Unscathed in the win column in its two exhibitions, Kansas University’s women’s basketball team wasn’t completely perfect in winning the preseason warm-ups by an average margin of 23.5 points. Far from it, in fact, according to coach Bonnie Henrickson.
While the coach has been pleased with some of the Jayhawks’ production, such as their ability to force turnovers (32 steals) and turn those into points (50 off turnovers), Henrickson said rebounding has been a huge disappointment in the games against Division II opponents.
“I love the turnover numbers, but the rebounding numbers are gonna make me get an ulcer,” Henrickson said following her team’s Sunday victory over Pittsburg State. “How you can force someone into 26 turnovers, and they still get five more shots than you (PSU attempted 63 field goals, KU had 58) is just absolutely the definition of just terrible work on the glass.”
The numbers back up the coach’s statement. In KU’s 68-43 victory over the Gorillas, PSU missed 45 shots, but grabbed 19 offensive rebounds. The Jayhawks, in contrast, had seven offensive rebounds on their 28 misses.
Kansas was outrebounded, 42-36, by Pittsburg State just four days after losing the battle of the boards, 39-38, against Emporia State. In the two victories, KU has been outscored 31-17 in second-chance points.
Henrickson said Sunday she had been barking at the players about rebounding all week long, and they had to clean up their work on the glass.
“I might need to bite, because my bark’s not working,” she said.
KU junior forward Carolyn Davis led the team with 14 rebounds in the two wins. She said the players are plenty aware that they have to do better on the glass. Davis was glad Kansas would have a week between its exhibition finale and its regular-season debut (2 p.m. Sunday at Allen Fieldhouse against Western Michigan) to work on it.
“It’s a big thing, and we have to address it,” said Davis, who averaged 7.4 rebounds a game last season, eighth-best in the Big 12. “We have to get better at it.”
The Jayhawks might have to do that without Davis in their season opener. It was announced Wednesday that Davis has a stress fracture in her left foot and is day-to-day.
Senior forward Aishah Sutherland, who had nine boards combined versus ESU and PSU, said the breakdowns are coming because the Jayhawks have been outworked in the two exhibitions.
“They know we can rebound, and they box us out,” Sutherland said.
KU’s eighth-year head coach said her players seem awfully confident most of the shots being hoisted will go in.
“When the ball’s up in the air, we stop working,” Henrickson said, “and we’ve got to continue to work on getting inside of people.”
Kansas was outrebounded by an average of 38.8-33 last year in Big 12 games, so the message, Henrickson said, is not new.
“The consequence is we’ll lose if we don’t rebound,” she said.
Bunny hopping to it
Kansas has five freshmen trying to get acclimated to the college game, and Henrickson said most first-year players come in concerned with scoring and making shots. It can be difficult, she added, for coaches to change that mind-set and get them more concerned with making basketball plays, such as getting to a loose ball or boxing out.
According to Henrickson, Bunny Williams, a 6-foot-1 forward out of Duncanville, Texas, can see that KU’s veterans are pretty good, and she has actively sought out a way to create her own niche by boxing out and getting on the floor.
“I think of that young group, she’s probably made the most progress of anybody,” Henrickson said.
In the two exhibitions, Williams had seven total rebounds, was 4-for-6 on field-goal attempts and made all four free-throw tries.
No Knight terrors
Freshman guard Natalie Knight started both exhibitions for KU and in 41 minutes was scoreless, going 0-for-7 from the floor.
However, Henrickson wasn’t worried about the 5-7 guard’s shooting, because “she doesn’t kill you on the offensive end.” Henrickson said Knight, who has passed out six assists, has kept Kansas in its offense and not forced the issue with her own shot attempts. As the only freshman in a starting unit that features three junior captains (Davis, Angel Goodrich and Monica Engelman) and a senior forward (Sutherland), Knight, her coach said, has been a facilitator.
“She’s not in there trying to take shots she can’t make,” Henrickson said.
Plus, the coach is confident the shots Knight attempts in the future will fall: “It’s not like she can’t shoot the ball,” she said.
Few minutes for Boyd
Henrickson wasn’t as satisfied with the play of another freshman, 6-1 guard Asia Boyd, a highly touted recruit.
Boyd played just seven minutes against PSU. Her coach said that in limited time Boyd “got beat a lot” defensively. Henrickson said the KU coaching staff is looking for more from the Detroit product.
“If you play six minutes, then do the best you can for six minutes,” Henrickson said. “Don’t ever get beat, and always box out, and be where you’re supposed to be defensively.”
After being held out of the lineup against ESU, sophomore guard Keena Mays returned against Pittsburg State, going 3-for-10 with six points, two rebounds and two assists.
Henrickson had benched the 5-7 guard for unsatisfactory work at practices. The coach said the best thing Mays did versus the Gorillas was push the ball in transition.
“She kind of settled and took some bad shots,” Henrickson said of Mays’ offensive production.
Defensively, Henrickson added, Mays needed to do a better job of containing.
“There shouldn’t be that disparity about how Angel can guard and how Keena can guard,” she said.