MANHATTAN, Kan. -- The ball left Kelsey Nelson's hand and Shalee Lehning took off. Didn't matter her team was up 19 with under six minutes left, or that she was standing 80 feet away.
Lehning wasn't about to let the ball roll out of bounds.
Of course she got it. That's just the kind of player Lehning is.
Lehning had 14 points and 10 assists, and her never-give-up attitude helped Kansas State (No. 18 ESPN/USA Today, No. 20 AP) open defense of its Big 12 title with a 72-39 victory over rival Kansas on Saturday night.
Lehning set the tone for the rout early with her slash-and-dish style and capped it with her nearly-fullcourt sprint to save a ball from rolling out of bounds.
"When I saw her throw it, I thought that I could get to the ball," said Lehning, who was 6-for-10 from the floor. "As the ball kept going, I was wishing she would have lofted it a little more, but I was just happy I got there."
Kansas State (14-0) is off to the best start in school history and has matched its second-longest winning streak -- three behind the record set in 1981-82 -- with its ninth-straight home win.
Ashley Sweat scored 18, most coming on assists from Lehning, who also had six rebounds. Marlies Gipson anchored the defense, blocking five shots to give Kansas State its 15th win in 16 games against its in-state rival.
Lehning was at her do-it-all best early, knifing inside for shots under and around defenders' arms, driving and dishing to 3-point shooters on the wings. The senior guard set up Gipson for an easy basket midway through the first half by wrapping a bounce pass around a Kansas defender and later whipped a no-look pass to Sweat for another layup.
Lehning, the nation's assists leader (9.2), had eight by halftime, including three straight to Sweat in the closing minutes to put the Wildcats up 39-21. She never gave up even with the game out of reach, racing past a Kansas player to save a ball with Kansas State up 63-34.
"I don't think she had the advantage -- I think she was two feet behind that kid and made up the ground," Kansas State coach Deb Patterson said. "The ball is out of bounds, she leaps in the air and makes a phenomenal play."
Kansas (11-3) had won four straight, but struggled mightily against the nation's best scoring defense, scoring a season-low in points and shooting 32 percent. Sade Morris was the only Kansas player in double figures with 12 points and leading scorer Danielle McCray had just eight points -- nearly 11 below her average.
The Jayhawks had even more trouble stopping Lehning, collapsing every time she drove the lane, leaving the Wildcats shooters wide open on the perimeter. Kansas State was 5-for-12 from 3-point range and shot 50 percent overall.
"There just the type of team that the one time you screw up the switch, they're going to hit that three," Kansas forward Nicolette Smith said. "The one time you don't read the screen right, they're going to hit that three. That's what killed us. We made those small mistakes and they killed us every time."
Kansas State played a near flawless first half, shooting 17-of-33 from the floor with just two turnovers, holding the Jayhawks to 9-of-24 shooting while forcing 11 turnovers. The Wildcats kept rolling in the second half, still driving aggressively to the basket, forcing difficult shots at the other end for their largest margin of victory over Kansas since 2003.
"We let them feel real good about themselves early and never had an answer," Kansas coach Bonnie Hendrickson said. "We played out of control and fast on the offensive today and played in mud on the defensive end."