Cats claw Lady Blues 76-39

Penetrating point Senior guard Corkey Stiger pushes the ball through traffic for the Lady Blues in Thursday’s exhibition tilt with the Wildcats. Stiger played 23 minutes and had seven points, four rebounds, four assists and four turnovers on the night. As a team, Washburn shot 14 of 48 from the field and 5 of 13 from the free-throw line.

The Lady Blues knew their 2007-08 season debut would be tough, but not this tough.

Washburn’s first game was also its most difficult. It trailed from start to finish in a 76-39 loss at Kansas State.

Fortunately, the No. 6 Lady Blues’ record and statistics will not be effected by the result. Preseason games against Division I competition are not usually scheduled as a way to pick up wins but rather to see where the team stands entering the season.

“It’s a starting point,” said head coach Ron McHenry. “Not a real good one, but it’s a start. We’ll keep building with this group.”

There is a lot of building to be done following the departures of six seniors and four starters from last season’s MIAA championship squad. Washburn took the Wildcats into triple overtime in their 2006 meeting before falling 94-90. McHenry was not anticipating that tight of a game this time around, but he still wanted to see more production from the rebuilt roster.

“It’s a great eye-opener,” said McHenry. “I didn’t know how well we would do, but I just wasn’t expecting this.”

Washburn hung around early in the game and stayed within 10 points of KSU until the 5:34 mark in the first half. However, the Lady Blues’ lack of post presence eventually caught up to them as they entered the break trailing 40-21.

“The start of the game wasn’t bad,” said McHenry. “We just didn’t run our offense.”

Forward Amanda Holmes had a team-high 11 rebounds, but none of Washburn’s post players were able to score more than three points. Starting center Regiane Araujo, the tallest player on the Lady Blues’ roster, left the game after five minutes with a leg injury, which made the height mismatch even more lopsided.

“K-State has such strong post play,” said McHenry. “I like how they played together, and we didn’t do that. We weren’t playing together.”

The Wildcats’ physical play took its toll late in the second half as well. After trailing by 19 at halftime, the Lady Blues stayed within 20 points midway through the second half. KSU’s lead ballooned down the stretch as the Wildcats finished out the game with a 21-6 run.

“I think our biggest problem was that we couldn’t get our offense started,” said guard Janice Bright. “If we can get our offense down and execute, we’ll be fine.”

Bright, a junior transfer from Cincinnati State Technical, led the team with 11 points in her first game as a Lady Blue. However, McHenry says this season’s large group of newcomers still have a lot to learn as a whole about how Washburn basketball is played.

“Some of those kids think they’re really good,” McHenry said. “Tonight they found out that when you don’t follow the system, you don’t look so good.”

Washburn’s troubles were not just limited to the post, though the Lady Blues did lose the battle in the paint 40-14. The team also turned the ball over 26 times, which the Wildcats turned into 25 points, and were outscored 20-2 on fast break points.

“This was the first game for a lot of new kids,” said Bright. “We have a lot of time to practice and get better as the season goes on.”

The Lady Blues will play their only home exhibition game 7 p.m. Friday against Livin’ the Dream before starting the regular season with a 7 p.m. home game Nov. 17 against Southwestern College.

Washburn’s players and coaches are focused on learning from the experience.

“We can learn from this game,” said McHenry. “If we can’t learn from this game, we aren’t very smart.”