Some portions of the nonconference schedule are far easier than others for Kansas University’s women’s basketball team.
While the Jayhawks have been challenged in victories over teams such as Wake Forest, Minnesota and Creighton — as well as in their lone loss at Arkansas — they have cruised against lesser opponents from smaller conferences.
The Southwestern Athletic Conference, for instance, already has sent Alabama A&M and Grambling State to Lawrence to serve as KU’s punching bag before the Jayhawks begin Big 12 play in January. No. 22 Kansas (8-1) gets a chance to beat up on another SWAC team, Prairie View A&M (2-4), at 2 p.m. today at Allen Fieldhouse.
Games against lightweights might look easier for the Jayhawks, but coach Bonnie Henrickson’s said after her team’s 97-64 pasting of NCAA Division II Newman on Sunday that they aren’t without their benefits. Henrickson would never indicate she expects some nonconference games to be less taxing, but she said this part of the season allows the Jayhawks to form good habits — both in games and practices.
A focus area of late has been getting KU’s guards comfortable with feeding the team’s 6-foot-3 inside threats, starting senior Carolyn Davis and sophomore backup Chelsea Gardner.
“We try to do more passing drills where it’s near where they would get it in the offense to get them to recognize, and then we let the defense mix it up,” Henrickson said of her practice approach.
The players have some pretty good examples of how to get the ball inside playing in the same building as them. The ninth-year KU coach wants KU’s perimeter players to be able to throw entry passes over fronting post defenders, the same way Bill Self’s men’s team has done.
“It’s the pass that (Jeff) Withey gets. It’s the pass that Thomas (Robinson) got over the top, working their guy up the lane, (pass the ball) to the rim and then just finishing,” Henrickson said.
KU has had mixed results with those types of plays this season, but senior guard Monica Engelman said both Davis (16.2 points a game) and Gardner (averaging 16.3 in her last four games) are easy targets.
“They both do a great job inside,” Engelman said, “and they both work their butts off.”
Davis said Kansas always wants to get the ball to the paint, and it doesn’t matter if that happens via a big posting up or a guard driving or cutting for a layup.
“That’s always a big emphasis for any games we’re going into, especially games like this,” Davis said after KU’s rout of Newman.
The Jayhawks have won 50 straight regular-season home games against nonconference opponents. The last such team to beat Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse was Xavier, on Dec. 31, 2006.