Marian Washington doesn't want to get caught up in the semantics, but the Kansas University women's basketball team is not in a slump.
Yes, the Jayhawks fell out of the poll for the first time this season. Yes, Kansas has played .500 ball in the conference, and, yes, KU has lost its last two and three of its last four.
But a slump?
"I guess you could call it that," Washington said, "but I think it's better described as searching. We're trying to find out who we really are, and hopefully we'll solve that soon."
Mired in an identity crisis, then, the Jayhawks (13-6 overall, 3-3 Big 12) will play host to No. 6 Texas Tech (17-1, 6-0) today. Tipoff is 3:05 p.m. at Allen Fieldhouse, with a live telecast available locally on cable channel 45.
In the offseason, Washington took a look at today's TV matchup and thought the Fox viewers could be in for a treat. Then the Jayhawks lost their best outside shooter, Suzi Raymant, and promising sophomore center Nikki White for the season to knee injuries, and Washington envisioned the couch potatoes reaching for their remote controls.
"Last year, looking at it in terms of who would be on each other's teams, I thought it would be an exciting game," Washington said of the rematch of last year's Big 12 tournament championship game, which Tech won, 71-53. "But not having Suzi and Nikki really takes some threats away from us. But we still have to play the game and get the exposure we all like to have."
Today's game will be a matchup of two of the league's top players. Kansas' entry is Lynn Pride, a 6-foot-2 junior guard-forward who ranks fifth in the league with 18.7 points per game. Tech counters with Angie Braziel, a 6-3 senior center who leads the league with 20.2 points per game. In league-only games, Pride ranks second (22.2 ppg) and Braziel third (21.2).
But unlike Pride, Braziel has plenty of all-star-caliber help. Point guard Melinda Schumucker leads the Big 12 in assist-turnover ration and ranks third in assists, while Rene Hanebutt leads the conference in three-pointers made and ranks third in three-point percentage.
"They do things differently with (Braziel) than we do with Lynn," Washington said. "We have Lynn do a lot of things for us. Texas Tech has more balance. They have an outside attack. We're not as strong outside. Strategically, opponents don't have to play out on us. They're going to give us some shots we don't necessarily want to take."
If Kansas is to make Braziel take some shots she doesn't want to take, Nakia Sanford will have to rise to the challenge. Sanford, KU's 6-3 senior, will be charged with stopping Braziel.
"My post defense has been bad lately," Sanford said. "I've been letting some mediocre post people do some things, and now I have to play against one of the best posts in the conference. It should help me concentrate and keep focused."
Also on the line today is KU's 17-game homecourt winning streak, a sizz that dates back to the start of last season.
"That means a lot," Sanford said. "This season, we've been losing on the road, so we know we have to take care of our home. That's where we should always get our wins. That's pride. We have the losing streak, our homecourt winning streak, it's Texas Tech ... there should be a lot of emotion we carry into this game."
Kansas will hit the road again Wednesday when it travels to Texas.
TEXAS TECH (17-1, 6-0)
F -- Keitha Dickerson, 6-0, Jr.
F -- Rene Hanebutt, 5-8, Sr.
C -- Angie Braziel, 6-3, Sr.
G -- Melinda Schumucker, 5-9, Jr.
G -- Julie Lake, 5-9, Sr.
KANSAS (13-5, 3-5)
F -- Lynn Pride, 6-2, Jr.
F -- Jaclyn Johnson, 6-1, Soph.
C -- Nakia Sanford, 6-3, Sr.
G -- Brooke Reves, 6-0, Soph.
G -- Jennifer Jackson, 5-10, Soph.
Tipoff: 3:05 p.m., Allen Fieldhouse. Live TV: Cable channel 45.
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