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Archive for Tuesday, February 16, 1999

THE BIG 12.

February 16, 1999

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Angie Halbleib had a hand in Marian Washington's 400th victory as Kansas University's women's basketball coach.

Halbleib would love to lend a voice to Washington's 500th.

Halbleib, KU's all-time leading three-point shooter, does the radio color commentary for the Jayhawks' women's games, so she'll be courtside tonight when Washington tries to get victory No. 500.

Kansas, ranked No. 21 in the latest AP poll, will play host to No. 19 Iowa State tonight. Tipoff is 7:05 p.m. at Allen Fieldhouse.

"I'd love to be playing in it," Halbleib said. "Just to be a part of her 400th was pretty incredible. The fact that she's coached 500 games is impressive, much less won 500. I don't know that I've even played in 500 games."

Halbleib was instrumental in Washington's 400th victory. Back on Jan. 2, 1995, Kansas edged Houston, 99-98, at UH. Halbleib hit the deciding free throws with six seconds left.

"We were down one," Halbleib said, "and we had the ball. I set a pick for someone and I fell down. I faked that the girl ran over me. I fell over and they called it."

Coincidentally, Washington's last two century-mark milestones were one-point victories on the road. Win No. 300 came Feb. 14, 1990, at Missouri, and the Jayhawks don't want history to threepeat itself.

"She deserves it, and she deserves to get it at home," KU senior center Nakia Sanford said. "It's an awesome accomplishment."

"We really want it for coach," added junior guard-forward Lynn Pride, "and we really want her to get it at home. It's exciting to be a part of it."

Washington, who has won more games than all but 10 active coaches and has coached more games than all but five active coaches, isn't so sure.

"It will be nice," said Washington, who will carry a 499-273 record over 25-plus seasons into tonight's game. "But I'll be glad to get it over with."

Washington insists another milestone -- Kansas' 20th victory this season -- is more important that her 500th. Both should coincide, since the Jayhawks will carry a 19-6 overall record (9-3 Big 12) into the ISU game.

"It's kind of funny," Washington said. "I think more about 20 for them, but they're thinking about 500 for me."

In fact, Washington is a little uncomfortable having the spotlight shine more on her and less on her team. Such was the case last year, too, when Washington's face was plastered on the media guide and schedule cards and even a billboard or two, touting her 25th season with the team.

"I really don't think about it much," she said. "I really get caught up in what I think is important. I really just try to keep us getting better, to better position ourselves to get into the NCAA Tournament. That's why No. 20 for them means so much more than No. 500 for me.

"If I'm fortunate enough to get my 500th, that's just a wonderful tribute not so much to some of the things I've been able to do here, but more to the players who came to play for me."

If Washington is to get her 500th tonight, the Jayhawks will have to find a way to shut down ISU and its potent three-point shooting attack. The Cyclones beat Kansas, 70-58, back on Jan. 9 in Ames, Iowa. That loss snapped a nine-game KU winning streak.

"We're just trying to figure out what we might do defensively to keep them from knocking in so many threes," Washington said. "This will be one of our hardest challenges. They have such outstanding shooters, and they can really spread your defense. The other day they had 16 threes, so we'll really need to play good defense."

The Cyclones, curiously, figure into another historic coincidence. Kansas beat ISU for Washington's 100th win back in 1978, and ISU again was the victim for her 200th in 1985.

The winner of tonight's game will own sole possession of second in the Big 12 standings. Iowa State enters 17-5 and 9-3.

"Everything's coming together at just the right time," Halbleib said. "It's coach's 500th, second-place in the Big 12 and the chance to avenge a loss. They shouldn't need any other extra motivation. You can be overexcited, but I'm not worried about that. If you need any extra motivation to play in this game, there's something wrong."

Kansas will play host to Oklahoma on Saturday before ending the regular season with road games at Oklahoma State and Kansas State.

-- Andrew Hartsock's phone number is 832-7216. His e-mail address is ahartsock@ljworld.com.

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