Forget talks of a rivalry, the Wichita State women’s basketball team is more concerned about Kansas State as the undefeated team that enters Koch Arena on Friday night leading the nation in scoring defense.
It is the fourth straight season the Shockers and Wildcats are playing, and neither side is willing to call it a rivalry yet. After all, K-State has won 41 of the 48 games historically, although WSU did put a 69-46 thumping on K-State in Manhattan last season.
But both squads have undergone transformations since. WSU (5-2) still features many of its main characters, but has revamped its supporting cast. Kansas State (6-0) has a new coach in Jeff Mittie, a new zone defensive scheme, a new triangle offense and renewed spirit.
“They pose some different challenges for us,” WSU coach Jody Adams said. “We’ve seen some height before, but maybe not their size or their length. Their zone is very different and is something we’ve had to prepare for.”
Last season, K-State’s Breanna Lewis was shut out and was a complete non-factor in WSU’s victory. Lewis, a 6-foot-5 sophomore, enters Friday’s matchup averaging 12.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks.
Lewis anchors the middle of an aggressize zone scheme, allowing her teammates to gamble around the perimeter knowing Lewis’s length can erase mistakes. So far that formula has held K-State’s six opponents to 29.4-percent shooting.
“We know they will have a height advantage,” WSU junior Michaela Dapprich said. “But we also have our defense and our quickness. We have a lot of very versatile players on our team, so we’re going to use our strengths against them.”
After a failed experiment toning down the aggression on defense in a 55-26 victory over Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Adams plans on falling back to the team’s comfort zone. Manic pressure, scrambling defense, and speeding up the tempo will be the tools WSU will try to combat its size disadvantage.
“(Adams) always tells us it’s like a chess game,” WSU senior Kelsey Jacobs said. “We’ve been working on our zone offense all week and we’re going back to pressuring on defense. We just have to execute our game plan.”
With only one native Kansan on the roster, Wichita State’s players don’t view the matchup as any more important than the next game. K-State features two starters from Kansas, Collegiate graduate Ashia Woods and Salina Central product Shaelyn Martin, and has four more Kansans on the bench.
Rather than focus on the in-state matchup, Wichita State views K-State as another chance at a victory over a major-conference program. WSU already holds victories over the Big East (Creighton), Big Ten (Ohio State), and ACC (Clemson).
“It’s just another game to us, the next opponent,” Dapprich said. “It’s going to be a big game and we’re treating it the same. We’re going to execute our game plan and give it our all.”
Kansas State women at Wichita State
When: 7:05 p.m. Friday
Where: Koch Arena
Records: KSU 6-0, WSU 5-2
TV: Cox 22