Originally published February 12, 2012 at 02:08p.m., updated February 13, 2012 at 12:00a.m.
Manhattan For the fourth consecutive meeting, the Kansas University women’s basketball team fell to Kansas State in a game that went down to the wire.
Unfortunately for the Jayhawks, who lost, 47-43, on Sunday in Bramlage Coliseum, the loss on the scoreboard merely was their second-worst setback of the day.
Three minutes and 34 seconds into Sunday’s Sunflower Showdown, KU junior Carolyn Davis went down because of a serious leg injury that sucked the life out of the crowd of 4,893 and reduced several of her teammates to tears.
After crashing to the floor following a collision in transition, Davis could be heard screaming in pain. She immediately grabbed her left knee and remained in that position for nearly 10 minutes as trainers and team doctors looked after her. Her leg quickly was placed into an inflatable cast, and moments later a sobbing Davis was taken off the floor on a stretcher.
As of Sunday night, there was no official word on the injury to Davis, who was taken to a Manhattan hospital and later returned to Lawrence. Team officials said the Houston forward, who leads the Jayhawks in scoring, would see a doctor Sunday night and run through a few tests to determine the severity of the injury.
“There was a dislocation,” KU coach Bonnie Henrickson said after the game, tears welling in her eyes. “That much we could tell.”
Henrickson hardly was the only Jayhawk emotionally drained after Sunday’s loss. Senior Aishah Sutherland, who finished with 12 points and 17 rebounds, and junior Angel Goodrich (13 points, three assists) appeared lifeless while answering questions from the media following the game.
“It’s very tough,” said Goodrich, who twice in the past had season-ending knee injuries. “I know the pain, and just hearing her holler, it just hurts, and it is hard, but we stuck together.”
Considering how torn up they were after the game, the fact that the Jayhawks were able to shake off the early injury to their top offensive threat bordered on remarkable. Kansas trailed 21-17 at halftime and took a 30-28 lead midway through the second half. The teams battled back and forth the rest of the way, with the Wildcats (16-8 overall, 7-5 Big 12) coming up with a couple of big buckets and several clutch free throws late to pull away.
“I think the first thought is that we made one more mistake than they did,” Henrickson said. “But you can probably twist it and say they made one more play than we did.”
Trailing 45-43 with 3:05 to play, KU had several chances to tie or take the lead in the final minutes. Each time, however, a turnover or a missed opportunity cost it. The Jayhawks went the final 3:35 without scoring, and neither team scored a point in that stretch until K-State junior Brittany Chambers hit two free throws with 6.9 seconds remaining to seal the victory.
“We had some turnovers, then we don’t get a shot up, obviously, in the last four minutes,” Henrickson said. “At the end of the day, did we battle and compete, and I am proud? Yeah. Did we win? No.”
Despite the loss, which dropped KU to 17-7 overall and 6-6 in Big 12 play, Henrickson was not in the mood to discuss how things might have been different had Davis not gone down.
“You can say that,” she said. “But we have other guys on the floor that were in uniform that can step up and make some plays, too. ... We’re not about making excuses.”
Added Sutherland: “As a player, I felt like I had to step up. ... When something like that happens, you just have to react.”
While the entire team picked up the slack for their fallen leader, freshman forward Chelsea Gardner (seven points in 23 minutes) slid into Davis’ spot most often, even getting an attempt to tie the game in the final seconds off of a pick-and-roll with Goodrich.
Those were the elements of Sunday’s loss that helped Henrickson and her team look at the day as anything other than a tragedy.
“Obviously, you go back, and they’re all crying, and everybody’s upset, but how tough are they?” Henrickson said. “We weathered the storm.It was ugly, and we kept it ugly, and we talked about how we had to control our emotions.”
That was during the game. Afterward, both sides poured their hearts out for Davis.
“When you see that happen on your floor and in your game, it has a very strong emotional impact,” KSU coach Deb Patterson said of Davis’ injury. “We wish her the very best. She is one of the premier players in our league and probably in the history of Big 12 basketball.”
Added Henrickson of watching one of her women get hurt, something that’s been all-too-common for the eighth-year KU coach: “It’s the worst part of the job, the absolute worst part of the job.”