Two weeks ago, the Kansas University women’s basketball team picked up a huge home victory over then-No. 19 Oklahoma at Allen Fieldhouse that looked as if it would be the game that sparked a strong finish.
But the Jayhawks (16-11 overall, 7-9 Big 12) have dropped three straight since then and enter today’s 7 p.m. tipoff at Oklahoma in as close to a must-win situation as you can get.
Firmly on the bubble for inclusion in the NCAA Tournament yet again — the most recent bracketology on ESPN.com has the Jayhawks as a 13 seed and one of the “last four in” — KU has been in this position before. In fact, just last year, a few weeks before ripping off a memorable run to the Sweet 16, the Jayhawks traveled to Norman, Okla., to face a ranked OU team — and won.
“It’s ironic that we’re in the same situation, where we need a big win on the road, and it happens to be there again,” KU coach Bonnie Henrickson said. “But it’s not gonna happen just because it happened last year. We’re not banking on, ‘Oh, we did it last year.’ It’s how did we do it, and what do we need to do for it to happen again.”
In topping the Sooners, 81-71, on Feb. 17, KU held Oklahoma to 35 percent shooting, forced 14 turnovers and built a 34-22 halftime lead.
“We’ve struggled on the defensive end,” Henrickson said. “And if you look at that game, we were really, really good there. We’ve gotta be that team again. We have got to guard better, we have to rebound better because taking care of those things allows us to be who we want to be and who we need to be on the offensive end.”
As the regular season winds down and the opportunity to build a better tourney résumé fades, the Jayhawks sit in seventh place in the Big 12 standings, two games behind OU and West Virginia and one behind Oklahoma State. If the selection committee elects to take seven teams from the Big 12, as bracketology suggests, the Jayhawks would be set. But rather than wonder and gamble, Henrickson said she would rather see her team do something to make it a certainty.
“We can’t get caught up in focusing on the result because focusing on the result doesn’t take care of the process,” she said. “Taking care of the process affects the result. But it’s not like we’re gonna sit here and not talk about what we need to do. Yes, we understand that. And we understood last year, and then we played with great confidence and tremendous togetherness.”
KANSAS (16-11, 7-9)
G — Angel Goodrich, 5-4, sr.
G — CeCe Harper, 5-8, jr.
G — Monica Engelman, 5-11, sr.
F — Chelsea Gardner, 6-3, soph.
F — Carolyn Davis, 6-3, sr.
OKLAHOMA (19-9, 9-7)
G — Aaryn Ellenberg 5-7, jr.
G — Morgan Hook, 5-10, jr.
G — Sharane Campbell, 5-10, soph.
F — Joanna McFarland, 6-3, sr.
C — Nicole Griffin, 6-6, jr.