Kansas University's defense, ranked No. 1 in the country in points allowed per game, slipped a bit during the Jayhawks' recent women's basketball slump.
Marian Washington reminded her team of that fact before KU's 66-48 win over Colorado on Saturday afternoon at Allen Fieldhouse.
"We had a little pep talk. Coach reminded us we're ranked No. 1 in the country in defense," said Kansas forward Terrilyn Johnson. "It's something we should never, ever forget and something we should take pride in."
Johnson scored 10 points, grabbed nine rebounds and had a steal, helping Kansas bust a skid that saw the Jayhawks drop three of their past four games.
"We do take pride in our defense," Johnson said simply.
KU'S DEFENSE, which has allowed an average of 54.6 points a game, caged the Buffs. CU, 8-7 overall and 0-2 in the Big Eight compared to KU's 12-3, 1-1 mark, hit just nine of 31 first-half shots in falling behind 39-24 at halftime.
"It's an honor to be the No. 1 defense in the country," said KU center Marthea McCloud. She scored 12 points on five of eight shooting and had six boards as KU played both man-to-man and zone.
"Each game we've got to be consistent and play our defense. I thought it was very, very good today. We needed this kind of win."
McCloud scored five of KU's first six points as the Jayhawks grabbed a 6-0 lead.
KU expanded the lead to 10-2 on buckets by Kay Kay Hart and Tanya Bonham and upped the tally to 18-6 with 12:19 left in the half. At that point, the Buffs had hit just three of 17 shots.
"AT THE BEGINNING of our goal sheet, the No. 1 thing we wanted to do was play intense defense both the first and second half," said KU coach Washington. "It's the key to our being able to win a few more games."
Washington applauded Hart's work on CU guard Shelly Sheetz, who scored four points on one of six shooting. She also had six turnovers.
"I can't say enough about Kay Kay Hart," Washington said. "We had looked at footage of Colorado and saw some differences in their play against a zone. The zone didn't hurt us."
The Jayhawks, who led by as many as 17, saw their lead drop to seven in the second half. That's when Shannon Kite responded, burying a pair of three-pointers, to go with a Johnson bucket. The hoops, countered by one CU bucket, hiked KU's lead back to 13 at 48-35 with 14:15 left. The lead would reach 17 again shortly after.
"NO QUESTION Shannon Kite was a force," Washington said. "She's one of the finest three point shooters in the league."
Kite had suffered through an 0-for-10 night in a loss to Creighton and 1-for-five outing in Wednesday's Big Eight opening loss at Missouri.
"They knew I hadn't played in the first half and wanted me to prove I could hit the shot," said Kite, who hit three of five threes. "The coaches tell me not to put pressure on myself, just to relax and wait for the open shot."
In all, the Jayhawks hit 24 of 52 shots for 44.2 percent. The Buffs made 19 of 58 for 32.8 percent.
Washington downplayed her role in helping the Jayhawks erase their recent skid marks.
"I thought we had to discuss what had happened to us," said Washington. Her team was 10-0 before dropping three of four. "Sometimes we think about everything but reality. The reality of the last four games is we were injured. We talked about trusting each other again and doing the best we can whether it's a win or loss."
INDEED, KU has been banged up. Johnson missed the Creighton game with a bruised kidney, while Angela Aycock was out with a concussion. Both had little practice time before the MU game.
"You lose two starters, it's hard to say we're the same team. We must remind them we're 12-3. After the three losses, yhou'd have thought we were 3-12 the way we reacted," Washington said.
KU next faces Iowa State at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Allen.
Mindy Henry 4-8 2-4 10, Amy Mathern 2-6 0-1 4, Sherrice King 6-14 1-1 13, Missy Kraai 0-5 0-0 0, Shelly Sheetz 1-6 1-2 4, Jamillah Lang 5-15 4-4 14, Stephanie Mack 0-1 0-0 0, Jane Brinkman 1-1 1-2 3. Totals 19-58 9-14 48. KANSAS (66)
Tanya Bonham 3-10 0-0 6, Terrilyn Johnson 2-9 6-7 10, Marthea McCloud 5-8 2-3 12, Kay Kay Hart 2-5 3-4 7, Angela Aycock 4-4 4-8 12, Ericka Muncy 0-1 0-0 0, Jo Jo Witherspoon 1-2 0-0 2, Stacy Truitt 3-6 0-0 6, Danielle Shareef 0-1 0-0 0, Alana Slatter 0-0 2-2 2, Shannon Kite 3-6 0-0 9. Totals 23-52 17-24 66. Colorado
Three-point goals Colorado 1-5 (Sheetz 1-4, Kraai 0-1); Kansas 3-8 (Kite 3-5, Hart 0-2, Truitt 0-1). Assists Colorado 9 (Henry 3); Kansas 10 (Hart 5). Turnovers Colorado 16 (Sheetz 6); Kansas 14 (Johnson, Hart, Truitt 3); Blocks Colorado 1 (Kraai); Kansas 2 (Aycock 2). Steals Colorado 6 (Sheetz, Lang 2); Kansas 8 (Aycock, Kite 2). Total fouls Colorado 19, Kansas 17. Fouled out Henry, CU. A 1,500.