Lehning's ankle injury kept her off of the court for most of the off-season as well as the Cats' exhibition loss to D-II Emporia State on Sunday.
So you can imagine Kansas State coach Deb Patterson was more than happy to have her back in the Wildcats' regular season home opener. K-State (1-0) defeated the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay 72-67 Friday night in Bramlage Coliseum.
Patterson, who recorded her 200th career-victory, said Lehning's return to the line-up played a significant role in the improved performance of her teammates.
"You have one of the best two point guards in the Big 12 not on the floor and it has an impact," Patterson said.
"You saw that comfort level with our basketball team increase a great deal having that floor leader out there that you're accustomed to having."
Nearly one week ago against Emporia State, the Wildcats needed a map, GPS and a flare gun to find their post game. On Friday however, it was all K-State sophomore forward Marlies Gipson.
Gipson led K-State with a career-high 18 points and a game-high 13 rebounds, her fourth career double-double.
Gipson's former McPherson H.S. teammate Ashley Sweat was just two rebounds shy of recording her first double-double with eight boards and ten points.
In fact, the duo in the paint accounted for 45-percent of the Cat's scoring and 42-percent of their rebounding in the first half alone. Kansas State built a 12 point lead at the half thanks in part to UW-Green Bay's 8-for-32 (25-percent) shooting performance.
Coach Kevin Borseth had plenty to say during that intermission and even more in the post-game press conference.
"We stunk on the offensive end of the floor," Borseth said.
"We're just too small to play at this level without being effective offensively, and that's really what our game is- moving the ball a lot, getting shots in rhythm and making them."
The Phoenix (0-1) offensive rhythm improved significantly out of the locker room cutting the lead to seven in the early moments of the second half, but a fade away jumper from Gipson as the shot-clock expired spoiled any hopes of a comeback on the road.
With Lehning back on the court, the Wildcats managed to get some consistency back in the post game, but are still working on improved performances from the perimeter players.
K-State's Kim Dietz looked more comfortable at her natural two-guard position putting up 15 points and six turnovers. While senior Claire Coggins, who was in foul trouble for most of the contest, scored six points and went 0-for-five from beyond the arc.
Coggins is a proven play-maker and a scorer. The Lee's Summit, Mo., native is seventh in career 3-point field goals at K-State and has been named a Preseason All-Conference Honorable Mention. But Coggins is more valuable to the Wildcats as a play-maker than as a magician and her disappearing act needs to get worked out.
"I think both Claire (Coggins) and Kimberly (Dietz) with some consistent presence out there by Lehning and with us continuing to establish that post game we're going to see that comfort level and that production elevate," Patterson said.
Kansas State's next game is Monday at 7 p.m. in Bramlage Coliseum against Creighton.