Maybe winning the next 500 games will be easier.
"It should be," Marian Washington said, grinning Saturday night after her 500th victory in 26 seasons as Kansas women's basketball coach.
Washington smiled a lot following the Jayhawks' 58-54 win over Oklahoma in Allen Fieldhouse.
She smiled when most of the crowd of 3,800 remained to applaud and cheer her afterward. She smiled when Chancellor Robert Hemenway congratulated her. And she smiled when KU athletics director Bob Frederick hugged her.
Mostly, though, Washington smiled when she was hugged and presented flowers by her players, and as she walked to her post-game media session with two clipped nets over her shoulders.
As she sat down in front of the media, she whipped off one of the nets and said, "I feel like waving it." So she did.
Everyone had been poised for No. 500 last Tuesday, but Iowa State spoiled the celebration, winning 55-52. Back into boxes went the T-shirts and banners. Into the freezer went the sheet cake. Hold the flowers, too.
"We finally got it," Washington said. "It's been an incredible night. This team really wanted to be part of this milestone."
Oklahoma came to town with a deceptive 13-10 record -- deceptive because the Sooners had been unbeaten in February, winners of five in a row.
"They upset Baylor the other night and they're playing with confidence," Washington said. "They gave us a great game. What I'm proud of is we found a way to win."
Not a pretty way, but an effective way.
On paper, junior Lynn Pride's 20 points and 11 rebounds were the big numbers, but it was Pride's lone blocked shot that may have doomed the Sooners.
With a little more than two minutes remaining and Kansas nursing a 55-54 lead, OU's LaNeishea Caufield stole a Brooke Reves pass and headed coast to coast for what appeared to be an easy layup.
Momentarily, however, the 6-foot-2 Pride swooped over the 5-9 Caufield and pinned her shot against the backboard.
"It got the crowd in the game and that helped us, and that's what counts," Pride said.
With 1:45 showing, Jaclyn Johnson's short jumper in the paint boosted the Jayhawks' lead to 57-54 and the fans remained hyped. KU's only other point down the stretch was a Pride free throw at :17.7, but it didn't matter.
Oklahoma, which starts three freshmen and a sophomore, was rattled enough to miss its last six shots -- including four three-pointers -- after a Caufield basket had knotted the count at 54-54 with 3:41 remaining.
Freshman point guard Stacy Dales also threw a pass into the mitts of Pride for her eighth and last turnover with 22 seconds left.
"She's great," Washington said of Pride, "but it took everybody."
Like Nakia Sanford, one of two seniors -- Shandy Robbins is the other -- who played for the last time in Allen Fieldhouse. Sanford had to sit the last 13 minutes of the first half after picking up her third foul, but she contributed eight points and four boards.
"That was very frustrating," Sanford said of her enforced pine time, "but it's fun watching us play, too."
For Washington, it was also fun ... now that the 500-pound gorilla has been tossed back into its cage.
"I think it's off their backs and I think they'll be relaxing now," Washington said.
Still, the Jayhawks can't afford to relax too much with trips scheduled to Oklahoma State next Wednesday and to Kansas State next Saturday.
-- Chuck Woodling's phone message number is 832-7147. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.