COLUMN: Oklahoma loss is reality check for women


    Wednesday evening marked another pivotal event in a historic season for the women’s basketball team. With a 64-48 defeat at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla., the Wildcats were handed their first loss of the season.
    With the loss, the Wildcats fell to 14-1 overall and 1-1 in Big 12 play.
    The reigning Big 12 champion Wildcats will look to bounce back following the tough loss against Oklahoma, a loss in which a late second-half run by the Sooners inflated the score to a misleading 16 point margin at the final buzzer.
    The Wildcats led the contest at halftime, however a late run led by twins Courtney and Ashley Paris pushed the Sooners to victory.
    There is no doubt that this loss has the potential to be a turning point in the season for the Wildcats, as they now must prove that they deserve the No. 17 ranking in the nation.
    While the team did jump out to a school-best 14-0 start this season, it is easy to pinpoint the success to a soft nonconference schedule.
    At first glance, a 10-point victory at home against Arkansas seems to be the only impressive aspect to head coach Deb Patterson’s schedule. Wednesday’s loss at Oklahoma was the Wildcats first ranked opponent of the season. The loss now looks as if it could be a wakeup call.
    Yet when analyzed closer, the Wildcat team is in no way overrated, and this loss against Oklahoma, a team that many pick to finish atop the Big 12 standings, will not affect the talent and potential of this team.
    The Wildcats excelled throughout their nonconference campaign, including their ability to win on the road. The Wildcats were 7-0 in road games during nonconference play, including a 2-0 road trip against Pac 10 opponents during winter break.
    During the road trip, the Wildcats defeated Washington and Washington State by a combined 29 points and after preserving their perfect nonconference record against Central Arkansas, steamrolled the then 11-2 Jayhawks of KU to open conference play.
    Not only have the Wildcats proven their ability to win on the road, but also the key players in the Wildcat lineup have proved to be some of the best in the region.
    Senior guard Shalee Lehning, a preseason top 30 pick for the prestigious Wooden Award, has guided the Wildcat offense averaging 11.1 points and 7.2 rebounds per game and leads the nation with 9.2 assists per game.
    Furthermore, during the Wildcats’ trip to the University of Washington, Lehning became the first player in the Big 12 to register two triple-doubles in the same season and holds the Big 12 career record for triple-doubles with four in her prolific career.
    Lehning has cemented herself in K-State women’s basketball history by breaking the K-State career assist record earlier this season.
    Leading the offense in scoring, junior Ashley Sweat has emerged as a major threat for opponents. She is averaging 16.1 points per game and has been the leading scorer for the Wildcats in 10 of the 15 games this season. Sweat is also 15 points shy of registering 1,000 points in her career. Doing so would put three 1,000 point players on the current roster for the Wildcats (Lehning, Sweat and Marlies Gipson).
    On the defensive side of the ball, senior forward Marlies Gipson is averaging a Big 12 best 3.9 blocks per game, and earlier this season she became the K-State career blocks leader and currently has 227.
    While the loss at Oklahoma is a setback for the Wildcats, the weapons the team possesses have the potential to make a successful season and another Big 12 championship within reach.