Life in a new conference started so promising for UMKC with road victories in its first two Western Athletic Conference games.
By BLAIR KERKHOFF
The Kansas City Star
Maybe a change of scenery, from the Summit to the WAC, was all the Kangaroos needed to get the program on a winning track.
But Thursday’s 74-69 loss to Bakersfield before 2,027 at Municipal Auditorium was more proof that the drive toward respectability continues for UMKC.
The loss was the Roos’ sixth straight and dropped their records to 7-18 overall and 4-8 in the league.
UMKC’s last victory came against this same Bakersfield team, on a Frank Williams’ three-pointer with 2 seconds remaining.
Thursday, Williams and the rest of the Kangaroos could hardly find the basket. UMKC shot 19 percent on three-pointers (five for 26).
The shooting reflects the team as a whole at the moment, searching for confidence.
“It’s shaken, no doubt about it,” UMKC coach Kareem Richardson said. “And it’s human nature to get a little down. But I told our guys now it’s about sticking with the process, and it will eventually turn.”
The Kangaroos scrapped, pressing Bakersfield into enough late turnovers to trim an 11-point deficit to four with about 10 seconds remaining.
UMKC’s ugliest moments came at the free-throw line. Freshman point guard Martez Harrison turned in a superb line of 20 points and 11 rebounds and seven assists. But he missed the rim on three different occasions — after not air-balling a free-throw all season — and the 66-percent shooter left too many points on the floor by going seven of 16 at the line.
On an all-around terrible shooting night, UMKC was going to make Bakersfield win from the line, and the second half was played in muck. The visitors shot 37 free throws over the final 20 minutes, prolonging the misery of a choppy game.
The most encouraging development for UMKC was the play of freshman center Isaac Kreuer, who matched his season best with 11 points.
Elise O’Connor, a senior guard on the Kangaroos’ women’s team, was chosen first-team Academic All-America on Thursday.
O’Connor, one of five first-team members, carries a 3.99 GPA in Health Sciences (pre-dental). This season, she’s leading the WAC in scoring at 21.3 points per game and ranks second on the Kangaroos’ career scoring list.
O’Connor is UMKC’s first basketball player named to one of the three teams sponsored by Capital One and the College Sports Information Directors of America.