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Stanford women don’t intimidate K-State
March 20, 2017, 05:00 AM By Dave Skretta The Associated Press

MANHATTAN, Kan. — Before they had a chance to scout their next opponent, Kansas State seniors Breanna Lewis and Kindred Wesemann were asked what they knew about the tradition-laden Stanford program.

“I don’t know much,” Lewis replied with a grin.

“I don’t know anything about them,” Wesemann said, before adding: “Well, I know they’re a great women’s basketball program. I’m excited to play against them.”

Of all the things the Wildcats have going for them in their second-round NCAA Tournament game with the Cardinal on Monday night — a wave of late-season momentum, oodles of experience, a homecourt advantage thanks to a scheduling quirk — their blissful ignorance may be their biggest weapon.

The No. 7 seed Wildcats aren’t intimidated by the second-seeded Cardinal, with their 12 Final Four appearances and two national titles, simply because they know no better.

“We know we have a big challenge,” explained Kansas State coach Jeff Mittie, who is keenly aware of Stanford’s resume, “but anyone left in the tournament has a good basketball team. I’ve said that before. They have overcome adversity throughout the year, they’ve handled both success and adversity, and I think our group fits in that category as well.”

Stanford (29-5) earned the right to host the first two rounds in the Lexington Region, but it wound up halfway across the country because of a scheduling conflict at Maples Pavilion.

That wasn’t such a big deal against No. 15 seed New Mexico State, which gave the Cardinal a scare for more than three quarters before finally succumbing on Saturday.

It could be a much bigger deal against the Wildcats, who relied on the energy from a raucous home crowd to turn back a spirited upset bid from Drake in their first-round matchup.

“It’s exciting to have that many fans, even if they are not for you,” Cardinal guard Brittany McPhee said. “It makes for a great atmosphere and it’s something you dream of playing in front of, a sold-out crowd. Although they’re not rooting for you, it’s a pretty cool experience.”

Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer was a bit more pragmatic.

“You know, the crowd can’t score and the crowd doesn’t rebound,” she said, “but it will make for a very exciting environment. We’re looking forward to it.”

Paint patrol

Stanford post Alanna Smith had 19 points, 11 boards and a career-high six blocks against the Aggies, while Kansas State counterpart Breanna Lewis had 23 points and 11 rebounds in a win over Drake. But both took advantage of massive size disparities on Saturday, and the two will be staring at each other eye-to-eye with the Sweet 16 on the line.

“They run a triangle offense, which we are pretty familiar with,” VanDerveer said, “and we’ll have our work cut out for us. I have a lot of confidence in our post defense.”

Eyeing the perimeter

Kansas State has held six opponents to 30 percent from the field or worse this season, and the Wildcats are especially good from the perimeter. That could mean a big challenge for Stanford’s Karlie Samuelson, who is third nationally (.480) in three-point field-goal percentage this season. She was 5 of 9 from beyond the arc in the opening round.

Block party

Both teams are good at swatting shots, a testament to their sheer size. Kansas State has blocked 142 shots this season, its third straight year with at least 100, while Stanford rejected 12 against the Aggies — a big reason they rallied from a seven-point halftime deficit.

Familiar challenge

Wesemann, one of the Big 12’s top 3-point shooters, reminds VanDerveer of Kelsey Plum, the high-scoring guard from Washington. And having played against the Huskies so often means the Cardinal should know how to handle their perimeter defense.

“We have played against similar players in the conference,” VanDerveer said. “I think the fact that our conference went 7-0 in the first round (of the NCAA Tournament) and type of players we play against, we are ready. We know we have to play well, but we are ready.”



Tags: their, against, state, cardinal, kansas, stanford,

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