|Kansas State's Shalee Lehning is a towering presence as she prepares to block this shot by Chattanooga's Laura Hall. (Jessica Hill/Associated Press)|
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. - Kansas State found a replacement for injured star Kimberly Dietz in Kelsey Nelson and ended the nation's longest winning streak.
The little-used reserve scored a career-high 20 points to help fifth-seeded Kansas State snap No. 12 Chattanooga's 24-game streak with a 69-59 victory yesterday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats set a tournament record by hitting all 21 free-throw attempts.
"There was no way I could have expected she would explode offensively like she did," Kansas State coach Deb Patterson said. "In this magnitude game for her to perform at this level was really impressive."
Shalee Lehning added 12 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists for Kansas State (22-9), which will play Louisville tomorrow night in the second round of the New Orleans Regional.
Laura Hall scored 19 points and Brooke Hand added 15, hitting five 3-pointers for Chattanooga (29-4).
The Lady Mocs last lost Dec. 1 to Alabama A&M. Chattanooga's only other losses this season were to Tennessee and Louisville.
The Lady Mocs hadn't really prepared for Nelson. Who could blame them?
"She hadn't played very much at all and we didn't anticipate this," Chattanooga coach Wes Moore said. "Nelson was waiting for her opportunity and took advantage of it."
Trailing, 37-31, early in the second half, Kansas State went on a 14-4 run. Nelson scored 7 straight points during the spurt to give the Wildcats a 45-41 lead with 9:17 left. The junior guard easily surpassed her career highs in points (5) and minutes (13).
Patterson was forced to turn to Nelson after Dietz hurt her knee in the Wildcats' loss to Iowa State in the Big 12 tournament. Dietz had been averaging almost 14 points.
"I don't know if I could be much happier," Nelson said. "I prepared the same way, and knew I could step up if my chance came."
The teams traded baskets until Shanara Hollinquest hit one of two free throws with 3:25 left to cut the deficit to 56-55. The Wildcats scored the next 4 points to extend the lead to 60-55 on Ashley Sweat's layup.
Hall answered with back-to-back baskets to make it 60-59 with 1:22 remaining.
Lehning converted a 3-point play to restore the 4-point lead with 1:08 to go, and the Wildcats sealed the win from the foul line.
Rhode Island held the previous record for most free throws without a miss, going 15 for 15 against Oklahoma State in the first round in 1996.
Kansas State shut down Alex Anderson, the Southern Conference player of the year. She scored just 9 points, nearly 8 under her average. She was just 3 for 14 from the field.
"They played good defense and my shots weren't falling," Anderson said.