The last time they met, in early January, the Kansas University women’s basketball team knocked off then-No. 23 Texas in Austin for its first road victory against a ranked team since 2000 and moved to 12-1 overall and 1-0 in Big 12 play.
Despite owning a 30-20 halftime advantage and leading by as much as 23 points in the second half, the Jayhawks watched the Longhorns whittle their lead down to two, 69-67, with 15 seconds to play.
At the time, some believed that if the game had been just a couple of minutes longer, Texas, with all that momentum and the home floor, would have completed the comeback. Instead, the Longhorns will have to settle for a shot at revenge tonight when they face Kansas at 7 p.m. at Allen Fieldhouse.
Both teams enter tonight’s game with a handful of problems. The Jayhawks (16-6 overall, 5-5 Big 12) have lost four of their last five games and turned a 4-1 conference start into a 5-5 grind that has seen more bad than good of late. The Longhorns (13-9, 3-7) also have struggled during recent weeks, dropping three straight to Iowa State, Kansas State and Texas Tech.
“I think both teams are desperate, for lack of a better word,” KU coach Bonnie Henrickson said. “We’ve both lost and are on a skid here and are both looking to try to get it right.”
While many of the Jayhawks’ recent losses have come partly because of the opponent and partly because of KU beating itself with silly mistakes and a lack of focus, the Longhorns seem to have struggled because of injuries.
Most nights, the Jayhawks view the presence of junior forward Carolyn Davis, who averages 18 points, six rebounds and 61 percent shooting, as their biggest advantage. However, against Texas, it could be KU’s backcourt that gives Kansas a leg up. Of the eight guards on UT coach Gail Goestenkors’ roster, only three will be available against KU tonight.
“When you don’t have any subs for your guards, it leaves little room for error,” Goestenkors said. “That’s been the biggest issue off the court. On the court, it’s been a number of things, but here recently, it’s been the turnovers.”
In the last meeting between these two, KU forced 18 UT turnovers and shot 57 percent from the floor, including 50 percent from three-point land. Those numbers allowed KU to build the big lead and were particularly pleasing to Henrickson.
“We handled multiple different defenses from them,” Henrickson said. “And they were really aggressive with us.”
Don’t expect the same strategy tonight. Because of her roster limitations, Goestenkors said she would look to play at a tempo that’s slower than normal for most of her teams.
“When you are short-handed, you want to spend as much time as you can on the offensive end,” she said.
Whether that turns out to be what happens or not, Henrickson is preparing for the Longhorns she is used to seeing. That means tightening up the turnovers and focusing on transition basketball — both on offense and defense.
“Transition for both teams is really, really critical,” Henrickson said. “They may be limited depth-wise on the perimeter, but those guys are just so quick, and they’re as good as anybody in the league in transition.”