Kansas University junior forward Tania Jackson found out a few hours before the Jayhawks’ 64-58 victory over Wake Forest on Sunday at Allen Fieldhouse that she would start her first game in more than a year.
KU women’s basketball coach Bonnie Henrickson said the 6-foot-2 junior from Lawrence High took over sophomore Bunny Wiliams’ starting spot because the coach could count on Jackson.
“If you want to start and you want to play, it’s about production,” Henrickson said. “She’s practiced well, and typically when you’ve practiced right, you play right.”
After Jackson contributed 11 points and nine rebounds in KU’s victory over Wake Forest, which followed her 12 points and career-high 13 rebounds off the bench against Southeast Missouri State, Jackson is slated to start her second straight game today against Alabama A&M — 7 p.m. tipoff at Allen Fieldhouse. A live telecast is available on Knology Cable channels 6 and 206.
In her first start since the 2011-12 season opener, Jackson knocked down her first jumper, went 3-for-7 from the floor and made five of her six free throws. While the Jayhawks (3-0) have only converted 36 percent of their field-goal attempts this season, Jackson (40 percent) and senior forward Carolyn Davis (69 percent) have been more effective with their chances.
Davis, who scored 22 points against Wake, said she likes playing alongside the hard-working Jackson.
“She forces the other post to guard her, and if they don’t and they come double me, then I know that I can find her,” Davis said, “and at the same time she can space out to the (three-point line), and we can get the ball to her there. She’s played awesome these last two games, and if she continues to play that way, we’re gonna be a great team.”
Though happy to pair with Davis in the frontcourt, Jackson said the No. 22 Jayhawks need to find ways to produce when Davis has to go to the bench (her minutes are limited after offseason left-knee surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament). Jackson said KU settled for jump shots too often against Wake and didn’t try to get the ball inside when Davis wasn’t available.
“I think sometimes when Carolyn leaves, we’re just kind of like, ‘Oh, what do we do now?’ We kind of just get stuck,” Jackson said. “And we just need to work on playing through that and finding opportunities elsewhere.”
Only Davis (19.7 points) and senior point guard Angel Goodrich (12.3) average double figures for Kansas. Jackson averages 9.7, sophomore guard Natalie Knight has chipped in 7.7 and senior guard Monica Engelman (shooting 29 percent) has scored just 5.3 a game.
The Southwestern Athletic Conference’s Alabama A&M (1-2) enters the post-Thanksgiving game coming off double-digit losses to UAB and Auburn.
A KU victory over the Bulldogs in the first meeting between the two programs would give Henrickson the 300th win of her coaching career. The ninth-year Kansas coach is 141-121 leading the Jayhawks and went 158-62 at Virginia Tech.