Manhattan Kansas University’s women’s basketball team heads into the Sunflower Showdown as the favorite, for a change, but the Jayhawks won’t take a full contingent to the Little Apple.
The Jayhawks (13-6 overall, 4-4 Big 12) snapped a four-game losing skid to KSU with a 72-63 victory over the Wildcats on Jan. 2 in Allen Fieldhouse and at 2 p.m. today at Bramlage Coliseum will try to sweep KSU for the first time since 2000-01.
But they’ll do so without sophomore starter Natalie Knight, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee during KU’s come-from-behind victory over Iowa State on Wednesday. She is expected to miss the rest of the season.
Junior CeCe Harper is slated to start in Knight’s place.
Despite the loss of their teammate — Knight averaged 8.3 points and ranks second on the team in assists (56), steals (34) and minutes played (565) — the Jayhawks were emboldened by their overtime victory over ISU and enthused at a chance to sweep their state rivals.
“We’re gonna go in super-confident and go in thinking we can sweep them for the first time in years,” KU senior forward Carolyn Davis said. “So it’s one of those things where, knowing that you beat them once, it just makes you more confident that you can beat them again.”
Doing so certainly will not be easy. Despite being down compared to what they’re used to, the Wildcats remain a tough out, particularly at home, where they have won 11 straight over the Jayhawks.
One of the biggest reasons for the recent success has been the play of senior guard Brittany Chambers.
KU did a wonderful job defending Chambers in Lawrence, limiting the All-America candidate to just 15 points on 6-of-14 shooting.
“She’s a great player,” Davis said. “She’s been great since she’s gotten there. She can hit tough shots, and she spreads your defense out. You have to guard her all the way out past three, past NBA range. She works, works and works the whole offensive possession and really challenges your team.”
Davis said one of the biggest factors in today’s match-up would be which team can impose its will on the other. The Jayhawks, with a heavy post presence in Davis and Chelsea Gardner, would like to pound the ball inside and do damage in close. The Wildcats’ smaller, quicker lineup would like to see the game played on the perimeter.
“It’s gonna be who can take advantage of their advantage,” Davis said. “They’re gonna try to take us off the dribble, they’re gonna try to hit threes, and we’re gonna try to beat ’em up inside. If we can contain them and beat ’em up inside, then we’ll come out on top. But we have to be able to buckle down and guard them on the perimeter.”
KANSAS (13-6, 4-4)
G - Angel Goodrich, 5-4, sr.
G - CeCe Harper, 5-8, jr.
G - Monica Engelman, 5-11, sr.
F - Chelsea Gardner, 6-3, soph.
F - Carolyn Davis, 6-3, sr.
KANSAS STATE (12-8, 3-5)
G – Haley Texada, 5-7, soph.
G – Brittany Chamber, 5-8, sr.
G – Mariah White, 5-7, sr.
G – Bri Craig, 5-10, fr.
F – Chantay Caron, 5-11, jr.