Named one of three captains for Kansas University’s women’s basketball team before the season began, junior Monica Engelman wasn’t a likely candidate to go through a slump in the nonconference part of the schedule.
The 5-foot-11 shooting guard averaged 12.1 points and shot 44 percent from the floor as a sophomore. She even opened her junior campaign for the Jayhawks (9-1) with two solid outings, averaging 14.5 points on 50-percent shooting.
What followed was a seven-game stretch in which Engelman never hit double-digit scoring, made 13 of her 36 field-goal attempts (36 percent) and lost her spot in the starting lineup.
In other words: a slump.
As KU plays a 7 p.m. home game tonight against Oral Roberts (7-4), it appears Engelman might be back on the right track. The San Antonio native returned to the starting lineup Saturday in a 77-52 Kansas home win over UMKC and scored 16 points on 6-for-10 shooting.
The slump must be over, right?
“I’m not all the way out of it,” Engelman said, “but I’m starting to feel more comfortable when I’m out there (on the court).”
Evidence that she hasn’t quite been her old self can be seen in her three-point numbers. Last season, Engelman made 47 shots from downtown. This season, through 10 games, she has just two three-pointers on seven tries.
Her coach, Bonnie Henrickson, said it was good to see Engelman get a little bounce back in her step against UMKC, as Jayhawks Angel Goodrich, Carolyn Davis and Aishah Sutherland continued to carry the team.
Henrickson said it will be up to Engelman, who showed greater confidence in her last game, to keep getting extra reps if she wants to see the slump’s complete demise.
“She shot herself into a funk; she needs to shoot herself out of a funk,” Henrickson said. “And we’re going to have to let her play through it.”
The eighth-year KU coach said it seemed odd talking about confidence with Engelman, because Henrickson considers the junior one of the best shooters she has recruited to Kansas. Henrickson said Engelman’s rhythm improved Saturday, and that was a welcome sign.
“We’re going to need the kid to score,” Henrickson said. “There’s not a person in that locker room that doesn’t believe that.”
The only complaint Henrickson had with Engelman’s most recent stat line was her six turnovers in 31 minutes — “She’s got to clean that up,” the coach said.
The good news for the Jayhawks is that Engelman has noticed a change in her game.
“I’m not sure exactly when I started feeling better, but I’m able to shoot more confidently without thinking about everything else,” she said. “I can play with my teammates outside or inside the paint easier, and I’m getting more open looks.”
Kansas has never lost to Oral Roberts in the teams’ 10 previous meetings. They haven’t played since Nov. 15, 2009, when KU lit up the Golden Eagles for a 106-80 victory. Three of the last four times KU has faced ORU, it has reached 100 points.