The Kansas women's basketball regular season doesn't start until Nov. 24, but the Jayhawks already are thinking of the tough road ahead.
They will use tonight's game at 7 p.m. against the Slovakian National team at Allen Fieldhouse as a warm up for their first two regular-season games against DePaul and Purdue.
Both DePaul and Purdue have been ranked in preseason polls. In fact, five of the Jayhawks' nonconference foes are ranked in the Associated Press poll. Kansas coach Marian Washington said playing the first two games on the road added to the difficulty of producing two victories.
"It's not something you want to have year in and year out," she said of nationally ranked foes in consecutive games. "It's a tough first round. My players, however, are looking forward to it."
Kansas players have been practicing and scrimmaging against each other since Oct. 15, the first official day of practice. The Jayhawks are sick of the monotony.
"We've had some good work ethics out there," Washington said of KU practices. "But, it's time. We still have lots of things to do. But we're executing better than we were at this time a year ago."
Washington said she found out Wednesday that the Slovakian National team would be running a zone defense predominantly against the Jayhawks.
"I just got the zone offense in," she said. "But it will probably help us because I think DePaul will play a zone, so we'll be better prepared for them."
Kansas junior guard Tamecka Dixon said the team wanted to play against a new batch of players, ones which the Jayhawks weren't overly familiar with.
"We're tired of beating up on each other," she said. "It's good that it's another opponent we can take our frustrations out on. It's kind of a transition game. You kind of forget how it is to be playing in front of people and with the first-game jitters."
Dixon had arthroscopic surgery on her ankle about three weeks ago and has been rehabilitating it during practice. She said that the ankle was getting stronger, and she was performing to about 70 percent of her normal ability.
"I've got a long ways to go, but it just feels good to be practicing with them again," Dixon said. "I go as tolerated. Some things I can't do, but I go pretty hard right now."
Washington said she wasn't sure how tough the Slovakian National team would be. The Jayhawks have a 4-1 record in exhibition games dating back to 1991. Last year, Kansas opened the season with an 80-73 victory against Athletes in Action, but lost two weeks later to the Hungary National Team, 83-69.
"I hope (the Slovakians) play their best game against us because we're going to need it," Washington said. "We're going to need to be able to push hard. It will give us a chance to try some combinations and see where we are before we face DePaul and Purdue."