Jayhawks hold out hope for WNIT berth

Wednesday, March 8, 2006

— Kansas University senior Crystal Kemp doesn't know if she'll play another game in a Jayhawk jersey, but she definitely wants one last opportunity.

"It would definitely be nice to be able to continue to play, at least go off on a better note than we did these last two games is really one of the things I'm looking forward to," said Kemp, one of three KU seniors who might have played their last game Tuesday night in a 72-52 loss to Kansas State in the first round of the Big 12 tournament at Reunion Arena.

The Jayhawks certainly didn't help their cause for a potential berth in the 40-team Women's National Invitation Tournament when they suffered their third loss to their in-state rival this season and 11th straight setback to the Wildcats over a five-year period.

"It kind of felt a little reminiscent at first," said Kemp, comparing Tuesday's setback to the 62-44 loss KU suffered to K-State on Senior Night last week.

"I think if we would have continued to fight and try to slow up some of their options and play strong defense and get what we wanted to on offense, we could have made it a better game. It's just unfortunate that we came out and played the way we did."

Part of the blame fell on the seniors' shoulders.

Kemp scored 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting, but Erica Hallman and Kaylee Brown combined to shoot just 5-of-20.

For the second straight game against K-State, Brown has been bumming. The guard, who had a bad ankle and was held scoreless for the first time this season on Senior Night, hit just one of 10 shots Tuesday and scored only two points.

"Besides those two right now, we just don't have much offensive firepower," said KU coach Bonnie Henrickson, whose squad fell to 16-12 overall.

Despite the second straight "disappointing" setback, Henrickson said she believed her team had built enough of a resume to receive a postseason bid.

The KU coach isn't the only one who feels that way.

KU associate athletic director Larry Keating said he thought the Jayhawks would be selected to the WNIT and even could play host to a game.

"I think they're pretty good," Keating said, asked of KU's chances. "I've talked to (WNIT officials) twice. There's 104 teams going into two tournaments, and we're in the 85-range with one rating. They use about three or four ratings.

"I think Big 12 teams with over .500 records have a pretty good chance."

While Kemp and Hallman stressed they wished they still could be playing to improve their status, Henrickson said no matter what happened this year's seniors would be remembered for helping establish a foundation for the future of KU women's basketball.

"They have been coachable since they got here. We tried to make some changes and certainly wished for their senior year to have gone better," Henrickson said. "But unfortunately it's not the way the script ended for them.

"I think they have grown and learned a lot in the last two years about discipline and commitment and what it takes to be successful as a human being, not just as a basketball player. Hopefully this group will look back in a few years, and not very many years, and we're achieving the kind of success that I came to Kansas to achieve, and we will do that. And those three kids can look back and say, 'Well, I was a part of that change, and I was a part of that process.'"