Originally published March 5, 2011 at 08:33p.m., updated March 6, 2011 at 12:47a.m.
In many ways, it was the perfect ending to the Kansas University women’s basketball team’s regular season. Good, but not good enough.
Saturday night, in front of a loud and proud crowd of 5,751, Bonnie Henrickson’s club dropped a heartbreaker to in-state rival Kansas State, 56-51, the second time this season that the Wildcats topped the Jayhawks by five.
Losing, and falling to 19-11 overall and 6-10 in Big 12 play, was bad enough. That the latest loss came in the final home game for two KU seniors was the really hard part.
“This is a tough one to swallow,” senior Marisha Brown said. “It’s definitely a tough loss. I wouldn’t want to go out losing on my senior night, but I also have to remember that we have games after this so I have to focus on that and just have to move past it.”
Brown, a starter who finished with four points and four rebounds in 29 minutes, was joined by reserve post player Krysten Boogaard (zero points and one rebound in three minutes) in playing their final games at Allen Fieldhouse. After the game, both were honored by the home crowd with a jersey presentation on the floor, but ceremony did little to erase the disappointment of Saturday’s loss.
“There were some mistakes that we made throughout the game,” said sophomore forward Carolyn Davis, who led the Jayhawks with 15 points and 14 rebounds. “We should not have turned the ball over as much and should have gotten our hands on more 50/50 balls. I think that we did not execute very well.”
Kansas came out on fire and jumped to early leads of 4-0 and 15-11 before falling behind by two, 26-24, at halftime.
The Jayhawks were impressive to start the second half, ripping off a 10-4 run to take a 34-30 lead at the 15:08 mark.
From there, Kansas State (20-9, 10-6) responded with a run of its own that put the Jayhawks in position to play from behind the rest of the way.
Despite trailing by as many as eight points with less than two minutes to play, the Jayhawks willed their way into having a shot to tie the game with 39.7 seconds remaining.
After a bucket by Aishah Sutherland at the 1:08 mark made it 54-51, K-State, the Jayhawks’ defense stepped up and forced the Wildcats into a shot-clock violation. With time winding down on the shot clock and the game clock creeping down toward 1:00, K-State sophomore Mariah White drove to the basket and pulled up in the lane for a shot. The ball rolled around the rim and eventually fell, but officials waved it off, claiming that the shot came a fraction of a second too late.
The defensive stand gave Kansas a chance. But just a few seconds into its next possession, a pass from point guard Angel Goodrich caromed off of Brown’s hands and landed on the Kansas bench. Turnover No. 13 for the Jayhawks. Possession to the Wildcats. Game over.
“I really don’t remember what happened,” Brown said of the crucial play. “I guess they may have tipped it, and it kind of slipped out of my hands as well. I wasn’t expecting it because that’s not where the ball was supposed to come anyway. It was just one of those things.”
Instead of looking for a game-tying three-pointer at that point — Kansas was just 2-of-9 from three-point range for the game — Henrickson said the plan was to get the quick two-pointer and extend the game.
“We didn’t want to eat a lot of clock doing that because you need possessions, and you need some time,” Henrickson said. “But we just were not aggressive. We got real soft, and we got real hesitant.”
Added freshman Diara Moore: “I think it was a focus thing. We weren’t really dialed in as much as we need to be.”
The loss did nothing to change KU’s seeding in next week’s Big 12 tournament in Kansas City, Mo. The Jayhawks will be the No. 8 seed and will play No. 9 Colorado at 11 a.m. Tuesday. Saturday’s result did reinforce one thing for the Jayhawks, should they have any hopes of earning a spot in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
“Well, we gotta win it,” said Henrickson of qualifying for the NCAAs via the automatic bid given to conference tournament champions. “Obviously, we’re NIT-eligible, and that speaks for itself, but we gotta win it to go to the NCAA Tournament.”