Originally published January 22, 2014 at 09:01p.m., updated January 22, 2014 at 11:56p.m.
Three of the past four halves of women’s college basketball had Kansas University coach Bonnie Henrickson thinking the Jayhawks had turned the corner.
The fourth, however, left her shaking her head.
Three days after upsetting seventh-ranked Baylor, the Jayhawks threw a scare into No. 8 Oklahoma State before ultimately suffering a 64-56 loss to the Cowgirls on Wednesday at Allen Fieldhouse.
“Offensively, we just had poor poise and composure, and we stopped attacking,” Henrickson said.
KU fell to 9-10 overall, 2-5 in the Big 12. OSU improved to 17-1, 6-1.
Kansas bolted to a 34-28 lead in the first half but then went cold, hitting seven of 30 from the field (23 percent) after the break.
After benefiting from a 5-of-11 showing from three-point range in the first half — compared to 0-for-5 by Oklahoma State — the Jayhawks hit just one of nine three-point attempts in the second half, while the Cowgirls knocked in two of four.
“Those weren’t in rhythm,” Henrickson said of her team’s missed threes in the second half. “How many of those were (with the shot clock) under 10 seconds? Those aren’t ready shooters.”
Added junior guard Natalie Knight, who finished with just three points on 1-of-6 shooting: “They did a really good job in the second half of pressuring the ball. Halfway through the second half, they turned up their defense a notch. We could’ve done that, too, but we didn’t.”
As has been the plan throughout the season, KU attempted to pound the ball inside to take advantage of junior Chelsea Gardner’s strong play around the basket. Gardner, who tweaked her right ankle on a foul late in the first half but returned without issue, led all players with 15 points and 11 rebounds but needed 13 shots to reach those game-high totals and played just 28 minutes.
Although feeding Gardner on the block was effective at times, it also became a little predictable, and the Cowgirls began to sag into the paint to help guard Gardner and frustrated her with extra arms and hands challenging every move and shot.
“She’s a great post, and you have to get that position on her or she’s gonna get that easy two,” said OSU guard Tiffany Bias, who made some key plays on both ends late and finished with 14 points. “After the half, we adjusted and got some more people around her and made it a little tougher on her.”
Added Gardner, asked if the OSU adjustments impacted her effectiveness down the stretch: “It kind of frustrated me at first.”
Thanks to a buzzer-beating jumper from Dakota Gonzalez at the end of the first half, the Jayhawks took a 34-28 lead into halftime. KU pushed the lead to 36-28 on the opening possession of the second half, but Oklahoma State quickly zapped that momentum.
OSU took its first lead since the game’s early minutes at 46-45 with 9:55 to play, and the Cowgirls controlled things from there.
“Even though we lost, these past couple of games have given us confidence to know that we can play with those top teams,” said KU senior point guard CeCe Harper.
Harper scored 13 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished three assists. “We just know that we have to be better at the end to be able to pull it out.”
The Jayhawks’ will step away from their stretch of games against Top 10 opponents this weekend, when they replace highly ranked foes with a highly emotional one, as they travel to Kansas State for a 1 p.m. tipoff of the Sunflower Showdown.