Journal-World Sports Writer
Kansas University's women's basketball team will open its regular season toting the Big 12 banner / against a top 10 team / on national television.
Pressure? What pressure?
"It's one game," KU coach Marian Washington said. "We want to do well, but it's not going to be the end of the world."
No. 11 Kansas will meet 10th-ranked North Carolina (1-0) at 1 p.m. today in the first game of the State Farm Tip-Off Classic at Purdue's Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind. The game will be televised live on ESPN2, cable channel 46.
ESPN, cable channel 44, will air the second game in the twinbill that matches No. 1 Tennessee with No. 5 Purdue at 3:30 p.m.
The KU-UNC showdown should be a doozy.
"This is a great matchup," Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell said. "The teams are a lot alike with their athletic ability."
Washington tossed the bouquet right back.
"They have so many athletes," Washington said. "We're doing some things to force them to do some things they normally don't do. We want to keep five players in front of them. It would be an advantage for us to force them to make that extra pass before they shoot."
The Jayhawks pride themselves on their quickness, but even they are in awe of the Tar Heels' speed.
"If it comes down to just quickness, they beat us," KU senior guard-forward Shandy Robbins said. "We think we have a very quick team, and we do, but their guards have the edge on ours. They have the edge overall. But that will help us for the Big 12 season and the postseason. You don't get any better playing weak teams, and they don't get any better than North Carolina. We're excited about the challenge."
If Kansas is to win the challenge, it figures is must derail the Heels' up-tempo offense.
UNC is led by Chanel Wright, a 6-foot senior and the team's leading returning scorer. Wright averaged 13.9 points a game last season. She's complemented by Nikki Teasley, a 6-foot sophomore point guard who was named the ACC rookie of the year last season after leading the conference with 166 assists.
"They're all very athletic, and their point guard is really, really quick," KU senior center Nakia Sanford said. "The advantage for us is, they don't know how to slow down."
The Jayhawks think their final exhibition game, a 95-61 rout of Latvia-Club Riga, served as an appropriate tuneup.
Latvia, like UNC, isn't shy about hoisting three-pointers.
"Even when they're 22 feet out, they're still going to put it up," Washington said. "North Carolina is going to put it up. They shoot from anywhere. It all comes down to defense. We have to find a way to force them to take some shots they don't want to take. Offensively, I hope we'll be able to find a way to score."
Today's game will be a reunion of sorts for Wright and KU junior Lynn Pride. Those two competed for the U.S. on the 1998 Jones Cup team.
"I know Lynn Pride is an outstanding player," Hatchell said. "We know how great she is. As far as Chanel and Lynn Pride are concerned, they have a great respect for each other."
F -- Lynn Pride, 6-2, Jr.
F -- Jaclyn Johnson, 6-0, Soph.
C -- Nakia Sanford, 6-3, Sr.
G -- Suzi Raymant, 5-11, Sr.
G -- Jennifer Jackson, 5-10, Soph.
F -- Chanel Wright, 6-0, Sr.
F -- LaQuanda Barksdale, 5-11, Soph.
C -- Yanick Clay, 6-1, Sr.
G -- Nikki Teasley, 6-0, Soph.
G -- Juana Brown, 5-11, Soph.
Tipoff: 1 p.m. today, Mackey Arena, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind. Television: Cable channel 46.
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