With the exception of one road loss last month, the Kansas University women’s basketball team made it through the nonconference portion of its schedule with flying colors.
But now the fun starts. And unless the Jayhawks (13-1) can figure out a way to get back to doing the things that helped them win 13 of their first 14 games, the Big 12 schedule isn’t going to be much fun at all.
“Before (winter) break, we felt like we really embraced our identity,” KU coach Bonnie Henrickson said. “We understood who we were as a team, offensively. Since we’ve been back, we’ve been more undisciplined. We have not executed as well, and I’m not sure exactly why.”
What Henrickson does know is that her squad needs to figure it out in a hurry, and she has a feeling that the start of Big 12 play — 7 tonight as KU hosts Texas Tech at Allen Fieldhouse — could get the Jayhawks going.
“I hope our blood pressure and our pulse improves,” Henrickson said. “That’s a bit of a question right now.”
Henrickson’s teams traditionally get off to good starts. In the last five years, Kansas has averaged 10 victories during nonconference play.
Winning games in the ultra-tough Big 12 has proven to be more difficult.
Under Henrickson, KU has not won more than six Big 12 contests in a single season.
That’s why getting off to a good start in the conference is so important tonight.
“We’ve gotta get back to who we were,” Henrickson said. “I don’t know why we lost that. But they’ll figure it out. We lost the rhythm and timing, and we gotta get that back offensively.”
Asked how she expected her team to do that, Henrickson pointed to being fundamentally sound in all areas.
“It’s the little things,” Henrickson said. “It’s about boxing out, rebounding. It’s about being who we need to be offensively. The best player makes the fewest bad plays. The best teams make the fewest number of bad plays. And we’ve just made a lot of bad plays for a team that’s really good.”
Last time out, the Jayhawks drubbed UMKC but did not play a great game on either end of the floor. The emphasis in practice this week has been on focusing for 40 minutes and executing in all aspects.
Texas Tech enters tonight’s game at 13-1, with its only loss coming at Penn State in early December.
The Red Raiders wrapped up non-conference play with a 73-36 victory against Houston Baptist last Monday.
Junior Kierra Mallard leads Tech in scoring at 13.7 points per game. She is supported by sophomore Casey Morris (10.6) and senior Teena Wickett (10.4).
Mallard also leads the team in rebounding (7.2 per game) and field-goal percentage (50.3). Sophomore Mary Bokenkamp is shooting a team-high 43.3 percent from three-point land, and Morris is the Red Raiders’ top free throw shooter at 78.8 percent.