Kansas State is the Team to Beat

MANHATTAN, Kan-- Nebraska's Kiera Hardy was unstoppable when Kansas State played in Lincoln February 18. The junior guard hit the game winner in overtime and finished with 23 points.

The poor perimeter defensive effort served as good motivation for the Cats as they faced the Huskers for the third time this season.

K-State (22-10) dominated in almost every facet of the game beating Nebraska 77-63 Friday night in Bramlage Coliseum and advanced to the semifinals of the WNIT.

It was just another run of the mill physical Big 12 match-up coupled with the madness that is March.

Both the Cats and the Huskers squandered early offensive possessions and shot about 30-percent from the field.

A three point play by freshman Kelsey Griffin 13 minutes into the game gave the Huskers (19-13) their first lead that started a 6-0 run.

The Cats called a timeout down 17-22 and 30 seconds later came back onto the court a different team.

Freshman center JoAnn Hamlin responded immediately with a second chance bucket and the foul. The three-point play sparked an 18-4 KSU run at the end of the half that would then carry into the final 20 minutes of the game.

"It was overdue," Kansas State coach Deb Patterson said. "The team came out of the huddle with a renewed sense of purpose in boarding the ball and getting some stops."

The play sophomore guard Kim Dietz on both ends of the court was a significant factor for K-State's success in the first half. The Boulder, Co. native scored 16 points and carried most of the load defending Hardy, who shot just 2 for 11 from the field in the half.

"During that game (in Lincoln) Hardy hit a bunch of step back three-pointers," Dietz said. "That kind of hit me hard and I wanted to get those stops in this game."

Kansas State continued to roll in the second half scoring on transition and way beyond the arc.

"I don't know where Sublette, KS is for sure, but a couple of those threes came from there," Nebraska coach Connie Yori said.

"They were awfully deep. I kept telling our players that they weren't going to nail all of them, but they made a lot of them."

(Sublette is located in the southwest part of the state near Dodge City. The town at that time was likely deserted, because they were all in Manhattan watching their native-girl Shalee Lehning. And it would be more accurate to say the shots were coming from Albuquerque.)

Junior guard Claire Coggins hit just one 3-pointer before intermission, but she came out of the locker room and went absolutely ballistic from downtown, or as it's called in Bramlage Coliseum- Koehn Land.

Coggins hit five 3-pointers in the half and led all scorers with 22 points.

The Cats were big on the boards out-rebounding Nebraska 44-32. That lopsidedness should probably in-part be attributed to the fact that the Huskers had been traveling for most of the week.

On Monday Nebraska spent eight hours at the airport and never left Lincoln thanks to a snow storm. They traveled to Wyoming on Tuesday and beat the Cowgirls at the highest elevated court in the nation the next day. Thursday was an incredibly long day for the Huskers, who took a bus to Denver, flew to Lincoln and then bussed to Manhattan.

That however, is the name of the game in the WNIT, quick turn-arounds and home court advantage. Kansas State is milking the latter for all its worth.

Griffin led the Huskers with 19 points, while Hardy finished with 14.

Dietz contributed 19 points and Hamlin dropped in 20 for the Cats.

In front of 6,258 fans freshman point guard Shalee Lehning broke another Wildcat assists record. She needed eight dishes to break the single-season assist record held by Mary Jo Miller (175, 1990-91). Lehning notched number 176 as Coggins drained another three.

"It's a great honor, but I have to give credit to my teammates because they are the ones making the shots," said Lehning, who led the Cats in rebounding for the second consecutive game with 11 boards.

"They make my job pretty easy. I'm not really worried about records; at the end of the game I just want my team to win."

Kansas State will host Western Kentucky in the semifinals of the WNIT Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Bramlage Coliseum.

"There have been tremendous match-ups through this entire bracket," Patterson said.

"And to see Kansas State and Western Kentucky have the opportunity to line up and compete to advance to the championship game is very fitting for the commitment that this tournament has made for providing an opportunity for many of the best teams in the country to continue to play."


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