There are two ways of looking at the Kansas University women’s basketball team’s position as the No. 6 seed in this week’s Big 12 tournament, which opened Wednesday and continues today at Municipal Auditorium.
In the eyes of some, the Jayhawks, who sit precariously on the bubble for next week’s NCAA Tournament, could have benefited from the chance to pick up an extra victory against a lower-seeded team during Wednesday’s opening round.
Don’t put KU coach Bonnie Henrickson in that camp.
“I wouldn’t say I’d prefer that,” she said. “I wouldn’t have preferred to lose (Sunday at OU) for that to happen.”
By topping the Sooners last weekend in Norman, Okla., Henrickson’s Jayhawks earned the No. 6 seed and a first-round bye. Their reward? A date with No. 3 seed Texas A&M at 7:30 tonight at Municipal Auditorium. The Aggies enter the tourney ranked 22nd in the country.
Then again, the opportunity to take on the Aggies presents the Jayhawks (19-11 overall, 8-10 Big 12) with their best shot at making one final statement to the tournament selection committee. That’s the way Henrickson prefers to view it.
“It’s (a chance to get win) No. 20, it’s a quality win against a high RPI and a ranked team on a neutral floor, so another great opportunity has arisen,” she said.
In order to turn that opportunity into something more, Henrickson said her team had to understand how important each postseason possession could be.
“We’ve gotta take care of the ball,” Henrickson said.
In two games against A&M this season — both 11-point losses — the Jayhawks turned it over 23 and 20 times. Not only did the turnovers lead to empty possessions for the Jayhawks, but they often led to easy layups for the Aggies as well.
“There is no scout-team defense for that,” Henrickson said. “They’re gonna make those.”
One other major difference for the Jayhawks this time around is that they’ll be playing without junior Carolyn Davis, an All-Big 12 first-team selection who was injured in mid-February and will miss the rest of the season. In upperclassmen Adaora Elonu (6-1 senior) and Kelsey Bone (6-4 junior), the Aggies (20-9, 11-7) enjoy an advantage in the post on most nights. With Davis out of the lineup, KU’s performance in the paint on both ends of the floor will take on greater importance in a game the Jayhawks are treating as a do-or-die scenario.
“I think we have to win this one,” senior Aishah Sutherland said. “It’s a real important game.”
Added Henrickson: “Our mind-set is to go in there determined to beat Texas A&M and take control of our situation. We’ve done a lot of good things to build a résumé, but I think the most important thing is for us to go beat Texas A&M. And then if you’re gonna win one, you might as well win two.”
Kansas has lost 10 straight to A&M overall, and the teams have never met in the Big 12 tournament.
KANSAS (19-11, 8-10)
G — Angel Goodrich, 5-4, jr.
G — Natalie Knight, 5-7, fr.
G — CeCe Harper, 5-8, soph.
F — Chelsea Gardner, 6-3, fr.
F — Aishah Sutherland, 6-2, sr.
TEXAS A&M (20-9, 11-7)
G — Adrienne Pratcher, 5-7, jr.
G — Tyra White, 6-0, sr.
G — Sydney Carter, 5-6, sr.
F — Adaora Elonu, 6-1, sr.
C — Kelsey Bone, 6-4, jr.