Wildcats Thump Tigers, 67-54

MANHATTAN, Kan. Kansas State’s WNIT express keeps chugging right along.

Ashley Sweat led all scorers with 21 points and Kimberly Dietz added 19 as the Wildcats held off a late-game surge by Auburn for a 67-54 quarterfinal victory in front of 2,717 Sunday afternoon at Bramlage Coliseum.

Shalee Lehning just missed a triple-double with nine points, nine rebounds and eight assists for Kansas State (19-14), which reached the WNIT semifinals for the second straight season with its eighth straight win in the postseason tournament.

The Wildcats, who will play at Wyoming on Wednesday, March 28, in the WNIT Final Four, also got eight points, nine boards and four blocks from Shana Wheeler, while Danielle Zanotti pitched in with eight points on 3-for-3 shooting.

KeKe Carrier scored 11 points and was the only player to finish in double figures for Auburn (21-13), which was held under 60 points for just the fourth time this season and was limited to its lowest point total since suffering a 62-51 loss at George Washington on Dec. 16, 2006.

And while Auburn struggled to get going, Kansas State was red hot from the opening tap. The Wildcats scored 11 of the games first 13 points and built a 20-9 by the midpoint of the first half.

It got worse for the Tigers from there, as the Wildcats began to pour it on from beyond the arc. Five of K-State’s final six field goals of the half came from 3-point range - including two each by Sweat and Dietz - pushing the Cats’ halftime bulge to 37-18.

The onslaught continued after the break as Kansas State used a 12-2 run during the first five minutes of the second half to take a 29-point lead at 49-20 with 15:05 to play.

But Auburn refused to fold. Carrier almost single-handedly led the Tigers back by scoring all 11 of her points during a 23-4 Auburn spurt that closed the game to 53-43 with 6:46 remaining.

K-State, though, never allowed Auburn to get closer than nine the rest of the way and used a 7-for-11 effort at the free-throw line over the final 2:15 to keep the game out of reach.