KU women to play host to Western Kentucky in opening round of WNIT on Friday
photo by: Emma Pravecek, Kansas Athletics
After being left out of the NCAA Tournament field on Sunday night, the Kansas women’s basketball team announced before the night was over that it had accepted an invitation to the WNIT.
KU will host Western Kentucky at 5 p.m. Friday at Allen Fieldhouse in Round 1.
This will be the first meeting between Kansas and Western Kentucky, and the winner will advance to play the winner of Missouri-Illinois State in the second round of the tournament. All WNIT games will be played at the home court of one of the two schools, with programs bidding to host the games along the way.
Interestingly enough, Western Kentucky and Missouri played earlier this season, with the Tigers winning 65-47 in Columbia, Missouri.
This marks Kansas’ sixth trip to the WNIT, where the Jayhawks are 9-5 all-time. KU advanced to the WNIT championship game in 2009, when the Jayhawks hosted four games at Allen Fieldhouse, including the title game, which drew more than 16,000 fans.
The Jayhawks finished the 2022-23 season 19-11 overall and 9-9 in Big 12 Conference play. Kansas last played in a 57-52 loss to TCU in the first round of the Big 12 tournament last week. Six days before the tourney loss to the Horned Frogs, Brandon Schneider’s Jayhawks defeated TCU, 84-61, in the regular season finale in Fort Worth, Texas.
Up to that point, TCU had won just one game against Big 12 competition this season, and the loss may have been the final blow to KU’s chances of making the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row after appearing in last year’s NCAA Tournament — and winning a game — for the first time since 2013.
KU, which spent part of the non-conference portion of its schedule ranked in the Associated Press Top 25, was projected to be in the NCAA Tournament field for nearly all of the 2022-23 season.
KU finished the pre-NCAA-Tournament portion of the season ranked No. 37 in the NCAA’s NET rankings, which are based off of game results, winning percentage and adjusted winning percentage. Schneider’s team was the fourth-highest ranked Big 12 team in the latest NET rankings but was not one of the six Big 12 teams selected for the NCAA Tournament.
Now, the Jayhawks will turn their attention toward trying to win the WNIT, and two all-Big 12 first team selections will lead the way. Senior center Taiyanna Jackson and senior guard Zakiyah Franklin were KU’s top two threats throughout much of the season. Senior guard Holly Kersgieter, a first-team all-Big 12 selection last season, was an honorable mention pick this season.
Western Kentucky finished its season with a 19-13 overall record and a 14-6 mark in Conference USA. WKU advanced to the CUSA championship game before falling to Middle Tennessee, 82-70.
Western Kentucky is led by freshman guard Acacia Hayes, who averaged 11.2 points per game this season. Hayes is the only player averaging double-digit scoring numbers, while four of her teammates average between 8 and 9.9 points per game.