Archive for Wednesday, January 18, 2012

KU’s Henrickson on Big 12 play: Nail-biters might be the norm

January 18, 2012

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Check out the way conference play has started for the Kansas University women’s basketball team, and you easily will see why KU coach Bonnie Henrickson is thinking about petitioning the league to change its name.

“I’ve said a couple of times this year that we oughta rename ours the one-possession league,” Henrickson said of the Big 12 Conference. “The number of one-possession games there have been already in four games is phenomenal.”

Heading into tonight’s 7 p.m. showdown with Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Okla., the Jayhawks (14-2 overall, 3-1 in Big 12 play) have won three of their first four Big 12 games — their best start since the 1999-2000 season — including both road contests. Last Sunday, KU dominated Missouri, start to finish, in Columbia, Mo., to pick up its second road victory of the conference season. Should the Jayhawks come out on top tonight, they’ll win their third league road game for the first time in years. Kansas has not won more than two Big 12 games on the road in the past seven seasons, including one season with no road wins (2007-08) and two others (2008-09 and 2005-06) with just one.

Henrickson hardly has been surprised. Throughout the season, after an upset victory at Texas, a heartbreaking loss at home to Kansas State or a double-overtime nail-biter against Iowa State, Henrickson has emerged with the same message: Embrace the struggle.

So far, the Jayhawks have been able to do that, and they’ll look to keep it rolling tonight in a tough environment against a tough team.

“The depth is what’s different here,” said Henrickson, referring to how difficult road wins can be to corral. “In our league, there are no nights off. You’ve gotta play as well on the road as you have to play at home to get a win.”

Reaching road win No. 3 certainly will not be easy. Oklahoma State (10-3, 2-2) is unbeaten at home this season and has limited opponents to 30.7 percent shooting from the field to rank third in the country in field-goal-percentage defense.

KU’s improved defense has been a big reason for its hot start. The Jayhawks have held all 16 opponents to 50 percent shooting or less and are among the league leaders in steals.

“That’s been a point of emphasis for us all year,” Henrickson said of her team’s defensive success. “We felt like we had some pieces in place and some opportunities (to improve), especially on the defensive glass. That’s where we felt we missed some opportunities last season.”

The Jayhawks hold a 30-24 advantage in the all-time series with Oklahoma State, including a 12-10 edge in games played in Stillwater. KU won the teams’ lone meeting last season, 73-66 at OSU, and has won its last two games in Stillwater. Kansas is 13-9 during the Big 12 era versus the Cowgirls.

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