Cats Roll in First Round WNIT

MANHATTAN, Kan.-- All week the Kansas State Wildcats have said what a privilege it is to still be playing basketball this deep into March. They would've preferred dancing in the field of 64 instead of the field of 40, that's stating the obvious.

In the first round of the 2006 Postseason Women's National Invitation Tournament Kansas State defeated Idaho State 88-68 Friday evening in Bramlage Coliseum.

The 20th win of the season (20-10) could prove to be the first of many postseason statements for K-State, who has been playing good basketball the last six games.

The Cats opened the contest against the Bengals a little shaky, shooting eight for 26 in the first seven minutes. They hadn't played in over a week since the overtime loss to Baylor in the Big 12 Tournament.

The rust wore off at about the 8:30 mark in the first half when point guard Shalee Lehning checked back into the game. The freshman made an immediate impact stealing the ball and finding a wide open Claire Coggins for three.

K-State went on a 17-0 run, including four consecutive treys from Coggins.

"We hadn't played in over a week," said Coggins. "Whenever a team doesn't get to play in that amount of time they are going to come out a little bit rusty, but our fire and intensity really got us going, and I was able to step up and hit some shots."

Coggins didn't just hit "some shots," she couldn't miss. The junior guard scored a career-high 31 points on 11-of-20 field goals, including 6-of-9 from beyond the arc.

"I just feel like it's obvious she's playing her best basketball of the season," K-State coach Deb Patterson said.

"Going into this tournament I'm just completely convinced that she can assert herself as the best player in this tournament and I think she's that good."

The Cats 44-27 lead at halftime was cut to 12 with 14:43 left in the game, but that's as close as it would get for the Big Sky Conference regular season champs.

Nebraska-transfer Andrea Lightfoot led Idaho State (17-13) with 16 buckets.

Freshmen Marlies Gipson and Lehning both recorded double-doubles for the night. Gipson scored ten points and grabbed 13 boards, while Lehning recorded 12 rebounds and eleven assists.

Three minutes into the second half Lehning dished out her 158th assist of the season passing all-time career assists leader Megan Mahoney for the K-State freshman single-season record.

"I've said all year long that she's (Lehning) the best playmaking guard in our league and I think again tonight in postseason play she continued to prove that," Patterson said.

"Breaking the Kansas State freshman assist record is an incredible achievement especially considering the youth of this basketball team and the quality of opposition both in the Big 12 and in the postseason."

The Wildcats will meet the winner of Sunday's Fresno State at Nevada-Las Vegas game in Manhattan early next week.


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