Cats weather Valpo, advance to second round

Nicole Ohlde scored 25 points to lead Kansas State past Valparaiso 71-63 on Sunday in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.

Kendra Wecker added 15 points and Laurie Koehn 14 for the second-seeded Wildcats, who play the winner of Minnesota-UCLA in a Mideast Regional second-round game Tuesday.

Eager to erase the sting of last year's heartbreaking second-round loss to Notre Dame on their home floor, the Wildcats (25-5) jumped out to big leads in both halves only to watch Valpo creep back.

Jamie Gutowski had 20 points and Jenna Stangler added 10 for the Crusaders (20-12), who saw their five-game winning streak stopped and fell to 0-2 all-time in the NCAA tournament.

Meghan Mahoney chipped in 11 points for the Wildcats to move past the 1,000-point mark in her career. She now has 1,001.

Wecker also set a school milestone. She now has 1,716 career points, moving her past Diana Miller for second place on the all-time scoring list. Ohlde is first with 2,218 points and is also the school's all-time leading rebounder.

Wecker's 3-pointer at the 12:23 mark gave the Wildcats a 60-44 lead. But Valpo scored 12 unanswered points to cut the lead to 60-56.

Suzie Hammell, who sat out part of the game after a hard spill in the first half, drained a 3-pointer with 6:41 remaining to make it 62-59. The teams traded free throws before Ohlde scored inside and Chelsea Domenico hit a mid-range jumper to give the Wildcats a 67-60 cushion with 3:20 to play.

After adding a free throw, the Crusaders came up empty on two straight possessions and Domenico added a baseline jumper to seal it.

The Wildcats looked as though they would run away with it early. Ohlde scored 10 points in the first eight minutes to power the Cats to a 22-9 lead. But the Crusaders used their deep lineup to fight their way back and outscored Kansas State 11-4 over the next six minutes.

Five different players scored during the spurt and the Crusaders were able to keep the ball out of Ohlde's hands in the paint. They also forced the Wildcats into some untimely turnovers.

Ohlde and Wecker combined for 10 of Kansas State's final 12 points in the first half to give the Cats a 41-35 lead at the break.

Hammell left the game at the 7:47 mark of the first half after a hard collision while lunging for the ball. Hammell, who entered the game averaging 9.7 points a game, hit the floor hard and lay on her back for a few minutes before being helped to her feet and walking back to the bench, where she watched the rest of the half.

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