Sunday, January 20, 2008
Little doubt the wind that waves the wheat on Kansas University's women's basketball team is Danielle McCray. Stop McCray, and you stop the Jayhawks.
"That's what teams are doing now," said McCray, KU's leading scorer and rebounder. "But teams can't do that for 40 minutes. They won't be able to stop me for 40 minutes."
Missouri certainly couldn't on Saturday afternoon in Allen Fieldhouse.
McCray's 15 points, 12 rebounds and five steals boosted the Jayhawks to a 66-60 triumph over Missouri in front of a season-high announced crowd of 4,912.
With the Tigers determined to double-team McCray in the first half, 6-foot-5 Krysten Boogaard was left with single coverage underneath, and the rangy freshman made Mizzou pay early, scoring a dozen of her team-high 17 points in the first half as the Jayhawks cruised to a 38-25 bulge.
"Maybe we were too obsessed with McCray," Mizzou coach Cindy Stein said.
By concentrating on McCray, Stein knew the Jayhawks would go to Boogaard, figuring the tall freshman from Canada could be neutralized. Incorrect.
"We knew they'd try to go to her," Stein said of Boogaard. "It was a lack of execution on our part."
Meanwhile, McCray settled for eight points and five boards at the break - an 18-minute stint notable in that she didn't pick up a single foul. In fact, the 5-11 sophomore, who had been plagued by foul trouble, logged 36 minutes, tying a career-high, and was tooted just twice.
"I'm trying to put my emphasis on the defensive end," McCray said. "And, right now, I'm in kind of a shooting slump."
McCray missed 13 of 18 shot attempts, but a couple were blocked and a few others weren't far off the mark.
"The points will come," McCray said. "I just have to concentrate on defense now."
KU coach Bonnie Henrickson would much rather have McCray on the floor than sitting next to her on the bench, even if her accuracy is a little off.
"It's just more calm for us when she's on the floor," Henrickson said.
In truth, when McCray says she is concentrating on defense, she really means she is determined to cut down on silly fouls fueled by offensive misfires.
"I didn't think she was trying not to foul today," Henrickson said. "She was guarding. I think frustration has led to her fouls. She'd miss shots, then she'd start slapping and reaching."
This time McCray played one of the most solid and productive games of her short college career.
"That's maturity on her part," Henrickson said.
Kansas led by as many as 16 points in the first half. Missouri made a couple of runs in the second half, but the Jayhawks didn't wither. They led by 11 with a little more than three minutes remaining before blunting the Tigers' last gasp with a pair of McCray charities.
After dropping their first three Big 12 Conference games, the Jayhawks needed a victory badly, and they recorded it against the team with the league's worst overall record (8-9).
At the same time, Henrickson noted the Jayhawks' three defeats were administered by teams - Oklahoma State, Baylor and Nebraska - with a combined conference record of 9-1.
"Not a lot of teams are going to win in Lincoln," Henrickson said, "and not many will win at Baylor, and not many are going to beat Oklahoma State it looks like."
Next for Kansas (12-5 overall; 1-3 Big 12) is a Tuesday outing at Colorado.
Notes: Kansas shot 51.7 percent in the first half and finished at 48.1 percent. : McCray recorded her second career double-double and tied her high in steals. : Reserve guard Kelly Kohn, nursing a sprained ankle, suited but did not play. : Sade Morris contributed 10 points and a team-high seven assists. : Mizzou had 18 turnovers, half by point guard Toy Richbow.