When it comes to the Border War rivalry with Missouri, Kansas University women’s basketball coach Bonnie Henrickson is like many other KU coaches.
She may not spit fire like the late Don Fambrough used to and may not be asked about KU-MU as often as men’s basketball coach Bill Self, but she still paints the same pictures as those guys.
Today, when the Tigers and Jayhawks tangle at 1 p.m. at Allen Fieldhouse for what could be the final time in the long and storied history, Henrickson will look to lean on a little extra motivation for the home team.
“We tell ’em about (Quantrill’s) raid and the history, and we try to explain that when we go over there they’ll have people at the game who only go to one game a year and they pick that one because it’s us,” Henrickson said. “But since they’re leaving the league, we’ve got another little nugget to dangle out there this year.”
With the Tigers headed to the SEC later this year and no future match-ups between the two schools on the horizon, today’s showdown is big for both squads. For some players, such as senior Aishah Sutherland, today’s game will mark the end of a four-year war against Mizzou. Of course, with the regular season winding down, Sutherland faces games like that every time out.
“I’ve looked at every team that I’ve played lately as if this is the last time I’ll play them,” Sutherland said. “And I want to do well in my last game against them. But with this game, there’s a lot of history, and people want to bring up the story and get you emotionally into it.”
True as that may be, it’s still new to some Jayhawks. Take freshman guard Natalie Knight. Although she grew up in Olathe and was familiar with the KU-MU rivalry before ever setting foot on campus, she only has experienced the battle once, when the Jayhawks defeated MU, 72-63, in Columbia, Mo., on Jan. 15. Although Knight had only a little time to get into the rivalry, she learned enough to know she will miss it.
“It’s a little disappointing,” she said. “But TCU’s coming in next year, and there’s still going to be a lot of good teams in the Big 12. Yeah, we’re losing that competition, but we’re gaining a lot, too.”
As for today’s final chapter, Knight’s looking forward to that.
“It’s definitely exciting,” she said. “Especially since we’re playing them at home.”
Today’s game will mark the first of two Kansas-Missouri basketball match-ups scheduled for the next seven days.
The men’s teams will do battle at Allen Fieldhouse on Feb. 25, and Henrickson wants to be sure that her team sets the stage for a KU sweep.
“We talk about that and our responsibility to contribute to that,” she said. “We’ll get ’em first here, and then we’ve got a week for everybody to get fired up again and get it on the guys’ side, as well.”
Missouri enters the game at 10-14 overall and 0-13 in Big 12 play.
Kansas is 17-8 and 6-7 in the Big 12.
KU leads the all-time series, 44-37, including a 21-11 advantage in games played in Lawrence.