Last season, Brittany Chambers emerged as a rising star for the Kansas State Wildcats. She led the team in scoring, putting up 514 points. She led the Big 12 in 3-pointers made per game with 2.8 as she finished with 88 long-range swishes (of 238 attempts). She started all 32 games and came away with 84 assists and 38 steals. Her successful sophomore season led to many accolades for her work on and off the court. Chambers was a unanimous first-team all-Big 12 selection for her work on the court complimented with academic all-Big 12 honors for her work in the classroom. She was even selected to the preseason all-Big 12 team on the honorable mention list, along with fellow ‘Cat Jalana Childs.
There have been highs on the season – a full 40-minute game against Northwestern Dec. 19 resulted in a season-high 29 points. Chambers was hot from the outside, sinking 8-of-14 3-point attempts to finish with a .500 field goal percentage (9-of-18). Saturday in Stillwater, Chambers matched that benchmark of the 2011-12 campaign again, finishing with 29 points on 9-of-19 shooting and 10 rebounds.
But there have been a few lows for the junior, too.
The season started with a 12-minute, 0-for-6, 1-point performance against Dartmouth. Later in non-conference play, Chambers posted a 9-point performance versus Hofstra after struggling to a 4-of-19 night from the floor to record her second single-digit scoring effort of the year. In a home loss against Iowa State on Jan. 25, Chambers could only muster six points in 35 minutes. But she just might have turned a corner on Saturday against the Cowgirls.
“I think that I quit running around like a chicken with my head cut off finally and that was big,” Chambers remarked after the Wildcats hung on for a 67-56 win at Gallagher-Iba Arena. The victory upped K-State’s record to 14-6, 5-3 and halted a three-game losing slide after opening Big 12 play with a 4-0 mark.
“I think that it was a definite monkey on our back a little bit and I think that especially at the end – of course we had to make it dramatic – and we are really glad that we could get this win over a great team,” Chambers said. “It’s a really really big win for us and we definitely needed it. We came out and performed.”
That’s not to say Chambers hasn’t been performing all season, but not quite at the clip she maintained last year. Before the Oklahoma State game, Chambers was averaging 15.4 points a night for her team after scoring 16.1 points per game as a sophomore. She sunk 42.9% of her shots last season, but had only been able to connect on 36.7% of her attempts prior to Saturday. She’s leading the team in scoring, rebounding and minutes per game. But in five of the Wildcats’ six losses this season, it’s been when Chambers has not led the team in scoring. To say her performance is paramount to the success or failure of K-State might be a bit of a stretch, but not by much.
The Wildcats are last in the league in scoring offense and field goal percentage, putting up an average of 59.8 points per game while connecting on just 38.9% of their shot attempts. Despite the fact that they have the second-best scoring defense (54.2 ppg), their scoring margin of +5.6 is second-worst in the Big 12. K-State also struggles with a negative rebounding margin (10th in the league), and the noticeable lack of assists (10th in the league). The importance of getting Chambers open shots that translate into positive scoring opportunities will be a defining factor for the Wildcats’ season as the second half of Big 12 play begins.
“I think that we played really well as a team,” Chambers said of the win against OSU. “Something that we haven’t been doing is we set screens well and we played well together. Instead of just running around, we took our time to notice where each person was on the court and play off of each other.”
This is something that will have to continue to keep the Wildcats in their spot near the top of the conference standings. K-State’s week will be a telling one as they travel to Texas, host Baylor, and head to College Station to face off with the defending-champion Texas A&M Aggies.
And Chambers’ stat line might just be the tale of the week.