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In a game with a series of ups and downs paralleling their season, the Kansas State women’s basketball team came up just short of a spot in the WNIT championship game with a 54-46 overtime loss to Utah (23-13, 8-10 Pac-12) in the tournament’s semifinal match up. The Wildcats (19-18, 5-13) concluded an injury-riddled year in front of 2.750 fans in Bramlage Coliseum who came to pay witness to senior guard Brittany Chambers’ final game with the team. Chambers finishes her career ranked in the top 15 of several categories for Kansas State, including points, rebounds, and three point shots made.
Utah jumped out to an early lead and battered the Wildcats down low while extending its lead to 21-7 with six minutes left in the half. As has been mentioned multiple times on this site, K-State suffered five season-ending injuries this season that left the team short on depth and, well, height – coach Deb Patterson has been forced to deploy a four guard line up with one forward in the mix. The Utes start two players over 6’3″ – Taryn Wicijowski and Michelle Plouffe – who worked to exploit this advantage all night. K-State entered the locker at halftime down 26-17.
The Wildcats continued to struggle in the second half, falling behind by 12 with 13 minutes to play. And that’s when Haley Texada stepped up to the line. Texada scored seven of her 11 points in the final 10 minutes as K-State used a late run to outscore Utah 22-13 in the second half. With 35 seconds to play, Texada made what could have been the play of the night by stealing the ball from Cheyenne Wilson. This gave the Wildcats the final possession in a tie game with a chance to win. The ball naturally went to Chambers, who was largely silent by her standards all night with only 16 points. However, Chambers’ lay up attempt was thwarted with :07 seconds left, sending the game into overtime.
The 39-39 score at the end of regulation was a reflection of the gritty, defensive contest the Wildcats found themselves in. It also wore down a team that effectively features only six players every game. For a team that has lost five players, overtime is the last thing you want to encounter. Utah outscored K-State 15-7 in the final period, as the five Wildcat starters all surpassed 40 minutes in playing time and simply ran out of steam.
Utah’s tremendous size advantage showed on the boards, with the Utes holding a 41-25 rebounding advantage. However, K-State was able to keep the game close by forcing 18 turnovers while only committing eight. However, the Wildcats shot only 11 percent from behind the arc (3-27), the worst shooting performance of the season. Chambers, who had been shooting almost 50 percent from that distance during the tournament, only managed to connect on one of seven. In addition to her 16 points, she led the team with 10 rebounds (five offensive) and four assists.
Chambers tried to remain upbeat while reflecting on the season following the loss. “With everything that we have gone through,” Chambers said, “and the young players we have on the court we are very lucky and privileged to be playing in the postseason this far. It’s a credit to our coaches and a credit to our players working harder as the season went on and not giving in when we could have. It was a tough season. We found a way to make the postseason and then fought to make the Final Four of the WNIT. For the group we have, that is a successful season.”
Utah advances to the championship game to take on Drexel on Saturday.