The formula for winning college basketball games is all about substance. In the women’s game, drawing crowds is largely about winning, but style also plays a big part because of the vast difference in entertainment value between exciting teams and dull ones.
Look for Allen Fieldhouse crowd counts to climb from Sunday’s figure (3,860) once word spreads throughout town about just how captivating a show sixth-year Kansas University coach Bonnie Henrickson’s best team puts on.
It’s not often at any level of basketball that a player drives the lane, whips a 20-foot, on-the-money pass behind her back to a shooter waiting in the corner. Angel Goodrich, KU’s no-look-passing, turnstile-spinning freshman point guard from Tahlequah, Okla., hit senior All-American candidate Danielle McCray with just such a gem, setting her up for a three-point shot.
McCray missed the shot — she made each of her other seven first-half attempts on her way to 27 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in a 106-80 victory against Oral Roberts — in part because the pass was so special.
“She passed it, and it was so nice a pass the crowd started yelling before I even shot it, so I just lost concentration,” McCray said. “I told Angel it probably would have been ESPN top 10 if I had made it.”
It was the best of many fancy deliveries from Goodrich, who had 10 points, seven assists and five turnovers in 23 minutes. The assist total doesn’t capture the extent to which she contributed to big scoring days from post players Aishah Sutherland (24 points) and Krysten Boogaard (19 points).
“I like the fast pace we’re playing,” Sutherland said. “When running in transition, I’m able to finish on over-the-top passes. Last year, we didn’t have a point guard who was able to pass like that.”
The speed and passing skills of Goodrich and her backup, junior-college transfer Rhea Codio, have enabled Henrickson to trust the team to play up-tempo basketball, whereas a year ago, the point guard tended to look over her shoulder for instructions from the coach, walk the ball up the floor and make the first pass of a set play.
“Our goal is to be able to run on a miss and a make,” Henrickson said. “We still want to play fast, that’s when we’re good, but we’re also a team that spends a lot of time in practice all week executing in a half-court game.”
Up-tempo basketball plays to Goodrich’s superb court vision and the speed of Sutherland and Boogaard, who run swiftly for post players, and to the open-court skills of quick small forward Sade Morris.
Oral Roberts prefers to play at a fast pace. Can KU keep the pedal to the metal against tougher foes?
“I think maybe against a bigger team that has a little more athleticism than we do at our three, four and fives, they might not be as successful at finishing easy shots, but they’re in condition, they pass well, I think they have the ingredients to do it,” Oral Roberts coach Jerry Finkbeiner said. “... It’s fun. The girls love it. Fans love it. So if you think you can do it, why not do it?”
Amen. At any pace, this easily will be Henrickson’s most exciting Kansas team, and when the crowds grow, so too will the excitement.