Manhattan When Kansas University’s women’s basketball team played host to Kansas State in early January, it marked the second Big 12 Conference game of the season for both teams.
Each was coming off of an upset of a traditional power in its conference opener (KU beat Texas, and K-State topped Texas A&M) and it looked as if the winner could be headed for a memorable season near the top of the league standings.
Five weeks later, the two are slated to meet again — this time at noon today — and both squads enter the game with 6-5 league records and in position to slug it out for the fourth and final first-round bye of the Big 12 postseason tournament.
Although the two have identical records, K-State (15-8 overall) owns the No. 4 spot because it owns the tiebreaker over Kansas (17-6). Both are just one game behind third-place Oklahoma (7-4) and one game ahead of Oklahoma State and Iowa State at 5-6.
K-State defeated the Jayhawks, 63-57, in early January and raced to a 4-0 start in Big 12 play. Since then, the Wildcats have dropped five of seven, including their last two — at Texas and home against Baylor — and their last three at Bramlage Coliseum.
“We owe ’em one,” said KU senior forward Aishah Sutherland, who tallied eight points and seven rebounds in the loss to the Wildcats in January. “They beat us at home, and we need to beat them at home.”
Doing so doesn’t figure to be easy. The Jayhawks have defeated the Wildcats just twice in the past 11 games, dating to the 2006-07 season. While that stretch speaks to K-State’s recent dominance over KU — KSU leads the all-time series 61-42, including 29-13 in Manhattan — it also might be a little misleading. The last three meetings, all K-State victories, were decided by six points or fewer, and seven of the last 11 match-ups were decided by nine points or fewer, with KU winning just one.
“I definitely think we are (evenly matched), and that is why it comes down to the wire,” Sutherland said. “They have great post players, we have great post players. They have good guards and a point guard that can dribble well and find their posts, and we have a point guard who can do the same thing.”
Therein lies one of the best head-to-head match-ups in the Big 12: point guard against point guard, KU’s Angel Goodrich against Brittany Chambers.
In their first meeting, Chambers edged Goodrich by exploding for 23 points, eight rebounds and four assists in 40 minutes. Goodrich, who also played the entire game, finished with eight points and nine assists on just 2-of-9 shooting.
For the year, Chambers, a 5-foot-8 junior, leads KSU with 15.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. She also leads the Big 12 in three-point shooting, having made 62 this season.
Goodrich leads the nation in assists per game (8.0) and is third on her team in scoring at 12.6 points per outing.
Asked what she likes most about the match-ups — her own against Chambers and her team’s against the Wildcats — Goodrich pointed to the history and intensity that comes with the annual Sunflower Showdown.
“I think it’s just the Kansas and K-State game,” she said. “Both of us are just really at each other. It’s pretty evenly matched, and it’s usually just whoever wants it the most.”