The K-State women’s basketball team will travel to Oklahoma City to participate in the Big 12 Conference Championship Thursday following two consecutive victories to close out the regular season. The Wildcats will enter the tournament as a No. 5 seed, and will face a rematch against the Colorado Buffaloes in the first round.
The Wildcats swept Colorado in two games during regular season play, with the most recent win coming Saturday on the road.
Head coach Deb Patterson said playing Colorado recently will benefit her team’s preparation heading into the first round match-up.
“It’s not just the third time we are playing them, but it was just a few nights ago, so the preparation is minimized,” Patterson said. “You are headed into a tournament, in which you hope to play four days in a row, that extra preparation is hopefully something that plays as an advantage.”
In their previous meeting with the Buffaloes, First Team All Big 12 point guard Shalee Lehning registered her third triple-double of the season and fifth of her career. Her triple-double total leads the NCAA this season.
“I was pumped,” Lehning said. “Just for the adversity I have had to face in coming back from my sickness, I hadn’t felt like myself, and I actually felt like myself in Colorado.”
Lehning missed three consecutive games during the second half of the conference season due to a mononucleosis infection.
While Lehning’s performance proved she is well enough to play extended minutes, Patterson said she is still not at 100 percent strength. According to Patterson, Lehning tires much faster than normal and requires more recovery time following games.
“The fight and the push and the drive and the leadership we get, I couldn’t ask for more when she is on the court.” Patterson said. “But is she 100 percent? No, she is not.”
However despite Lehning’s condition, Patterson said her team cannot afford to play cautiously in the Big 12 Tournament.
“You have to live in today and not worry about tomorrow as we go through this tournament,” she said. “We have to go all out every minute of every game as we head into the tournament.”
Lehning said that she is feeling better each day and feels comfortable playing extended minutes in possible back to back games during the tournament.
“That is just going to have to be a day-by-day situation where we are just going to have to see how my body reacts,” Lehning said. “I really am getting better everyday. I’ll be fine with the minutes.”
If the Wildcats win, they will face No. 4 seed Texas A&M in the second round.
The Aggies handed the Wildcats their only home loss of the season with a 71-45 rout March 1.
However, Lehning said the Wildcats will not be looking past the Buffaloes to the second round.
“It’s one game at a time for us,” Lehning said. “That has been the motto all season. But we also understand that we have upset teams and we have been upset, last season we were upset in the first round. So we cannot allow ourselves to overlook anybody.”
Tipoff for the first round game, which will be broadcast on KMAN 1350 AM, is set for 11 a.m. at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City.