The Wildcats lost their first exhibition game in eight years to in-state Division II rival Emporia State 64-59 Sunday afternoon in Bramlage Coliseum.
The third ranked Lady Hornets took full advantage of the fact that K-State was without the talents of sophomore starting point guard Shalee Lehning, who is out with an ankle sprain. Coach Deb Patterson says Lehning is listed as day-to-day.
Freshman guard Kari Kincaid, who garnered Gatorade Kansas Player of the Year and Kansas "Miss Basketball" honors at Andover Central H.S., has been hobbled with injuries as well. Patterson says she has only practiced four times this season and is expected to be back in the next two or three weeks.
These two injuries cuts Kansas State's bench to eight. And with Lehning on the sideline, the Wildcats lose 7 points, 6.6 rebounds, 5.6 assists, but most importantly the Cats lose leadership at the point position.
K-State struggled to establish much of anything on the offensive end, shooting an abysmal 33-percent from the field.
Junior shooting guard Kim Dietz did a decent job filling in for Lehning and leading the Wildcats with 17 points. However, the Boulder, Co.-product struggled from beyond the arc on 2-of-11 shooting, in addition to turning the ball over four times.
Senior guard Claire Coggins posted similar numbers with 16 points and a team-high five turnovers.
"We were such a perimeter-oriented team tonight," Patterson said.
"I don't know if we gave our posts enough touches down deep to really be able to assess our post game, except to say that we pretty much ignored it tonight and that's certainly something we need to improve at."
Emporia State hung around for most of the first half cutting a 13-point deficit to just three at halftime.
With 6:13 left in the game, Wildcat sophomore Danielle Zanotti hit a 3-pointer tying the ballgame up at 51. K-State then missed its final nine attempts from the field.
Freshman point guard Cassondra Boston and junior Kodak All-American Michelle Stueve had their way with Kansas State's defense. Boston led all scorers with 21 points on a perfect 10-for-10 shooting performance from the free-throw line. Stueve posted 18 points and 13 rebounds.
As a team, Emporia State out-rebounded the Cats on their home floor 40-29.
"We didn't talk about dominating the boards," said Emporia State coach Brandon Schneider, who has led his team to the NCAA Tournament in seven of his eight seasons as head coach.
"We talked about just out-rebounding them by at least one rebound. We're so outmatched with athleticism and size; we really wanted to be a good box-out team today."
K-State sophomore forward Marlies Gipson scored in double-digits with 12 points and a team-high nine rebounds. Freshman forward Ashley Sweat scored seven points and grabbed seven boards in her Bramlage Coliseum debut.
A lot is being asked of the remaining eight healthy Wildcats. It's not an easy task trying to make up for the loss of a Shalee Lehning, not to mention the unexpected off-season departures of two teammates. And that's not to make excuses or take anything away from Emporia State, because obviously a great effort is needed to overcome such obstacles. But it's still important to really put things into perspective as the criticism hits them point-blank in the face.
"This is a situation where you have an opportunity to play 16-17 minutes a game, so what is the result," Patterson asked.
"And that to me is the challenge on the shoulders of the players that we do have that are healthy. Obviously tonight we didn't answer that challenge at the level necessary because we lost the basketball game. I'll find five that we can play and win with over playing eight or ten that we don't win with. And I think that's the key for us. We've got to establish individually what we're going to bring that contributes across the board to winning."
Better game-time adjustments for 40 minutes from the sideline couldn't hurt the Wildcats' cause either.
K-State opens the ‘06-07 regular season on Friday against Wisconsin-Green Bay at 7 p.m. in Bramlage Coliseum.