Shorthanded KU women’s basketball team falls at No. 21 Texas in return

photo by: Stephen Spillman — Courtesy Big 12/University of Texas

Kansas' Holly Kersgieter looks to drive versus Texas on, Thursday, Jan., 14, 2021, in Austin, Texas. (Stephen Spillman)

With only eight players available and scarce practice time in recent weeks to prepare the Kansas women’s basketball team for its first meeting this season with a ranked opponent, the Jayhawks’ upset bid fell short Thursday night at No. 21 Texas.

Playing without a pair of 6-foot-2 forwards, Tina Stephens and Ioanna Chatzileonti, KU lost, 79-72, at Frank Erwin Center, in Austin, Texas.

“For our eight available players that competed tonight,” KU coach Brandon Schneider said during his postgame video press conference, “I thought they showed a lot of grit, a lot of toughness and I couldn’t be prouder of how they performed on such limited practice and preparation.”

While Holly Kersgieter (20 points, nine rebounds), Zakiyah Franklin (15 points) and Chandler Prater (14 points) kept KU within striking distance against the Longhorns (9-2 overall, 3-1 Big 12), Schneider thought the Jayhawks’ circumstances finally caught up with them in the game’s final minutes.

Playing their first game in 16 days after four games in a row got postponed to open the January schedule, Schneider said KU (5-3, 1-1) was happy to be participating in basketball again, “even if it’s on a really limited basis.”

Between COVID protocols and injuries, the Jayhawks have only been able to practice seven times since Dec. 12, and have only practiced twice in January so far.

“There were some key rebounds that we just didn’t have the gas in our tank to get to them, or the loose ball here or there,” Schneider said of Texas prevailing in the fourth quarter after taking a 12-point lead. “But as I told our players, their tanks should’ve been empty. They played their guts out against a top 20 team with an opportunity to win the ball game.”

KU stuck around with Texas all night, and headed to the fourth quarter trailing 62-56, once Kersgieter connected on a jumper in the final seconds of the third quarter.

Kersgieter said the Jayhawks tried to adjust to playing with four guards, which was different from their usual approach.

“I wouldn’t say that it was too difficult because at the end of the day it was just basketball. We didn’t run a lot of plays, we didn’t run a lot of sets. So it wasn’t terribly hard,” Kersgieter said.

“I think the hardest part was just adjusting to their size, because that’s by far the biggest big we’ve played all season,” she added, referencing UT’s 6-foot-5 potential All-American Charli Collier, who put up 28 points on 11-for-21 shooting, with 14 rebounds.

The Jayhawks went to halftime down just six points, 44-38, after Franklin scored on a jumper with a few seconds remaining in the second quarter.

Julie Brosseau sank a 3-pointer, the Jayhawks’ first of the night (they finished 7-for-19), in the final minute of the first quarter to cut UT’s lead to 23-20, after the Longhorns had led by as many as eight.

Though disappointed with the result, Kersgieter said it was nice to actually have a game again.

“It was fun. We were excited, especially because it was a road trip and we’ve been stuck at home for so long,” she said. “Everybody else in the Big 12 had played like four or five games, and we only had one, so we were excited for that, too.”

KU’s road trip will keep the Jayhawks in Texas. They will play at TCU on Sunday at 1 p.m.

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