KU women’s dominant start ends in slim victory over Kansas City
photo by: Mike Gunnoe/Special to the Journal-World
Bouncing back from a road defeat at Penn State Monday, the Kansas women’s basketball team claimed its second win in three games to open the 2023-24 season, surviving an offensive downturn to beat Kansas City 70-61 at Municipal Auditorium Saturday afternoon.
Freshman S’Mya Nichols led the Jayhawks with 17 points on 6-for-10 shooting, as three of KU’s four senior starters also reached double digits: Taiyanna Jackson (12 points with 12 rebounds for a double-double), Holly Kersgieter (15 points, seven rebounds) and Wyvette Mayberry (13 points). The Roos’ junior guard Nariyah Simmons doubled Nichols’ team-high tally and went off for 34 points on 11-for-23 shooting, but no one else for Kansas City reached double digits.
Kansas began its interstate matchup in a dominant fashion, going on a 15-2 run to start the first quarter. The Jayhawks’ command continued through the entirety of the quarter, as they ended it holding a 23-8 lead. A balanced scoring approach led the Jayhawks to success in the beginning period, as all starters scored. In order to attain this, the Jayhawks also put up an impressive 71.4% field goal percentage in the quarter. Kersgieter led Kansas with five points after the quarter while Nichols got off to a quick start and scored four points of her own.
The second quarter featured a bit less action, as both teams experienced multiple minutes-long scoring droughts. Kansas’ starters remained consistently in the game, but bench players Danai Papadopoulou and Paris Gaines made their own contributions off the boards. After the first half, the Jayhawks had outrebounded Kansas City 25-11 and outshot the Roos with a 56.3% field goal percentage compared to their 27.4%. KU entered the break with a 42-20 lead.
But after a rather dominant first half, the Jayhawks struggled offensively in the third quarter, scoring only 16 points on 38.9% shooting. The Roos did not slow down, though, more than doubling their points total from the entire first half. Kersgieter and Nichols continued to lead Kansas in scoring through the third, as the Jayhawks’ spread offense from a year ago remained their primary plan in the first three games of the season. Despite the offensive and defensive struggles in the quarter, though, Kansas maintained a healthy 17-point lead going into the final period of the game.
The offensive inconsistencies continued for the Jayhawks, as they failed to score until nearly two minutes into the fourth, and its lead continued to shrink as the quarter went on. Nichols and Kersgieter, the Jayhawks’ main offensive contributors of the night, failed to keep up their scoring; Kersgieter took only two shots in the entire quarter, as Nichols scored only four points herself. This offensive performance was consistent across the squad. At one point, the Roos shrunk their deficit to seven by making it 64-57. The Jayhawks scored a mere 12 points in their final quarter of the game, squeaking out a 70-61 win against the Roos, who fell to 1-2.
Kansas will have a much taller test ahead of them in its next two games, moving away from mid-major Division I teams to travel to the Cayman Islands Classic. The Jayhawks will take on No. 9 Virginia Tech in the Caymans for their first game of the tournament on Friday at 4 p.m. before their matchup against No. 8 UConn next Saturday at 6:30 p.m.