Danielle McCray has been sensational. Sade Morris has been superb. And Aishah Sutherland has been a sparkplug.
All three women have played pivotal roles in Kansas University’s march into the WNIT Elite Eight.
Although she doesn’t start, Sutherland has been the Jayhawks’ most effective inside player over the last couple of weeks. The 6-foot-2 freshman has averaged 10.3 points and 7.8 rebounds in the last four games.
“When she plays well,” KU coach Bonnie Henrickson said of Sutherland, “we have a great chance to be successful. “The problem is she hasn’t been very good on the road.”
Neither have the Jayhawks. KU has just one victory in an unfriendly arena since Christmas and will be facing a surging New Mexico team inside a raucous facility tonight.
Tipoff will be at 8 p.m. in the Santa Ana Star Center. The game will not be televised.
No doubt the Jayhawks have momentum, however. They’ve won seven of their last nine behind the scoring of McCray, who is averaging 27.7 points a game in March, and Morris, who is averaging nearly 21 points the last two weeks. Just as important, senior Ivana Catic has supplied stability at point guard.
“Our chemistry is as good as it has ever been,” Henrickson said. “It’s never been bad, but it’s never been better than it is now.”
New Mexico is on a roll, too. The Lobos (25-10) have won three straight WNIT games after finishing with a 9-7 record in the Mountain West Conference.
Amy Beggin is NMU’s most important player. The 5-6 junior scored 13 points — 11 down the stretch — in the Lobos’ 61-56 victory over Oregon State on Friday night. Beggin has made 77 three-point goals and shoots a deadly 86.9 percent from the free-throw line.
“She’s a great little point guard,” Henrickson said. “She has a great motor and plays hard. They pretty much go as she goes.”
New Mexico also boasts a freshman much like KU’s Sutherland. Sara Halasz came off the bench to score a career-high 17 points against Oregon State. Angela Hartill, a 6-3 senior, gives the Lobos a presence inside.
New Mexico is 3-1 against Big 12 teams this season, with two victories over Nebraska and one over Texas Tech. The lone loss was to Texas A&M.; Curiously, over the years, UMN has played every Big 12 school except Kansas.
Tonight’s winner will advance to a Wednesday night game in the WNIT semifinals at a site to be determined.