Late comeback falls short as Kansas loses 71-63 to No. 6 Connecticut

photo by: Mike Gunnoe/Special to the Journal-World

Kansas center Taiyanna Jackson goes up for a layup against Northwestern State Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023, in Lawrence.

Kansas dropped another close contest against a top-10 team in the nation in its matchup versus No. 6 Connecticut, losing 71-63 after a late comeback came up short.

Star center Taiyanna Jackson struggled with foul trouble once again, but still recorded her third double-double of the season and led the team in scoring before fouling out late in the game. The loss put the Jayhawks at under .500 on the season, as they fell to 2-3.

The first quarter of Kansas’ final game of the Cayman Islands Classic started with an infrequent trade-off of buckets. Kansas head coach Brandon Schneider tried to get things going by switching up his lineups, but the low-scoring matchup remained. The slow-paced quarter ended with an eight-point deficit for the Jayhawks as they trailed 17-9.

In another slow-moving quarter in the second, both teams entered a nearly four-minute scoring drought as Kansas trailed 19-13 more than halfway through the quarter. The Jayhawks came back by going on a 6-2 run to shrink their deficit to four, as both teams ended the quarter strong offensively and Kansas trailed 25-20 after the first half of action.

Following the slow-moving half, the third quarter more than doubled the total score of the game, with Paige Bueckers going off at the end of the quarter to extend Connecticut’s lead. A back-and-forth pace emerged in the third, as the Huskies held a solid lead while the Jayhawks continued to fight back within a few points.

The Huskies hit their first 3 of the game with a little over two minutes left in the third quarter. After that, a steal by Bueckers led to a layup to match Connecticut’s biggest lead of the game at 45-35. Schneider and Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma traded timeouts, and back-to-back three-pointers by Wyvette Mayberry and S’Mya Nichols put Kansas within four points after trailing big. Bueckers then took over, giving Connecticut a 51-43 lead heading into the final quarter of the Cayman Islands Classic, scoring 15 points total in the third quarter.

Three early fouls by the Huskies in the opening minute of the quarter led to nearly nothing, as a Mayberry turnover led to a three-pointer on the other end to increase the deficit to 10 once again.

Kansas continued to struggle, with Jackson as the only one to score a field goal for the first five minutes of the quarter, trailing by as many as 13 points, its largest deficit of the game. Still, the Jayhawks shot better at the line with their many accepted fouls than they did in their last game against Virginia Tech when they shot a measly 50%. In contrast to the Hokies matchup, however, the Jayhawks struggled defensively, allowing Connecticut to score freely to start the quarter.

Kansas got back into it a bit, making back-to-back shots and getting a couple of stops to get back within single digits. Great defensive stands by the Jayhawks led to an 8-2 run to get them within five with less than a minute and a half to go after they trailed by 13 a mere six minutes earlier. However, with Connecticut still up, the Huskies took their time on the offensive end, burning the clock and taking away opportunities for Kansas to tie the game. After a miss by Mayberry and Jackson’s fifth foul, the Jayhawks ran out of steam, trailing 67-59 with 45 seconds remaining. The game ended unceremoniously with a 71-63 loss for the Jayhawks.

Jackson achieved another double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds, while Mayberry and Nichols sat right behind her with 14 points. Holly Kersgieter, who’s second in points per game on the team this season, averaging 13.2, scored only five points in the game, all of which came from the free throw line.

Although Kansas lost both of its demanding matchups in the Cayman Islands Classic, Schneider and his team put the nation on notice that they are able to hang in games with the best of the best. The Jayhawks will have a chance for redemption in their next game on Thursday at Allen Fieldhouse at 6:30 p.m. against Southeastern Louisiana as they look to wrap up the first month of the season with a .500 record.


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