MANHATTAN — For the past few years, the Kansas State women's basketball team has owned its cross-state rival.
The Wildcats have won four straight against Kansas, 16 of 17 overall. Many games have not been close, including a 72-39 K-State victory in Manhattan last season.
But recent history will have little impact on today's Sunflower Showdown at 11 a.m. inside Bramlage Coliseum. This time, the No. 24 Jayhawks are the favorites.
"It is a little different for us," K-State coach Deb Patterson said. "We've been in that favored position the last two or three years. The pendulum swings both ways, we're just going to have to fight hard."
Behind senior standout Danielle McCray, who averages 20.8 points and seven rebounds, the Jayhawks (10-3) are ranked and are expected to make a push for the NCAA Tournament.
Patterson thinks they are for real.
"Right now the focus for us is, you're lining up against your rival and they're playing great basketball and they've got a great team," Patterson said. "So let's just go and compete."
That won't be a problem for freshman Brittany Chambers. By averaging 13.3 points, the 5-foot-8 guard has emerged as the Wildcats' second-leading scorer behind senior Ashley Sweat, who is averaging 18.1 points.
She says the Wildcats have felt like underdogs all season, and that has helped motivate them to four straight wins and an 8-6 record.
"We're a really young team and no one really expects us to do a lot," Chambers said. "But we know what we can do and what we're capable of. Yeah, we're in that underdog role, but we like that. I think we're going to surprise people."
Sweat agrees. She thinks the Wildcats have improved since the beginning of the season, when they lost to Indiana State and Arkansas State in back-to-back November home games.
She thinks K-State is ready for the start of Big 12 play. Even if it isn't favored in its first game.
"We've come so far," Sweat said. "I've seen constant improvement. If we can just battle and fight hard we'll keep ourselves in a lot of games that people don't necessarily think we'll be in. Hopefully, once we get in position, we'll find a way to win."