For a couple of weeks back in January, the Kansas University women’s basketball team was beginning to wonder if it ever would wind up on the winning side of a game again.
After racing out to a 13-1 nonconference record and splitting the first two Big 12 games of the season, the Jayhawks (16-8 overall, 3-7 Big 12) dropped five in a row and were reeling.
February has been much kinder to the Jayhawks, winners of two of their last three games, including last Wednesday’s 86-85, overtime victory against No. 22 Iowa State at home.
Although the good vibes are starting to flow again, the Jayhawks are moving forward with a valuable lesson in mind.
“It’s behind us, but we can’t forget about it,” sophomore guard Monica Engelman said. “We can’t forget all the stuff that we did or didn’t do that got us in that position. We know how it feels and we have to make sure that when we start doing that stuff, we don’t let it happen and we push ourselves to get where we need to go.”
These days, that destination is the win column. With just six conference games remaining before the Big 12 tournament — including tonight’s 7 p.m. battle at No. 6 Texas A&M — the Jayhawks are fighting every night to improve their seed and position themselves to make a run in the postseason. In order to do that, they’re forced to focus on what went wrong during their losing skid and find ways to fix it. According to their coach, they’re getting there.
“I think we’ve played with a lot of confidence (lately),” KU coach Bonnie Henrickson said. “As we’ve gone through this stretch, it’s all about, ‘Here’s what we’re doing really well and now let’s work on and fix these little things. (After) every loss, we’ve focused on what we’ve done well but if we can fix some things we’re going to have a chance. The kids have responded. And when you’re going through a stretch when you’re struggling to win that’s the approach you have to take.”
Tonight’s game figures to be KU’s toughest test since welcoming top-ranked Baylor to town in mid-January. The Aggies enter at 20-2 overall, 8-1 in conference play, and are 9-1 at home this season, including a 3-1 home mark in Big 12 games. Their only losses of the season came at No. 5 Duke and at home against No. 1 Baylor. Both setbacks were by three points.
Senior forward Danielle Adams leads A&M’s attack, averaging 22.9 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. Adams’ supporting cast is not far behind her, as juniors Tyra White (13.7) and Sydney Carter (10.2) also average in double figures.
A big part of the Aggies’ success comes from their defense, which forces opponents into 23 turnovers and swipes 11 steals per game.
As a team, Kansas averages 16 turnovers per contest, but has seen that number drop in the past couple of weeks thanks to the stellar play of sophomore point guard Angel Goodrich, who has controlled the pace and averaged eight points and 12 assists per game during the past three outings.
A&M leads the overall series between these two programs, 8-7, but Kansas leads 4-3 all-time in games played in College Station. The Jayhawks were unbeaten in four tries at Reed Arena but have lost three straight at the Aggies’ home gym. Overall, Kansas has lost seven straight in the series, including last year’s 69-45 loss in Lawrence.