Sunday, November 5, 2006

KU women look to avoid another Washburn shock


Two years ago, Washburn shocked Kansas University in a regular-season women's basketball game.

"I was hoping everybody had forgotten that," KU coach Bonnie Henrickson said with a laugh. "I know I haven't."

That was Henrickson's first season with the Jayhawks, and she was, of course, embarrassed to lose to an NCAA Division II team. As it turned out, however, Washburn was one of the best D-II teams in the country.

Now the Jayhawks and Lady Blues will tangle under the exhibition-game blanket, yet today's contest isn't likely to be the customary tune-up romp like Wednesday's 80-55 cruise-controller over Fort Hays State.

"I'm making sure our kids understand they're very talented," Henrickson said of the Lady Blues, "and that they beat us before."

Tipoff will be at 2 p.m. in Allen Fieldhouse. Sunflower Broadband Channel 6 will carry a live telecast.

Washburn has three returning starters from a team that went 32-1 last season. That's right. Thirty-two and one. The Lady Blues didn't lose until the NAIA playoffs.

Not back, however, is superstar Jennifer Harris, who averaged 24.2 points, was named Division II player of the year and was tapped in the second round of the WNBA draft by the Chicago Sky.

Harris was a pivotal player in that 62-59 victory over the Jayhawks in December of 2004, scoring 21 points - all in the second half - to help the Lady Blues outscore KU, 43-24, after the break.

Even with three starters back, the loss of Harris makes Washburn an unknown quantity.

"The last couple of years, we were almost ready to go from day one with a good group back," WU coach Ron McHenry said. "This year it's going to take some time to get this group together, but I like what I see so far."

McHenry has six newcomers, five from the junior-college ranks. At the same time, Henrickson has seven new faces, all freshmen, and she liked what she saw Wednesday night. Ten of her players logged 10 or more minutes, a far cry from her first two seasons, when her depth was suspect.

Kansas will open for real next weekend at the WBCA Classic in Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo.


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