So far this season, the road hasn’t been overly kind to the Kansas University women’s basketball team.
The Jayhawks’ only three losses this season have come outside the friendly confines of Allen Fieldhouse — they’re 2-3 on the road this season, compared to 8-0 at home — and with an 11 a.m. matchup with rival Kansas State today in Manhattan, where Kansas hasn’t won since 2001, things don’t figure to get a whole lot easier.
“We have to go back on the road and kind of stare at that monster again,” said KU coach Bonnie Henrickson, whose team is 10-3 and ranked No. 24 nationally. “And wherever it’s going to be, (the Wildcats) are good. They’re good at home. Our freshmen, our young kids are better at home, and that’s going to be the same for them. That’s what happens with young kids — they find comfort (at home).”
On paper, a KU victory today doesn’t seem altogether improbable.
At 8-6, the Wildcats open their Big 12 schedule less dominant than in years past and are still trying to adjust to the loss of three starters from last year’s team, including former all-American Shalee Lehning, who now holds jobs as both a member of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream and a K-State assistant coach.
Despite an underwhelming record, however, the Wildcats have done enough to cause Henrickson to spend a considerable amount of time this week urging her team not to look past today’s opponent.
Kansas State’s six losses have come by an average of just 4.8 points — four came by four points or less — and the team features one of the conference’s top players in Ashley Sweat, who’s averaging 18.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.
“If you watch them, they’ve been in games,” she said. “They’ve played close, they’ve won close, they’ve lost close. So I don’t think their record is indicative at all of the talent they have in their program. We’ve got to go over there and play.”
Which means Kansas will have to shake the after-effects of last Sunday’s 61-60 loss to New Mexico State, a game in which preseason all-American Danielle McCray struggled to one of her few off-nights of the season, connecting on just six of 17 shots and turning the ball over six times.
Henrickson said this week that, at the moment, Kansas is not a great team. Too much inconsistency. The occasional struggles defensively.
But a victory today — against a traditionally solid Kansas State team on the road — would certainly represent a step in the right direction.
“This team has to understand, like any team, it’s not chance if you win or lose,” Henrickson said. “It’s a choice you make. You have to perform at a high level.”