Brooks: K-Mac Hopes Two More Frosh Can Step Up
BOULDER - As the Colorado women's basketball team gets deeper into its Big 12 Conference schedule, Buffaloes coach Kathy McConnell-Miller hopes to go deeper into her bench.
And that could mean more court time for a pair of freshmen that McConnell-Miller hopes will begin to experience accelerated improvement.
Two members of her 2009 recruiting class - point guard Chucky Jeffery and swing player Meagan Malcolm-Peck - quickly moved into the starting lineup. Malcolm-Peck has opened all 16 games, with Jeffery making 14 starts.
Their contributions have underscored McConnell-Miller's decision to give them immediate responsibilities.
Jeffery is averaging 9.9 points (third on the team) and 5.3 rebounds (second) a game. She leads the team in assists (48) and is second in steals (35). Her 56 turnovers also is a team high, but she's averaging just 3.1 through three Big 12 games.
Malcolm-Peck, meanwhile, is fourth on the team in scoring (7.6), third in rebounding (5.1) and leads the Buffs in blocked shots (26).
"I'm pleasantly surprised with the strides those two have made . . . they players who have great basketball instincts," McConnell-Miller said Tuesday on the Big 12 coaches teleconference.
Jeffery, said her coach, "needs the ball in her hands. She doesn't mind taking the last shot; she likes the responsibility and the load . . . what she's done makes you feel good as a coach."
Added veteran Kansas State coach Deb Patterson: "Chucky is having a major impact. With her strength and athleticism . . . over time in the league, she will be a fine player."
On a game-to-game basis, the 6-foot-2 Malcolm-Peck's role is a little more difficult to define than Jeffery's. She has been asked to defend players her size, some larger and some smaller.
Malcolm-Peck and her coach believe her point production isn't what it will be. "Her scoring will come," McConnell-Miller said. "Her rebounding has to be maintained."
Beyond Jeffery and Malcolm-Peck in McConnell-Miller's vision for improvement in the league are fellow freshmen Melissa MacFarlane and Meagan's twin, Brenna.
At 6-7, MacFarlane brings "size that we need in this conference," McConnell-Miller said, adding that neither MacFarlane nor the Buffs were "exposed to a lot of size in the non-conference."
But CU already has faced Iowa State's 6-7 Anna Prinz, with a game against Baylor's top signee, 6-8 Brittney Griner, looming (Feb. 6 in Waco, Texas).
MacFarlane has appeared in eight games and has a 1.1 average in both points and rebounds. "We need her to gain confidence," McConnell-Miller said.
Brenna Malcolm-Peck, who has battled recurring stomach issues since high school, has appeared in 11 games (1.5 points, 0.5 rebounds). McConnell-Miller said Brenna is "not 100 percent, but she's close.
"There was not that big a difference in Meagan and Brenna coming out of (Horizon) high school," McConnell-Miller said. "But their strengths are in different areas . . . we need both of them on the court."
The fifth member of the '09 class, guard Kailah Bailey, has appeared in only five games. But she joined a team that was top-heavy with experienced players at her position and has had to stand in line behind the veterans.
K-STATE REGROUPING: Kansas State, CU's opponent Tuesday in Manhattan, Kan. (6 p.m., FSN Rocky Mountain), lost three starters from last season's team that finished 25-8 and made the program's 11th NCAA Tournament appearance.
The departed starters are guard Shalee Lehning, forward Marlies Gipson and wing player Danielle Zanotti. Between them, Lehning and Gipson accounted for 23.7 points and 13.7 rebounds a game.
Like McConnell-Miller, Patterson usually starts two freshmen - guards Taelor Karr and Brittany Chambers, who is second on the team in scoring (12.6).
Karr was a co-honoree for the Big 12's Freshman of the Week award after averaging 14.5 points - 6.3 above her average - in two road games. Chambers earned the same award in December.
Replacing the trio of starters has left the Wildcats (10-7, 2-1) inconsistent, said Patterson: "Every day it's a process trying to integrate in a lot of new players (and) incoming experience. Experience is gold . . . we're up and down, learning every day about ourselves and our players.
"We're learning how to cope with losing great players, but we're no different than the rest: You take the floor, stay true to your system and hope your day-in and day-out (regimen) works."
ALISON LACEY, REVISITED: If that name doesn't ring a bell, you didn't watch the Iowa State senior guard almost singlehandedly topple the Buffs in the second half of a 68-62 Cyclones win on Saturday.
Lacey scored 18 straight points, including 16 of her team's final 18.
Said ISU coach Bill Fennelly: "She did it when her team needed it . . . it was one of the best 20 minutes I've seen an Iowa State player play."
And Fennelly, in his 15th season, has seen more than a few very good halves by Cyclones players.
POINT WORTH CONSIDERING: Texas A&M coach Gary Blair knows the value of experience, but he also has a word of advice for anyone believing graduation-depleted teams can't bounce back quickly.
In the Big 12, said Blair, "I think Kansas State, Oklahoma and us lost the most to graduation . . . but just because you lost players to graduation, the coaching staffs didn't graduate."
WHY DID I DO THAT? Kurt Budke knows the answer, but he asked himself the question anyway.
Oklahoma State's fifth-year head coach is preparing for three games in six days - beginning with a trip to Texas Wednesday night.
Then it's on to Boulder Sunday (2 p.m., FSN), then back to Stillwater, Okla., on Tuesday night to face Missouri.
"We shifted for a TV game (CU)," Budke said. "I'm not sure how smart that was on my part."
In addition to the three-in-six component, the schedule has OSU playing four of its next five games on the road.
Something tells us superstar Andrea Riley and the No. 12 Cowgirls, who have won 11 straight, won't fare too poorly.