The color pink figures to dominate the scene at Allen Fieldhouse at 7 tonight, when the Kansas University women’s basketball team follows up the men’s team’s afternoon matchup against Colorado with a Border War battle with Missouri.
In addition to being a rematch of an earlier meeting between the Jayhawks and Tigers, which MU won, 66-52 in late January, the contest will be known as the annual Jayhawks For A Cure “Pink Zone” game. The Jayhawks will wear pink uniforms and fans are encouraged to get into the act as well. Any fan wearing pink will be admitted for $3, and any fan with a men's basketball ticket from Saturday's KU-Colorado game will be admitted for free.
Henrickson said the dual role of supporting a great cause and rooting on the Jayhawks has inspired people to fill the Fieldhouse in recent years.
“Our numbers have been great,” Henrickson said. “We’ve had between 6,000 and 8,000 for this event in the past. There’s so much energy and passion in the building and then you throw in the fact that it’s Missouri. For all of the right reasons, we’re anticipating a great crowd.”
Although a large portion of tonight’s game — and the atmosphere surrounding it — will focus on raising awareness for cancer research, Henrickson said she thought her team would be ready to go.
“We’ve never had an issue of the cause itself being overwhelming and a distraction,” Henrickson said. “I know that in the years that we’ve participated in it, it allows the kids to play with even more of a purpose.”
As the statistics concerning those affected by cancer continue to climb, KU has proven that it is willing to do its part to help. Kansas Athletics will donate $1 for every person in attendance, and Henrickson will donate $1 for every KU student in attendance.
In addition, Centerplate will donate $1 for every jumbo popcorn sold at the game. All proceeds will benefit Lawrence Memorial Hospital Breast Center and the University of Kansas Hospital’s Cancer Center.
As for the game, the Jayhawks (16-9 overall, 3-8 in Big 12) enter this one on the heels of an 81-58 loss at Texas A&M last weekend. After losing five straight conference games in January, the Jayhawks are 2-2 in February, with both victories coming at home.
But those numbers don’t mean as much to Kansas now as the opportunity to erase the memories of last month’s loss at MU.
“We did all the things that you can’t do if you want to win on the road,” said Henrickson, when asked what went wrong in Columbia, Mo. “We turned it over, we gave up second-chance points, we didn’t finish plays, and, give them credit, they did.”
The Tigers (12-13, 4-7) enter tonight’s rematch still energized by last Wednesday’s 81-75 overtime victory against Oklahoma State. MU is led by senior guard RaeShara Brown, who averages 16.9 points and 6.2 rebounds per game to go along with 4.6 assists and 2.6 steals. Brown also leads MU in three-point goals with 41.
Junior forward Christine Flores ranks second on the team at 13.5 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, and senior forward Shakara Jones is third at 10.1 points and 6 rebounds.
KU is led by sophomore forward Carolyn Davis (18.1 ppg, 7.3 rpg), sophomore guard Monica Engelman (12.0 ppg, 40 percent three-point shooting) and the recent surge by sophomore point guard Angel Goodrich, who has averaged 9.3 points, 11.7 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 1.3 steals during her last three games.
Although the first KU-MU meeting took place only a little more than two weeks ago, Henrickson said she expected two improved teams to take the floor tonight.
“I believe we are,” Henrickson said. “I think our patience is better. From a defensive standpoint, we’re more committed to playing team defense and rotating together. Angel and her motor and the tempo that she’s demanded from herself and her teammates allows us to play where we’re at our best. So I think we are better. But I think they are, too.”