Kansas University women's basketball coach Marian Washington never expected to get much scoring from her bench.
But the Kansas reserves played below even Washington's modest expectations in Chicago when they were outscored 34-2 in the Jayhawks' 61-59 loss to Illinois on Saturday at the United Center.
In KU's only other loss, a 55-54 setback at Creighton, the bench was held scoreless.
Thus, Washington is putting an emphasis on bench play tonight when the No. 23 Jayhawks (6-2) play host to No. 14 Arizona (9-0). Tipoff is 7:05 p.m. at Allen Fieldhouse.
"We talked a lot about that," Washington said. "In both our losses, our bench has been outperformed. Coming into the season, I thought we'd have more depth, but we really need to do a better job. I've been very disappointed.
"It's not so much scoring. I felt like we had some players who had some experience who could keep us stable. I look for a lot of defense from our bench."
The bench became especially important Saturday, since three of KU's starters were hobbled. Point guard Jennifer Jackson made her return to the lineup after sitting two games for ankle surgery. And Lynn Pride and Suzi Raymant played but were slowed by bouts with the flu.
"I never like to talk about it, but we had a lot of people sick," Washington said. "They're back and feeling better. I'll be glad when I get everybody back healthy."
Heather Fletcher, meanwhile, would like to be the catalyst for making the Jayhawks' bench give healthy support to the starting cast. Fletcher, a 6-foot-3 senior center, is seventh on the team in minutes played (12.5 per game) and averages 3.5 rebounds and 1 point per game.
"I shouldn't say we're not producing," Fletcher said, "but we can't let there be a dip in the game when we come in. We need to pick up the girls."
Bench and starters alike will have to pick it up tonight against the Wildcats. Arizona averages a whopping 84.2 points per game.
"They're very, very good," Washington said. "They pressure you all over the floor. They have a lot of great athletes, and they're very, very quick. It's going to be interesting. They have a lot more quickness in their backcourt, but I'm interested to see how they match up with our forwards."
Two forwards lead Arizona in scoring. Tatum Brown, a 6-4 senior, leads the way with 17.4 points and 7.7 rebounds per game, while Elizabeth Pickney, a 6-4 sophomore, chips in 13.6 points and 5.1 rebounds a game.
"They have some really good forwards," Fletcher said. "And they find each other really well. If we do a good job inside, our guards will have to play hard outside. We just have to have a solid defensive game."
The Jayhawks, Fletcher said, are motivated by their loss to the Illini.
"The frustrating thing is we're three points from being 8-0," Fletcher said. "That's the most frustrating part. We're going to win (today). That's our reaction. That's how we want to respond."
Jackson hobbled: Jackson, the junior point guard who underwent surgery on her left ankle about two weeks ago, played 33 minutes on Saturday. Afterward, her ankle swelled.
"She was in a lot of pain," Washington said. "She went out to dinner, but she had to take a cab back. She's better (Monday)."
Shield still sitting: Robin Shield, who hasn't played yet as KU officials try to cut through the red tape surrounding her transfer from Haskell Indian Nations University, won't play tonight.
"It's a mess," Washington said. "In fact, we're operating like maybe she won't play at all this year."
WNBA scouts: Two WNBA head coaches will be in attendance at tonight's game. Seattle's Lin Dunn and Portland's Linda Hargrove, coaches of WNBA expansion teams, will be on hand for scouting purposes.
F -- Elizabeth Pickney, 6-4, Soph.
F -- Tatum Brown, 6-4, Sr.
G -- Julie Brase, 5-9, Soph.
G -- Monika Crank, 5-7, Sr.
G -- Felecity Willis, 5-7, Sr.
F -- Brooke Reves, 6-0, Jr.
F -- Lynn Pride, 6-2, Sr.
F -- Jaclyn Johnson, 6-1, Jr.
G -- Suzi Raymant, 5-11, Sr.
G -- Jennifer Jackson, 5-11, Jr.
Tipoff: 7:05 tonight, Allen Fieldhouse. TV: Tape delay at 10:30 tonight, cable channel 6.
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