The Kansas University women's basketball team and Myjava Slovakia exchanged goodwill gifts before their exhibition game Wednesday night.
Over the next 40 minutes, they exchanged other things -- elbows, low blows, hacks and chops -- in a brutally physical exhibition that almost turned into an international incident.
But the Jayhawks took Myjava's best shot -- again and again -- and took advantage of 25 fouls and two technicals on the Slovakian visitors to claim a 76-64 victory at Allen Fieldhouse.
"We played a European team last year, and we played the Australians, and they were really physical," KU senior center Nakia Sanford said. "I'm used to physical play. But not cheap shots like that -- elbows to the neck, pulling your arm down on rebounds, throwing elbows, slapping you around on the rebound."
For proof, Sanford -- who collected 15 points and nine rebounds -- pointed to the ice bag on her left forearm.
"That's from that last layup," Sanford said. "When I was thrown to the ground, I almost lost it. It took all my self-control not to get back up and go after her, and it takes a lot to get me upset."
The teams combined for 37 personal fouls, 25 of which were whistled against Myjava. In addition, two Slovakians -- sparkplug point guard Marcela Kalistova, who tossed a ball at KU's Shandy Robbins, and Myjava coach Boris Zbirka -- were tacked up for technicals.
So, naturally, Kansas won it at the free throw line, converting 26 of 34 free throws to Myjava's five of 12.
"It was extremely physical," KU coach Marian Washington said. "That was something we weren't expecting. There was a lot of holding, a lot of bumping. I thought the team had to work through that, and they did."
But it obviously was a preseason exhibition. The Jayhawks, Sweet 16 participants a year ago, dominated early, hitting six of their first seven field goals and bolting to a 15-6 lead.
Myjava closed within two in the first half, but the Jayhawks held a comfortable 10-point lead, 35-25, at the half.
Slovakia took its only lead, 48-46, with 10:08 left in the second half, and was tied, 54-all, with 5:48 left, but the Jayhawks hit 11 of 13 free throws and five of nine field goals the rest of the way.
Four of KU's five starters reached double figures. Junior Lynn Pride led the way with 21 points. Suzi Raymant added 19 and Robbins, who started in place of Jaclyn Johnson, added 10.
Johnson, one of KU's five returning starters, did not deserve to start, Washington said.
"We're at the point where we feel we want to try to respond to those who work hard," Washington said. "We expect Jaclyn to step up on her consistency, and when she does, she'll see more time out there."
Kansas hit 47.9 percent of its shots. Junior Heather Fletcher hit all three of her field goals and finished with seven points, while Raymant, still limited by her surgically repaired left knee, hit six of 10 shots and had a team-best five assists.
"My leg was getting a little tired," Raymant said. "I'd say I'm about 85 percent. In the first half, I didn't think about my leg. Then in the second half I started feeling it."
Pride hit five of 10 field goals and 11 of 14 free throws to go with five rebounds, three assists, three turnovers, a blocked shot and four steals.
She said she, too, was troubled by the game's physical nature.
"I was more scared about people getting hurt," Pride said. "It's just an exhibition game. It was frustrating. A lot of it was unnecessary."
Just two of KU's four freshman played. Kristin Geoffroy and Selena Scott each played a grand total of 23 seconds.
"We didn't get a chance to play everyone we wanted to play," Washington said. "I wanted to get everyone on the floor."
KU will conclude its exhibition season next Wednesday against Latvia-Club Riga. Tipoff is 7 p.m. at Allen Fieldhouse.
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