After two close exhibition victories, Kansas University women's basketball coach Marian Washington has her team where she wants it.
Washington said the tight preseason games against the Solna Vikings and Fort Hays State University provided important opposition for her young squad before its season opener against Texas-El Paso at 2:05 p.m. today at Allen Fieldhouse.
"I'm really pleased with where we are right now," Washington said. "I thought it was very good that we didn't play two teams we were able to get by easily. I thought both teams challenged us to a good extent. That was important to us, as a young club, to have to work through things."
The Miners won their season opener, 65-49, against the University of Denver on Friday in Denver. They will provide a different challenge to the Jayhawks with five international players, three of whom - forward Dragana Zoric and guards Vaida Zagurskyte and Kia Dowell - will likely start.
Washington said she expects UTEP to play an international style of basketball, focusing on passing, teamwork and solid shooting.
"When you bring international players in, there's a different rhythm to their game," Washington said.
"We expect that they'll play man all the way, they'll have an up-tempo style of play and they'll be pretty good-sized players."
Although each Jayhawk starter is as tall or taller than her Miners counterpart, UTEP has three other players 6-foot-1 or taller. Kansas has yet to face a team with that much height, but 6-2 forward Crystal Kemp said she welcomed the challenge.
"It's always good to know you can play someone more of your size," Kemp said. "It'll really get me ready for the Big 12 and bigger players in general. It's nice to start off facing bigger players, rather then all of them coming at you at the same time."
Along with a wealth of international players, UTEP has numerous Kansas ties. Coach Keitha Green posted a .774 winning percentage in five years at Independence Community College, and five Miners played at Kansas junior colleges.
The two teams also have another connection heading into their first-ever meeting. Kansas was 5-25 overall and 0-16 in the Big 12 last season, while UTEP was 3-25 overall and 1-17 in the Western Athletic Conference in Green's first season.
Despite the Miners' struggles last year, Washington said she's sure Green will have them prepared.
"She's not going to be doing anything other than trying to get that program to be contenders in that conference," Washington said. "She's hard-nosed in terms of player-to-player defense, she's relentless in terms of the up-tempo game."