Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Jayhawks looking to end February freefall


Kansas University had a December to remember. So did Nebraska.

But this is February and the two schools have evolved into the tailspin twins of Big 12 Conference women's basketball.

KU has lost eight of its last 10 games and Nebraska seven of its last nine going into tonight's battle of beaten-downs in Allen Fieldhouse.

"We think we can win," KU coach Bonnie Henrickson said, "but I think they think they have a shot at it, too."

Tipoff will be at 7:05 p.m. It will be televised live on Sunflower Broadband Channel 6.

The Jayhawks' woes began Jan. 7 in Lincoln, Neb. KU went into Nebraska's Devaney Center with a 12-0 record and left on the short end of a 73-61 decision. Kansas (14-8 overall, 3-8 Big 12) has won only two games since.

That early January win over Kansas boosted the Cornhuskers' winning streak to eight but, like the Jayhawks, Nebraska (12-10, 4-7) has won only two games since.

Inconsistency has plagued the Huskers. Not so Kansas. The Jayhawks have been consistent - good on one end, bad on the other.

"For us," Henrickson said of the 51â2-week skid, "it's been magnified on the defensive end."

Example No. 1: In conference games, nationally ranked Oklahoma is the only school with a better shooting percentage than the Jayhawks. Yet KU is dead last in the league in field-goal percentage defense.

Example No. 2: In league games, Kansas is No. 1 in three-point shooting at 36.5 percent, but the Jayhawks are No. 12 in three-point field goal percentage defense (39.2 percent).

KU's problems have been compounded by the lack of a defensive stopper. In Saturday's 64-57 loss at Missouri, for instance, the Jayhawks had no answer for guard LaToya Bond, who exploded for 31 points. KU has also surrendered 29 points to Texas A&M;'s Morenike Atunrase and 26 to Nebraska's Keira Hardy.

A junior guard from Kansas City (Mo.) O'Hara High, Hardy is averaging 17.1 points a game. She scored 15 points when the Jayhawks dumped the Huskers, 67-53, in Allen Fieldhouse last season.

In Saturday's game at the Mizzou Arena, Henrickson started reserves Jamie Boyd and Sophronia Sallard in place of regulars Taylor McIntosh and Ivana Catic, but McIntosh and Catic both logged more than 30 minutes on the floor and, Henrickson said, "We'll probably go back to Taylor and Ivana."

Reserve guard Shaquina Mosley, who was suspended Monday, will not suit tonight, Henrickson said. The KU coach hasn't revealed why she is sitting Mosley, the reigning national junior college women's player of the year, saying only that the suspension is indefinite.

It goes without saying Kansas must win tonight in order to keep its glimmering hopes of a WNIT postseason berth alive, and Henrickson remains upbeat.

"No one is devastated," she said. "No one is giving in."

After tonight, KU will face road games against Iowa State and Texas Tech before concluding the regular season at home against Missouri and Kansas State.


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