Hoping to bolster their NCAA Tournament resume with an upset, the Kansas women instead suffered a convincing 77-62 loss to No. 2 seed Iowa State in the Big 12 Tournament quarterfinals Saturday night at American Airlines Center.
That leaves the Jayhawks at 18-13 and precariously hanging onto the hope that the NCAA selection committee makes them the seventh Big 12 entry into the tournament.
The worst part? They won’t find out until March 18 — an interminable wait.
“We’re excited, but we’re on pins and needles because this tournament is a week earlier (than in past seasons),” KU coach Bonnie Henrickson said. “It was only a four-day sweat-out last year.”
Last year, of course, the Jayhawks were also on the bubble at 19-12, but got in as a No. 11 seed and advanced to the Sweet 16. Not surprisingly, Henrickson sees this team in a similar light.
“Of course I think we should be in,” she said. “I thought the committee made a great decision last year and we made them look real smart. I think we should be in. We play the best teams in the best league in America.”
But KU’s chances took a hit Saturday, when they let Iowa State, 22-7, take control in the first half and break the game open early in the second.
The seventh-seeded Jayhawks had no answer for Iowa State’s version of the big three — forwards Chelsea Poppens and Hallie Christofferson and center Anna Prins, who combined for 61 points and 24 rebounds. Not to mention point guard Nikki Moody, whose repeated forays to the basket resulted in 10 assists.
Christofferson was the biggest problem. An athletic 6-3 junior who can play outside like a guard and post up like a center, she was an impossible matchup for the Jayhawks, and she simply took over the game midway through the first half.
In a span of 6:12, Christofferson scored all 16 of the Cyclones’ points, 14 of them during a 17-4 run that vaulted Iowa State to a 25-14 lead. That stretch included two wide open three-pointers from right in front of the KU bench that Henrickson said were caused by defensive breakdowns as much as the difficult matchup.
“With Christofferson playing multiple positions, you have guards defending her on a post-up and bigs trying to stay with her on the perimeter,” Henrickson said. “But she got the two threes in transition because we were not matched up. The guy who’s (supposed to be) chasing her was on the other side of the floor. We had two guys guarding one guy.
“She was close enough to me that I might have been able ro get out there and knock it down — but that probably would have looked bad on TV.”
KU point guard Angel Goodrich, who ran wild in Friday’s first-round win over TCU, scored 15 points but needed 15 shots to do it, while leading scorer Carolyn Davis scored 17. Poppens led Iowa State, which outrebounded the Jayhawks 40-29, with 24 points and 14 rebounds, and Christofferson finished with 23 points.
And now, for Kansas, the waiting begins. The Jayhawks will play again, but will it be in the NCAA or Women’s NIT?
“We are not sure what’s going to happen,” Goodrich said, “but we’ve got to stay positive, look forward, keep practicing and get better, because we still want to play.”
“We think we have some great wins and we’re kind of in the same position as we were last year,” Davis added. “We’ll just have to wait and see.”