Kansas wins fifth straight, led by Franklin’s career-high 24 points

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

Kansas guard Zakiyah Franklin makes a layup Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, against Houston.

Three players defined an entire game for two Big 12 Conference teams Saturday night, as Lauren Gustin, Zakiyah Franklin and Wyvette Mayberry combined for 76 points in Kansas’ 70-62 win over BYU.

Franklin’s 24 points achieved in 34 minutes of play led the Jayhawks as she and Mayberry (19 points) took control with center Taiyanna Jackson entering foul trouble early on. Holly Kersgieter added on 16 points of her own, one game after scoring 23 against struggling Cincinnati.

After being held to only 10 points by a dominant performance from Jackson in Kansas’ January meeting against BYU in Lawrence, Gustin showed her true form in Provo, scoring 33 on 13-for-21 shooting and grabbing 18 rebounds. No other Cougars player attempted more than 10 shots or grabbed more than six boards.

After a hot start thanks to Jackson and Gustin that saw 10 points scored in just over two minutes, both teams lost steam for the remainder of the first quarter, as BYU experienced a two-minute scoring drought and Kansas entered a three-minute drought of its own. The only Cougars offense came courtesy of Gustin, who scored all 11 of BYU’s points, including her first made 3-pointer of the year off a turnover by Ryan Cobbins. But the dynamic guard duo of Franklin and Mayberry kept the Jayhawks on pace, as Franklin sank a 3 off a great feed from Kersgieter to give Kansas a 13-11 lead after the first 10 minutes of play.

Scoring in the second once again got off to a slow start, but BYU’s Rose Bubakar finally became the first Cougar outside of Gustin to score, tying it at 13 apiece on a driving layup. Jumpers by none other than Mayberry and Franklin kept Kansas in it as Gustin continued to add to her total, using 15th point of the game to put BYU up 21-20 halfway through the period. Both teams traded off trips to the line late in the quarter off some sloppy fouls. Predictably, three points on back-to-back possessions for Gustin ended the half with both teams tied at 31 while she had already doubled her point total from the previous KU-BYU matchup — ending the second quarter with 20 points.

Franklin led the Jayhawks at the half with 11 points while Mayberry added on eight of her own. S’Mya Nichols went scoreless through the entire first half, attempting only two shots, and Jackson had only two points which came on her first and only shot attempt to open the game.

Franklin started Kansas’ second-half scoring with her second 3-pointer of the night on the opening possession of the half to get the Jayhawks back in front. Mayberry added on three points of her own courtesy of an and-1 to get Kansas an early 37-31 lead. The Cougars remained unfazed, responding with their own eight-point run to retake the lead on a breakaway layup by Gustin off a turnover.

Unfortunately for the Jayhawks, Franklin headed to the locker room with just under three minutes to play in the quarter, holding her shoulder. But Kansas continued to fight, trading off the lead with a couple of scores off opponent turnovers until a second-chance layup by Mayberry led to a Jackson block, which she seamlessly transitioned into a feed for Mayberry to put Kansas up 46-43 on the fast-break layup.

Heading into the fourth quarter with a three-point lead and without Franklin, Kansas’ battle for victory was far from over with ten minutes left to play. But Franklin returned a few minutes into the period, and with her return came a beautiful passing sequence that found Nichols wide open from three to record her first points of the night and put the Jayhawks up seven points.

After Gustin had been the only consistent scoring hope for the Cougars the entire game, BYU’s supporting cast stepped up to stay within striking distance. Franklin had plans of her own, though, driving through a slew of BYU defenders to increase Kansas’s lead to eight and achieve her new career high of 20 points.

After the teams had experienced a 10-minute bat delay when BYU visited Lawrence in January, the in-game problems continued in Provo, though non-mammal-related. The scoreboard remained incorrect for a few minutes of play after the scorer’s table mistakenly added a BYU bucket to Kansas’ score to make it 67-58 instead of 65-60. Officials then went back through individual plays and StatBroadcast entries to figure out the true score, while both the Jayhawks’ and Cougars’ benches were unhappy with the development.

The interruption in momentum turned out for the best for Kansas, as an aggressive driving layup by Nichols would not fall, but Kersgieter fought hard for a tough rebound to extend the possession with less than a minute left, essentially icing the game. A string of fouls and another Kersgieter rebound, this time on the defensive end, gave Kansas two successful trips to the free throw line, leading to a 70-62 win for the Jayhawks’ fifth victory in a row.

Franklin’s record 24 points in the fifth year of her career demonstrated why she was the Jayhawks’ leading scorer last year, as she stayed aggressive and created shot opportunities for herself by forcing defenders to her strong left-hand side and dumping in layup after layup.

The combination of Mayberry and Franklin stepped up at a time when Kansas truly needed it as Jackson’s early foul trouble forced a complete change of plan from what the Jayhawks had done in their first meeting against the Cougars.

“I just think we’re clicking on all cylinders right now,” Franklin said on her postgame ESPN+ interview of the team’s five-game winning streak. “We have more things we can work on, but right now we’re just jelling together at the right time.”

After a disappointing start to conference play, a big run at the right time has catapulted the Jayhawks into the top of the second tier of the Big 12 standings, as they are tied with Iowa State and sit behind only No. 23 Oklahoma (12-2), No. 5 Texas (11-3), No. 24 West Virginia (11-3) and No. 7 Kansas State (11-3).

Kansas will look to continue this streak and attempt to bring itself back into the postseason conversation with a tough road matchup against 18-6 Baylor on Tuesday in Waco, Texas. The Jayhawks will attempt to pull off another upset after stunning then-No. 4 Baylor with an 87-66 victory back on Jan. 10. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.


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