Monday, February 20, 2006

KU women allowed back in locker room


They're back.

Kansas University's women basketball players have been granted access to their locker room again.

"They're excited, and they should be," KU coach Bonnie Henrickson said Sunday, a day after the Jayhawks' 57-56 overtime victory at Iowa State.

Henrickson had closed the locker room following a Feb. 1 home loss to Colorado. Since then, the Jayhawks had been forced - except on game days - to dress away from Allen Fieldhouse and wear their own practice togs.

Henrickson gave her players the good news moments after the Jayhawks' first road victory in seven tries.

"It felt really good for her to say that," senior Crystal Kemp said. "It's an extra boost for us."

Henrickson's about-face and the thrill of victory evolved into this season's first joyous return bus ride.

"It felt good to laugh and joke again and see coach smile again," Kemp said.

Kemp scored the winning basket with 6.5 seconds left in overtime after guard Erica Hallman drove the right lane, then flung the ball to Kemp, who had an easy lay-in.

"Erica came strong to the basket," Kemp said, "and my (defender) decided to step over, and fortunately I was able to put it in."

Those were Kemp's only points during the final 25 minutes. After the 6-foot-2 senior had scored 14 points in the first half, the Cyclones double-teamed her after the break, and that strategy left only single coverage on 6-2 freshman Marija Zinic, who responded with a career-high 14 points.

Zinic, who hasn't started all season, produced more points than she had in the previous six games combined while logging 29 minutes on the floor, her second-longest stint of the season.

Meanwhile, junior guard Sharita Smith played a career-high 33 minutes. Smith scored only two points, but she wasn't in there for offense. Smith's job was to hound guard Lyndsey Medders, ISU's leading scorer.

"Sharita's defense was contagious," Henrickson said. "They kept telling her, 'You've got to shut Medders down,' and she did."

Medders made only two of her dozen shots and scored seven points, more than 10 below her average.

The combined 16 points from Zinic and Smith were the most KU has had off the bench in a Big 12 game this season. The previous high was 13 in the 90-40 blowout loss at Baylor.

KU's players had Sunday off, so they won't be taking advantage of their reopened locker room until this afternoon, when they begin practicing in preparation for Wednesday's trip to Texas Tech.

"I really thought about letting them back in even if we didn't win," Henrickson said, "because they battled and competed and showed some pride."

After Wednesday's trip to Lubbock, Texas, the Jayhawks (15-9 overall, 4-9 Big 12) will play their last two regular-season games at home against Missouri on Saturday and Kansas State on March 2.


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