MANHATTAN — It took Brittany Chambers longer than usual to score her first basket, but once she got going Kansas State didn’t have any trouble with Ball State in the third round of the WNIT on Thursday at Bramlage Coliseum.
The Wildcats fought back from an early deficit to defeat the Cardinals 60-48 and advance to the tournament’s quarterfinals. They will next host Illinois at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
The victory assures K-State (18-17) of avoiding a losing season. It can clinch a winning campaign and a trip to the WNIT Final Four with another win.
All that seemed in question early when Ball State (17-16) jumped ahead 10-4 and Chambers was struggling to find good looks against a defense designed to stop her. Then she hit a three-pointer with 9:54 remaining and everything changed. On the next possession, she converted a floater through a foul and hit the ensuing free throw for a traditional three-point play and K-State had its first lead at 17-15.
The Wildcats were too strong from there.
“There defense was really, really aggressive, more so than we have faced in the past,” said Chambers, who scored a game-high 23 points. “We haven’t really seen that look. We were hesitant in a lot of spots. We made our job way more difficult at the beginning, because we weren’t taking shots that we normally would take. All five us can shoot the three when we are out there. It is important that when we get those early opportunities they need to be taken right away so their defense has to lay back.
“Personally I missed a couple early and had to get a feel for the game. I started to force it a little bit, but thankfully backed off from that right away. Coaches got on us and told us it wasn’t there. We found some other ways to score.”
Haley Texada did most of the heavy lifting early, scoring 11 of her 14 points before halftime, and Chambers came through with 12 points before the break, giving the Wildcats a 31-22 halftime lead.
Ball State was able to pull as close as 39-35 midway through the second half, but K-State quickly answered the Cardinals’ only push with an 11-5 run to seal the game.
“I felt like we just did what we had to do possession by possession to manage the game in a positive way,” K-State coach Deb Patterson said. “It just felt great to see how hard we competed. We made mistakes, but we bounced back from them. I thought it was a complete team effort.”
Chantay Caron had six points and 10 rebounds, while Brianna Craig scored eight points.
They all provided strong defense. That wasn’t the case earlier this week during a lackluster win over Illinois State.
“When you have a lot of energy I think with that everything will take care of itself,” Texada said.
That energy, and another productive game from Chambers — her eighth straight 20-point game — was enough to earn K-State another home game. It hopes to land a few more before its WNIT ride is over.
“We feel extremely blessed to still be playing at this point,” Chambers said. “We thought our season was done. We look at every game as an opportunity to be together and play together on this court. We are trying to take nothing for granted.”
Ball State – Murphy 1-3 0-0 2, Justice 3-7 2-2 9, Fontaine 7-13 0-2 14, Woody 1-8 1-2 3, Carter 1-4 1-2 4, Jackson 6-8 3-7 16. Totals 19-43 7-15 48.
Kansas State – Caron 1-6 4-5 6, Texada 4-13 3-4 14, Chambers 7-12 4-5 23, Craig 3-11 0-0 8, White 0-3 1-2 1, Brown 2-7 0-0 5, Spresser 1-4 0-0 3. Totals 18-56 12-16 60.
Halftime — Kansas State 31, Ball State 22. 3s — BSU 3-14 (Carter 1-3, Justice 1-3, Jackson 1-2, Woody 0-6), KSU 12-35 (Chambers 5-7, Texada 3-10, Craig 2-7, Brown 1-4, Spresser 1-3, Caron 0-2, White 0-2). Rebounds — BSU 31 (Fontaine 12), KSU 37 (Caron 10). Assists — BSU 14 (Woody 6), KSU 10 (Chambers 6). Fouls — BSU 17, KSU 14. Attendance — 1,453.