Kansas bests Wichita State as Jackson returns, Nichols posts another career high
photo by: Mike Gunnoe/Special to the Journal-World
Kansas ended its intrastate matchup at Wichita State with a comfortable 76-56 victory on Sunday, helped by the return of its ever-helpful center Taiyanna Jackson.
The Jayhawks played much more comfortably with Jackson’s presence as S’Mya Nichols once again took over offensively to push her team to a second-straight win. Nichols led the Jayhawks with a new career-high 23 points after getting a previous career-high 20 points in Wednesday’s matchup against Houston Christian.
Kansas’ defense returned to form with Jackson back in the post, as the Jayhawks’ returning four starters got the offense going in the first quarter against Wichita State.
The core four had the first 14 points of the game for Kansas, while the defense showed out, holding the Shockers to a 38.5% field goal percentage in the first period. Even with an improved defensive showing and a familiar rhythm with the return of Jackson, the Jayhawks only led 17-14 going into the second.
Coming off a career game, Nichols stood out in the second quarter with seven points, helping Kansas to keep its lead. Things got close a few times in the quarter, as twice the Shockers narrowed the lead to a single score, but Nichols and Skyler Gill kept consistency in the Jayhawk offense to go into halftime with their second-largest lead of the game, up 35-27.
Nichols led Kansas with 10 first-half points, while Wyvette Mayberry had eight of her own. Jackson’s return to the court included three blocks in the first half, while Ryan Cobbins led with four assists coming off the bench.
In the third quarter, it was Zakiyah Franklin, Kansas’ leading scorer last year, who stepped up to keep growing the lead. The Jayhawks grabbed their largest margin of the game as Franklin sank a 3 off a steal by Cobbins to make it 51-29. This possession also capped off a 16-2 Kansas run to open the second half and inch the Jayhawks closer to a dominant win.
Jackson and Franklin ran an effective two-man game for the remainder of the quarter before it ended on a two-minute scoring drought from both teams, as the Jayhawks went into the final period up 56-38.
Kansas’ dominant second half continued in the fourth quarter, as Nichols added nine more points to reset her career high. After leading by double digits for the entirety of the quarter, the Jayhawks found themselves up by only nine in the midst of a seven-point Wichita State run. Kansas responded, though, going on an 11-point run of its own to end the game with a comfortable 76-56 win.
The in-state out-of-conference win brings the Jayhawks to above .500 for the first time in three weeks and completes the first back-to-back wins in their season. With two games left before conference play, Kansas has found a rhythm with Nichols stepping up the past two games, while Jackson’s return and connection with Franklin continues to provide the offense that it did last year.
The Jayhawks will look to continue this winning streak on Saturday at 4 p.m. against Central Arkansas at Allen Fieldhouse.