After the Baylor women’s basketball team capped an undefeated 2011-12 season with a national championship, Kansas University coach Bonnie Henrickson had one piece of advice for Baylor star Brittney Griner.
“I was all for her leaving early,” Henrickson said of the national player of the year.
Henrickson’s hope did not come true, and Griner elected to return to Baylor for her senior season. The dominant center will play her final game in Allen Fieldhouse at 1:30 p.m. today, when the top-ranked Bears take on No. 17 Kansas. With the game representing the final shot at the Bears at home, several KU seniors are hoping everything they’ve learned during previous match-ups with the Baylor beast will help them pull off the upset today.
“I think every team that gets multiple shots at them does that,” KU senior point guard Angel Goodrich said of piecing together information from previous match-ups to try to come up with the perfect game plan. “You just can’t go in there scared. They’re a great team, they have the best player in the nation, and they have great guards around her. They’re really good. But you just have to go in there and play your hardest.”
Henrickson said one of the biggest keys to competing with Baylor is for a team to stick to its identity. Sure, the game plan must be tweaked to account for Griner, who leads Baylor with 20.2 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game. But scrapping what you do altogether is a recipe for disaster, Henrickson said.
“There are some things that we’ve tried and that other people have tried, we all watch each other and go, ‘Well, that kind of worked,’ or, ‘Well, that didn’t work.’ So, with them, it’s really pick-your-poison and finding out what hurt you the most,” Henrickson said.
The Jayhawks enter today’s contest at 11-3 and 2-1 in Big 12 play. Kansas split back-to-back road games last week, picking up a tough one-point victory at West Virginia before falling at Oklahoma State, 76-59, in a game the Jayhawks never led. Although Henrickson said she could tell her team was excited about returning home, she was not ready to say the Jayhawks were catching Baylor at an opportune time.
“I don’t know that there’s ever a good time to get them, quite honestly,” Henrickson said.
And just because Henrickson had hoped never to face Griner again does not mean that she has anything other than positive things to say about the Bears’ 6-foot-8 center.
“I have tremendous respect for her,” Henrickson said. “Great young lady. She’s done tremendous things for women’s basketball, and she’s done tremendous things for our league, but the countdown to not ever having to play her again is on. We all have that clock.”