Kansas women fall 59-58 in final minutes against No. 9 Virginia Tech

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

Kansas guard, S'Mya Nichols, fires a 3-pointer Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023, against Northwestern State in Lawrence.

A three-minute scoring drought filled with missed opportunities overshadowed an aggressive game between Kansas and No. 9 Virginia Tech as the Jayhawks fell 59-58 Friday during the opener of the Cayman Islands Classic in George Town.

The loss came after a favorable matchup against Penn State and a win against Kansas City by only nine points. With the loss to No. 9 Virginia Tech (4-1), Kansas fell to 2-2 in its early season with a bout against No. 6 Connecticut set for Saturday.

Kansas started off hot, getting an early 6-1 lead. The Hokies had five turnovers within the first seven minutes of the first quarter but rebounded to take a 13-12 lead. Taiyanna Jackson got six of Kansas’ first 12 points but also committed two fouls, which sent her to the bench with just over two minutes left in the quarter. The game went back and forth until a strong Virginia Tech run gave the Hokies a 19-16 lead at the end of the quarter.

The Hokies opened the second quarter by taking off on an 8-0 run. A 3-pointer by Zakiyah Franklin and a field goal by Wyvette Mayberry to give her four points in the game helped slash the Jayhawks’ deficit before both teams entered a two-and-a-half-minute scoring drought in a series of possessions filled with fouls and misses. Kansas bounced back after a media timeout, reducing its deficit on a layup from Jackson, and a shot from behind the arc by Ryan Cobbins tied the game at 26.

The teams traded baskets, leading to a 30-second timeout called by Kansas coach Brandon Schneider with the Jayhawks down two with less than three minutes before the half.

Holly Kersgieter’s first points of the game came on a midrange jumper to tie it up, but back-to-back fouls committed by each team put Virginia Tech in front, 32-31, after the first half.

Virginia Tech came out strong in the second half as well, once again putting the Jayhawks in a seven-point hole. A 3-pointer from S’Mya Nichols and an and-1 from Franklin made it a one-point deficit. A back-and-forth quarter continued until the Hokies went on a run to make it 50-43, after which Kansas bounced back a bit to end the quarter only down 50-47.

The low-scoring fourth quarter was just as aggressive as the second, with the waning moments defined by big stops. Kansas’ starters outside of Jackson, who missed most of the quarter with foul trouble, stepped up to keep the Jayhawks in the game offensively, and when she was on the court, Jackson’s presence on defense immediately helped the Jayhawks gain momentum.

But none of it was enough to overcome the final three minutes, which included two missed free throws from Jackson that could have given Kansas the lead. These shots coupled with another pair of misses earlier in the game made Jackson 2-for-14 on the season from the stripe. She’s averaging only 13 points per game this year compared to her mark of 15.2 last season.

Nichols led the way for the Jayhawks with 13 points in 35 minutes played while Franklin recorded 12 points to also reach double-figures. Jackson scored eight points and recorded four rebounds and one block in 18 minutes of playing time due to foul trouble.

Kansas allowed All-American Virginia Tech center Elizabeth Kitley to reach a double-double with 31 points and 18 rebounds. She also got five blocks and accounted for more than half of Virginia Tech’s scoring total.

This is the third game in a row that the Jayhawks have allowed an opposing player to score 30 or more points. Nariyah Simmons did it for Kansas City and Makenna Marisa did it for Penn State.

Next up, Kansas meets No. 6 Connecticut on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. in the final game of the inaugural Cayman Islands Classic.


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