Ivana Catic wants to do something no Kansas University women’s basketball player has ever done.
“I want to play in April,” said Catic, the Jayhawks’ senior point guard, “but I know you can’t look ahead.”
Two victories ahead, in fact. Kansas would need to defeat Arkansas tonight, then win one more game in order to reach the early-April semifinals of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.
Tipoff against the Razorbacks will be at 7 p.m. in Allen Fieldhouse. The game will not be televised.
This is the third time in the last four years Kansas has participated in the WNIT and all three times the Jayhawks have won their first tourney game. They’ve never won a second, however.
Back in 2006, Ole Miss nipped KU, 78-76, in Allen Fieldhouse. Last year, Michigan State shut the door, winning 58-54, in East Lansing, Mich.
“We’ve talked about that,” KU coach Bonnie Henrickson said. “In fact, the kids brought it up first. The kids are excited about it.”
Record-wise, Arkansas (18-13) and Kansas (19-13) are in a virtual dead heat. In the same vein, Kansas lost seven of its first nine Big 12 games, while Arkansas lost seven of its first eight SEC games. But each team, coincidentally, has captured six of its last eight outings.
Arkansas advanced in the WNIT with a 61-60 overtime victory over Oklahoma State on Monday night in Fayetteville, Ark. In that game, senior forward Whitney Jones posted a double-double with 22 points and 11 boards.
At an even six feet, Jones is UA’s tallest starter, so the Jayhawks would appear to have a size advantage. Arkansas, however, compensates with defense. UA forced O-State into 25 turnovers, 16 of them steals.
The ringleader of Arkansas’ pilferers is Ceira Ricketts, a 5-9 freshman who led the SEC with 80 steals and was named the league’s newcomer of the year.
Aishah Sutherland is considered KU’s most athletic player and, Henrickson said, Arkansas’ entire lineup “is a lot like Aishah in terms of explosiveness and athleticism.”
In exploding for 79 points against Creighton — KU’s highest point total since early January — Kansas benefited from a nine-day layoff. Henrickson’s players were so well rested she went only seven deep, but she’ll probably have to use a larger mix tonight.
Still, it’s no secret the Jayhawks will go only as far as leading scorers Danielle McCray and Sade Morris take them. McCray and Morris, who operate on the wings in KU’s double-post offense, combined for 46 points against the Bluejays.
Notes: UA associate head coach Tim Eatman had a pair of two-year stints as an aide at Kansas under Marian Washington (1996-1998 and 2002-2004). … KU and Arkansas last met in an NCAA Tournament game in 1998 in Oakland, Calif. UA won, 79-63. … McCray has scored 20 or more points in each of the last five games … Catic has 19 assists and just two turnovers in the last three. … KU hasn’t posted a 20-win season since 1999-2000 (20-10). … Arkansas is 1-3 against Big 12 teams after nipping OSU. The ’Hogs lost to Kansas State, Missouri and Texas Tech during the regular season.