Five days ago, Kansas University's women's basketball team was busy polishing off its nonconference season with a sparkling 11-2 record and a come-from-behind victory against Xavier on the road.
No doubt players were pleased already to have matched KU's victory total from last season's 11-20 team.
But KU coach Bonnie Henrickson knows the luster won't last long. A more difficult road lies ahead, and it starts today with a home game against No. 25 Oklahoma State at 7 p.m. in Allen Fieldhouse, the Big 12 opener for both teams.
"Every year I get asked, 'How do you feel about having to open up against so and so?'" Henrickson said of beginning Big 12 play. "The truth is, they're all tough."
So tough is the Big 12 that eight of the 12 teams in the conference are 11-2 or better, and every team has a winning record.
That makes winning at home - where KU is 8-0 this season - even more important to hold serve in conference play.
In order to do that against the Cowgirls (12-1), the Jayhawks will need to contain 5-foot-5 sophomore point guard Andrea Riley, whom Henrickson called "one of the best point guards in the country." Riley, named the Big 12 freshman of the year last season, is averaging a league-leading 20.5 points per game despite playing only 27.8 minutes.
The Cowgirls rank second in the country in scoring offense at 85 points per game and force 24 turnovers a game, so Henrickson said limiting OSU's chances would be key.
"We've got to take care of the basketball," Henrickson said. "They're obviously one of the most potent offenses we've seen. They're in a place where we're trying to get to."
KU counters with sophomore Danielle McCray, who continues to lead the team in scoring at 16.8 points per game. She and sophomore Sade Morris (12.3 ppg) are the only Jayhawks scoring in double figures.
"I think it's important for us to build on the momentum from a big win against Xavier," Henrickson said. "To a player, we're excited to start conference play."