MANHATTAN, Kan.-- Kansas State's defense turned the tables on Texas A&M forcing 19 turnovers in the Cats' 48-45 victory over the 17th-ranked Aggies Saturday afternoon in the Big 12 home opener at Bramlage Coliseum.
K-State senior Claire Coggins led all scorers with 20 points including her 1,000th career point on a 3-pointer in the first half. The 5-11 guard shot 8-for-11 from the floor and grabbed six rebounds.
It was a considerable improvement for Coggins, who struggled mightily against No. 8 Oklahoma with a 2-for-16 shooting performance.
"I got better rhythm shots tonight and I took my time," Coggins said. "It's just staying focused, having the confidence that my shot is going to go down. I don't know; it's just basketball."
"Coggins is a senior and knows how to play the game," Texas A&M coach Gary Blair said.
"She might not go up there in the rafters, but she would sure go up on my line-up any day, because she just knows how to play the game."
Coggins had some trouble taking care of the basketball though against the Aggies (10-3, 0-1), who have led the Big 12 in steals the last six seasons. She turned the ball over 10 times. Sophomore point guard Shalee Lehning added six turnovers. And when it was all said and done, the Cats coughed up the ball 24 times.
"I think that when you play a team like Texas A&M, you know you're playing one of the quickest teams in America and you're going to have a share of turnovers," K-State coach Deb Patterson said.
"I thought what was significant for us tonight was that the large percentage of the turnovers didn't lead to lay-ups and easy baskets for A&M."
In fact, K-State (13-2, 1-1) won the fast-break points battle 16-10.
The Wildcat defense made A&M work for every basket. The Aggies took 20 more shots, but hit just 31.7-percent from the field, including 1-of-13 from beyond the arc.
Trailing by two with 11.5 seconds left in the game Texas A&M had a chance to win the game, but turned the ball over in the middle of the court. "We're not as good as we were last year even though we've got all five starters back, because I do not have the six, seven, eight players that we had last year," Blair said.
"We're going to have to develop our freshmen, because our kids do not need to be playing this many minutes. It's affecting our offense and our defense."
Texas A&M went into locker room with a 26-24 advantage at halftime.
A&M's best returning scorer, Morenike Atunrase, who missed five games with a foot fracture, was listed as highly questionable going into the contest, but Blair said his options were limited at the guard position.
"I was planning on playing Mo (Atunrase) for about five minutes, but due to foul situations I had to play her 20," Blair said. "She's only been out of her boot for two days. She hasn't even been up and down the court yet."
The junior All-American candidate scored four and grabbed seven rebounds. Sophomores Takia Starks and Danielle Gant led the Aggies with 10 points a piece
Kansas State sophomore Marlies Gipson scored 11 points and cleared 10 boards for her sixth career double-double. Gipson also added two blocks, but she could've/should've had three more swats that were called fouls.
Freshman forward Ashley Sweat added 11 as well and grabbed six rebounds.
An 8-2 run by Sweat helped K-State regain a one point edge with 12 minutes left in the game. The McPherson, Kan., native was on the receiving end of two backdoor passes from Lehning, who dished out six assists.
"The coaches have been talking a lot about getting up the floor quick and transition baskets were huge in this game," Sweat said.
"When you have a point guard like Shalee (Lehning) who can throw awesome passes and get the ball to you right away, it's a smart thing to do to get up the floor quick and beat everyone up the floor to get easy baskets."
The Wildcats have a week off before hosting Big 12 North foe Missouri Jan. 13.
Kansas State has an advantage this season having faced two of the top teams in the conference early in the season.
"You know you've lined up and been tested against two very, very great, strong teams with great athletes and great players, but it sends a message to your team about the competitiveness required," Patterson said.
"Tonight, we might've made 24-turnovers, but we didn't turn the ball over and then lose our minds on offense and then lose our minds on defense and then change who we are. That's what those great teams make you do. They make you accountable."