Originally published March 9, 2011 at 12:43p.m., updated March 9, 2011 at 11:56p.m.
Kansas lost to Baylor 86-51 in the quarterfinals of the 2011 Big 12 Women's Basketball Tournament in Kansas City, Mo.
New game. Same result. Totally different story.
Seven weeks after being slapped around by Baylor at home, the Kansas University women’s basketball team suffered another blowout loss at the hands of the Bears in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament Wednesday at Municipal Auditorium.
The scores of the games were not all that different. Baylor topped KU, 86-51, on Wednesday, a four-point improvement for the Jayhawks from January’s 76-37 loss at Allen Fieldhouse. But just because the scores were similar does not mean that the effort was. In the first meeting, the Jayhawks lay down and let the Bears walk all over them. In this one, KU showed up and played hard but simply was done in by Baylor’s superior talent.
“Yeah, it’s still disappointment,” KU coach Bonnie Henrickson said. “Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. But I felt like we competed. I watched that (first game) late last night, and it made me sick. I didn’t sleep. We had no fight, we had nothing. We just let it happen. (Today’s) result was the same, but it felt different.”
The Jayhawks displayed plenty of fight early on and actually held a 7-5 lead at one point. But Baylor, behind the dominant defense of Brittney Griner and a devastating transition game, answered KU’s hot start with a 12-0 run and spent the rest of the afternoon running away from the Jayhawks. By halftime, Baylor led 43-19. With eight minutes remaining, the lead was up to 69-32 and, from there, the only thing left to determine was whether the final margin of victory would be worse than the first time these two met. It wasn’t and that’s a credit to the way the Jayhawks approached the rematch.
“We all talked about coming in the game and being aggressive,” said sophomore guard Monica Engelman, who led KU with 16 points. “I think I tried to keep up with that goal and (those) expectations.”
Kansas also got big games from freshman forward Tania Jackson (12 points, 5 rebounds on 5-of-8 shooting), senior forward Krysten Boogaard (8 points, 7 rebounds) and sophomore point guard Angel Goodrich (7 points, 7 assists). But none of them were enough to offset Griner’s 19 points, eight rebounds and five blocks nor Destiny Williams’ game-high 21 points and eight rebounds.
In all, Baylor shot 56 percent, out-rebounded KU 43-24, blocked eight shots and forced four shot-clock violations. Kansas shot 36 percent and coughed up 15 turnovers. What’s more, Baylor was whistled for four fouls all game and KU went to the free throw line just twice.
The Jayhawks’ improved effort wasn’t the only thing that made this meeting between Baylor and Kansas unique. Far from it. That distinction belongs to Baylor guard Melissa Jones, a senior from Thornton, Colo., who played Wednesday’s game despite only being able to see out of one eye.
The story goes like this. Jones injured the optic nerve in her right eye a little less than two weeks ago after she fell head-first to the floor during a Bears’ victory. For the next 10 days, she saw nothing out of her right eye and was forced to step away from the game she’s played her entire life. Doctors told her that her vision would return. Eventually. Whether it would be in time for her to be the same key component to the Bears’ run at a national title that she had been all season, remained uncertain. Uncertain until Wednesday, that is. Tuesday night, for the first time since the injury occurred, Jones saw something other than black in the injured eye. After debating, day and night, whether it was worth having her play against Kansas, Baylor coach Kim Mulkey and Jones came to the conclusion that progress was good enough and she took her regular spot in the starting lineup. Her performance proved the decision was sound.
“I can see that there’s light,” Jones said after scoring eight points, grabbing nine rebounds, dishing seven assists and swiping four steals in the win. “I don’t know. It’s still dark, but I can tell that there’s light, if that makes sense?”
Wearing dark-tinted sunglasses — a precaution taken to protect her good eye — Jones played with the same passion that earned her a first-team all-Big 12 nod this season. On the first possession of the game, she calmly buried a three-pointer from the corner in front of the Kansas bench. Seconds later, this time on defense, Jones swiped a steal and sent Baylor (29-2) on its way.
“Can you believe what you just saw out of that kid today,” Mulkey asked reporters in the postgame news conference. “She hits the first three of the game, she gets rebounds, that’s the story of the game. She can’t see.”
The gushing did not stop there.
“I knew that she would compete, but to make shots, to get rebounds, to guard people... If you didn’t know (about the injury) and you were watching her play, you wouldn’t know it. I still can’t imagine that kid playing as well as she did today.”
Although not privy to the same kind of inside information about the injury, Henrickson said she was not surprised to see Jones fight through the injury and play well.
“She’s a no-excuse kid,” Henrickson said. “A leave-it-on-the-floor-every-night kid. It speaks volumes for her character and the pride she plays with for herself and her team.”
Ultimately, that was the point for Jones. She didn’t enter Wednesday’s game hoping to steal the spotlight or pull people into her sob story. She showed up to win. Coming dangerously close to recording a triple-double despite playing with just one working eye, is the way she does that.
“That’s just an unbelievable story,” Mulkey said. “It is 10 days now that she’s not been able to see. Each little thing that happens, a change, it’s like we all start hugging each other.”
As for Kansas, Wednesday’s loss dropped the Jayhawks to 20-12 and ended their hopes of making a run to the NCAA Tournament. A likely berth in the WNIT awaits, and if the Jayhawks are included in the field — they’ll learn their fate Monday night — it will mark the fourth straight year they advanced to that postseason tournament and the fifth time in the past six seasons.
“It drives us all crazy,” Henrickson said. “But we’re going to have to get over that fast because, in the NIT, those that don’t want to play in it don’t last very long.”
The Kansas University women’s basketball team on Wednesday fell to Baylor for the second time this season, losing 86-51 in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament at Municipal Auditorium.
In mid-January, KU fell to Baylor, 76-37, at Allen Fieldhouse during a game in which it never really competed. Wednesday, the Jayhawks showed up early and actually held a 7-5 lead. But Baylor answsered that with a 12-0 run and the rest of the afternoon was spent with the Bears running away from the Jayhawks.
By halftime, Baylor led 43-19. With eight minutes remaining, the lead was up to 69-32 and the only thing left to decide was whether the final margin of victory would be worse than the first time these two met.
The Bears shot 56 percent, out-rebounded KU 43-24 and forced 15 turnovers. KU shot just 35 percent.
Monica Engelman led KU with 16 points. Tania Jackson added 12. Destiny Williams led Baylor with 21 points and national-player-of-the-year candidate Brittney Griner chipped in with 19 points, 8 rebounds and 5 blocked shots.
The loss drops Kansas to 20-12 on the season and likely puts the Jayhawks in position to play in the Women’s NIT. If the Jayhawks do in fact wind up in the WNIT, it will mark the fourth straight year they advanced to that postseason tournament and the fifth in the past six seasons.
Baylor, the nation’s No. 3-ranked team and the Big 12’s top seed, improves to 29-2 and advances to Friday’s semifinals, where they’ll meet the winner of today's game between No. 4 Kansas State and No. 5 Iowa State.
The pairings for the women’s NCAA Tournament will be announced Monday evening. Shortly after that, KU will learn its WNIT fate.