By Brent Blum, CycloneFanatic.com Columnist Follow Brent on Twitter @BrentBlum
CycloneFanatic.com’s coverage of the 2012 Big 12 Women’s Basketball Tournament in Kansas City is proudly brought to you by our good friends at Wilson Toyota of Ames located at 2212 South Duff Ave. in Ames.
The go-to adage at this time of year is “it is hard to beat a team three times in a season.” That makes for a quaint storyline, but under Bill Fennelly, Iowa State is 9-2 in Big 12 tournament games when trying to beat a team for the third time. However, one of the two losses came last year in the 2011 Big 12 Tournament, where the Wildcats withstood a late Cyclone rally to knock off Iowa State 56-53.
Scouting the Wildcats:
Kansas State limps into Kansas City after dropping their final three games. Deb Patterson’s club was picked ninth in the preseason Big 12 poll and defied expectations by jumping to a 6-3 mark halfway through the conference slate. But the feisty Wildcats have succumbed to periods of long offensive droughts over the final month of the season to finish at 9-9.
K-State is last in the conference in scoring offense at 57 points per game. And when they are not hitting shots, it can go downhill quickly. Four times in conference play they have shot 30 percent or less from the field. But they have several weapons that must be accounted for led by Big 12 First Team performers Brittany Chambers and Jalana Childs.
Chambers is the long distance gunner. She has the green light at all times from any distance. Chambers has attempted 232 threes this season, 50 more attempts than the Big 12’s second place finisher in Oklahoma’s Aaryn Ellenberg. Chambers leads the ‘Cats in scoring at 14 points per game, but Iowa State has done a phenomenal job of limiting her points this year. She is averaging a meager five points and is a combined 0-for-5 from long-range in the two games against the Cyclones. Credit Iowa State senior Chassidy Cole for the lock-down defense. Cole is a premiere defender a la Chris Babb and has done a remarkable job of limiting Chambers touches in the previous meetings. Beware of Chambers on the glass as well as she leads them in rebounding at over six per game.
The inside threat for K-State is Jalana Childs. She has given the Cyclones problems throughout her stellar career, including a 22 point outburst in the January game in Manhattan. She is a crafty post player at 6-foot-2 and has scored in double figures in seven straight games.
The third scoring threat for K-State is Tasha Dickey, a senior transfer from Arizona. She puts up just over 10 points per game and can score in a variety of ways. She is comfortable off the dribble but also doesn’t hesitate to launch from outside.
What makes the Wildcats so difficult to play against is their staunch defense. They are second to Baylor in points allowed in the conference – giving up a shade over 55 points. Their defensive strategy mirrors Iowa State in that they take away the opponent’s go-to option and defend the three point shot extremely well – opponents shoot just 28 percent from distance. Deb Patterson never does anything radical but they make opponents earn every basket. However they are undersized and not very deep.
Iowa State has had success attacking them in different ways this year. In the first contest, Chelsea Poppens was brilliant scoring 23 points, dominating in the post. K-State limited Poppens in the second match-up to single digits, but the Iowa State guards came up large to break the game open. It will be interesting what strategy K-State elects to employ in the third go round.
1 –Contain Brittany Chambers – She is the J’Covan Brown of the Big 12 women’s tournament. The ‘Cats are 1-3 in conference play when she scores in single figures. She is a streaky shooter and can single-handedly keep them in the game on offense. K-State is limited offensively if she isn’t carrying the load. Chassidy Cole will have her work cut out for her once again.
2 –Establish Chelsea Poppens – Poppens was one of three consensus First Team All-Big 12 selections for a reason. The Cyclones will try to find her early in the game. If K-State elects to single cover her, she could have a field day in the post. If they send help at her like they did in Ames, that should lead to open shots on the perimeter. Poppens can also get the K-State posts in foul trouble, where they have very little depth.
3 –Fight Through Contact – K-State plays a similar style to their men’s counterpart. They are a physical, scrappy club. They use contact to their advantage and set a lot of screens on offense and bump cutters on defense. They want to slow the game down to a half-court slugfest. K-State is a veteran ball club and Iowa State will have to match the intensity if they want to earn a win.
Iowa State and Kansas State are very similar teams and it is always a chess match when they get together. Iowa State has won the previous two matchups because they were able to find secondary offensive options and make successful adjustments. Deb Patterson is sure to have a wrinkle or two up her sleeve, but few coaches are as good as Bill Fennelly in tournament games. Fennelly is a stunning 13-3 in opening round Big 12 tournament games. The Cyclones have slightly more firepower and that will be the difference.
Iowa State 59 K-State 54.