, racing out to an early 12-4 advantage, leading by 10 at halftime and never letting TCU to close within single digits in the second half. Freshman Zahna Medley scored 21 for TCU.