NCAA return slipping away from KU women

Kansas University women’s basketball coach Bonnie Henrickson directs her team during practice Friday, March 22, 2013, in Boulder, Colo. The Jayhawks will play Colorado in an NCAA Tournament game approximately 5:40 p.m. today in Boulder.

Stuck in a season-long holding pattern, hovering around the .500 mark, Kansas University’s women’s basketball team needs a spectacular finish to the season in order to reach the NCAA Tournament for a third straight year.

After losing three of its last four games, KU sits at 12-14 overall and 5-9 in the Big 12 with just four regular-season dates left on the schedule.

If the Jayhawks want to sneak into the Big Dance this season, Kansas coach Bonnie Henrickson figures her team better find a way to win its next four — beginning with today’s 7 p.m. game at Oklahoma — and follow that with at least a run to the Big 12 Tournament title game.

“We’ve really dug ourselves a hole here,” the 10th-year KU coach said.

Not only have the Jayhawks lost more often this season than in the previous two, but their RPI has taken a hit in the process. According to, Kansas entered this week ranked 106th in the nation. Throw in the fact that the Big 12 is currently fourth among the nation’s conferences in terms of RPI, according to, and it’s easy to see why things are so bleak.

“We don’t help ourselves in that case,” Henrickson noted of the Big 12 falling behind the SEC, ACC and Big Ten. “Nothing against the league.”

After a two-point loss at Oklahoma State earlier this month dropped Kansas to 11-12, the KU coach said she and the players had a “brutally honest” conversation about where they stood and what they would have to do the rest of the season.

“Our backs have been against the wall here the last couple of weeks,” she said.

Since the talk, Kansas lost at home to Oklahoma, 81-71, beat TCU at home, 62-53, and fell last week at Iowa State, 72-69.

“The sense of urgency has been there. It’s gotta be more there, it’s gotta be magnified,” Henrickson said. “Everybody’s gotta try to do more.”

Kansas junior forward Chelsea Gardner leads the Big 12 with 11 double-doubles this season, and has scored in double figures each of the past 11 games. She averages 17.0 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks.

Senior guard CeCe Harper averages 10.0 points, 4.2 rebounds and 5.4 assists for the Jayhawks. Junior guard Natalie Knight averages 10.1 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists.

With a week off since their last game, Henrickson said the Jayhawks focused on defensive transition, half-court execution, defensive pressure and interior passing at practices the past few days.

“When we lose, there are some things that are consistent that we’ve got to clean up,” Henrickson said, “and I think we’re capable of. And the frustrating thing is we haven’t.”