Jackson breaks all-time block record, falls one shy of a triple-double in Kansas’ emphatic win

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

Kansas center Taiyanna Jackson makes a block on Houston's N'Yah Boyd Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, in Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas dominated from buzzer to buzzer in its commanding 69-52 win over the Houston Cougars Thursday night at Allen Fieldhouse.

And the star of the show throughout was center Taiyanna Jackson, who entered the game nine blocks away from becoming Kansas’ all-time block leader. After she tallied just one swat in the first half, it looked like Jackson might have had a few more games before breaking this record, but an eight-block second half –including five blocks in the fourth quarter — got the super-senior her 270th block to pass Lisa Tate’s previous record of 269, which was set in 1994.

Jackson finished the game just one block shy of a triple-double, totaling 25 points, 15 rebounds and nine blocks in 35 minutes of play. Zakiyah Franklin finished second in points scored with 12 of her own, while S’Mya Nichols had 11.

Three of Kansas’ starters picked up four fouls, forcing high playing time from Ryan Cobbins and Skyler Gill, who held their own defensively.

The Jayhawks started off hot, scoring on their first two possessions before a steal by Jackson led to a layup for Wyvette Mayberry on the fast break to grab a 6-2 lead. An impressive 7-2 run thanks to Nichols, Holly Kersgieter and Franklin grew the lead to seven. Houston’s Maliyah Johnson kept the Cougars from completely falling out of contention early on, with a mini four-point solo run that was answered with a 3 by Kersgieter to make it 18-13 in Kansas’ favor after the first buzzer.

Jackson’s first bucket of the game came a minute into the second quarter, as Houston’s defense concentrated on the center in the first period, forcing more perimeter play from the Jayhawks.

Both teams faced foul trouble early, with Nichols and Kersgieter picking up two fouls early in the quarter, forcing them to the bench. But Kansas struggled early with turnovers, accumulating four in the first quarter alone against a Houston team that is second in the Big 12 in forced turnovers per game.

Despite this, the Jayhawks found success with the duo of Mayberry and Jackson, the only two starters remaining in the game, as they took a 24-14 lead early on. After an impressive contested hook shot from Danai Papadapoulou, a seven-point Houston run got the Cougars within five. They stayed aggressive in the final minutes of the half, ending with the same deficit at 32-27.

Jackson led the Jayhawks with 10 points in the half, all of which were scored in the second quarter, while Kersgieter and Franklin added six each. With Nichols and Kersgieter in early foul trouble, the starting duo combined for only 18 minutes of playing time, as Kansas had to rely on bench pieces like Laia Conesa, Gill and Cobbins to maintain its early lead.

Johnson led Houston off the bench with nine points, while two of its starters didn’t score in the half.

The duo of Jackson and Mayberry continued to push, feeding off each other and allowing the Jayhawks to hold on to an eight-point lead. Nichols returned after sitting out the entire second quarter with two fouls, quickly making her impact known with a pair of free throws to maintain Kansas’ eight-point advantage at 39-31. Back-to-back buckets by Jackson off of assists from Mayberry got Jackson to 16 points in the game and gave the Jayhawks their largest edge of the second half, 43-33. The Kansas lead remained in double-figures before a steal by Kersgieter led to a screen play whose shot fell short, but Cobbins, who set the screen, crashed the boards for an impressive tip-in as the clock expired to end the quarter with Kansas’ largest lead at 52-39.

After sinking a 3-pointer on its first possession of the half, Houston entered a three-and-a-half-minute drought without a field goal, while the Jayhawks went on an 8-2 run to grow their lead to 15 points. While Kansas continued to be consistent on the offensive end, the real standout performance of the fourth quarter was Jackson’s dominance on the defensive end.

Her first block was a couple of minutes into the period, and then she picked up back-to-back stuffs of jumpers by Kierra Merchant to put her two away from breaking the record. On the next Houston possession, Jackson continued her run of dominance, blocking a layup down low, which led to a jumper from Kersgieter to balloon Kansas’ lead to 66-48 and put Jackson on the brink of making history.

She wouldn’t have to wait long for the moment to come, as Jackson went her fourth straight possession with a block, emphatically swatting away a jumper from N’Yah Boyd to record her 270th block as a Jayhawk. Fittingly, this Houston possession ended with a shot clock violation, allowing the crowd to recognize Jackson’s achievement before head coach Brandon Schneider gave her a well-deserved two-minute break to end her historic night.

“I never would have thought I would come here and break that record. I still can’t believe it. I’m so happy,” Jackson said in her postgame ESPN+ interview. “… This is fun, I had fun today … I can’t believe I’m the block record holder.”

Kansas held its own without its big to end the game and came away with a statement 69-52 win, extending its win streak to three games and bringing its Big 12 record back to .500 (6-6).

The Jayhawks were firing on all cylinders in their comfortable victory, shooting 50% on the night and holding the Cougars to 28% shooting with 12 total blocks and five steals. Houston’s Boyd averages 10.5 points per game, and Kansas prevented her from scoring on 0-for-5 shooting with only one rebound in 24 minutes of play.

The Jayhawks’ win streak comes at the perfect time, boosting them into the middle of the Big 12 Conference after high expectations to start the year and then a rocky start. With the third-toughest strength of schedule in the nation this season, Kansas has been repeatedly challenged and is finally seeing the results that it expected coming into the year.

“It’s giving us the momentum … It feels good to finally win, a good win, a statement win. It honestly just feels good. We have the momentum, and I hope we keep the momentum, and we still can accomplish some of the goals that we want,” Jackson said. “We just have to finish Big 12 play out strong, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

The Jayhawks will take the weekend off before attempting to continue their win streak against Cincinnati (12-10, 4-6) at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in Allen Fieldhouse.


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