Last time Kansas and Creighton met in women’s basketball, the Jayhawks received a boost from an unexpected source.
Back in mid-December in Omaha, Neb., Kansas survived, 59-58, in overtime as low-scoring Ivana Catic went 6-for-6 at the free-throw line, including a couple of crucial ones in overtime.
Catic, KU’s lone senior regular, is averaging only 2.3 points a game, primarily because she rarely shoots. Catic is, however, arguably the Jayhawks’ most important player because of her steadying influence.
“She’s been solid,” KU coach Bonnie Henrickson said. “Ivana hasn’t tried to do too much, and she understands her role.”
The 5-foot-8 native of Serbia did not start in that first meeting with the Bluejays, but will tonight when the two teams tangle in the WNIT.
Tipoff will be at 7 p.m. in Allen Fieldhouse.
The game will not be televised.
Kansas drew a first-round bye in the 48-team tournament, while Creighton advanced by trimming Cal-Riverside, 64-51, on Saturday night in the Omaha Civic Auditorium.
On the flip side, the Jayhawks haven’t played in nine days, or ever since they bowed to No. 1 seed Oklahoma in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Conference tournament in Oklahoma City.
“We had a good week of practice,” Henrickson said, “but by the time Thursday or Friday rolled around, we felt it was time to play. It was a long stretch.”
Henrickson added, however, that when the Jayhawks learned who they would play, they were rejuvenated during Sunday afternoon’s practice session.
Each team boasts a first-team all-conference player.
Danielle McCray, a 5-11 junior, leads the Jayhawks in scoring (20.3), rebounding (7.7), steals (45) and blocked shots (23). Creighton counters with Megan Neuvirth, also a 5-11 junior, who led the Missouri Valley Conference in rebounding (9.8) and steals (2.5) while averaging 12.5 points a game.
Notably, that first Creighton game wasn’t one of McCray’s best. She scored 16 points and captured seven boards, but missed 12 of 18 shot attempts, including her last 10.
Creighton’s leading scorer (13.6) is Chevelle Herring, a 5-4 guard who needs no introduction to the Jayhawks. Herring scored a career-high 31 points in the first meeting.
“She played a lot of one-on-one,” Henrickson said of Herring, “and we didn’t have an answer until we started trapping her late.”
Kelsey Woodard is the Bluejays’ other scoring threat. Woodard, who led the MVC in three-point goals, scores at a 12.6 clip.
Creighton isn’t bashful beyond the arc, averaging 18 treys a game. Neuvirth and Woodard combined for 45 points against Cal-Riverside while making nine of 14 three-pointers.
Tonight’s winner will advance to meet the winner of tonight’s Oklahoma State-Arkansas game in Fayetteville, Ark. The date and site won’t be known until later.