Kansas may have found its cure for junior forward Chelsea Gardner’s recent foul trouble.
With Gardner confined to the bench for the bulk of the second half, the Jayhawks turned to a veteran group of guards who answered the call and led them to a 71-64 win over the Wildcats on Saturday in the season’s first installment of the Sunflower Showdown. It was the Jayhawks’ third straight victory against the Wildcats, who have won 21 of the last 26 meetings.
“This has been a really difficult place for us to play and be successful,” Kansas coach Bonnie Henrickson said. “It’s nice to get one on the road when we lost a tough one the other day when we thought we had a chance. We did not finish that one aggressively, but with discipline today I thought we did a better job.”
Gardner scored 17 first-half points, but she picked up her third foul at the 17:21 mark of the second half. Paired with four early turnovers by Kansas, that allowed Kansas State to cut the lead to three points. But Kansas responded with a 10-4 run that was fueled by junior guards Asia Boyd and Natalie Knight and senior guard Markisha Hawkins and pushed the lead to double digits.
“We’ve been trying to focus on getting everyone involved,” Boyd said. “Today, we just had to figure it out.”
The three scored 20 of the team’s 39 second-half points while shooting seven of 10 from the field. Even though the Jayhawks had to rely on guards for production, they were outscored only 22-20 in the paint in the second half and won the rebounding battle 19-15.
“It was a great opportunity when she (Gardner) went to the bench for us to score inside, which we didn’t,” Kansas State coach Deb Patterson said. “I thought we were very inept offensively, and then they counter.”
Kansas, 10-10 overall and 3-5 in the Big 12, shot 64.7 percent in the second half while holding Kansas State, 8-11 and 2-6, to a 42.9 mark.
The Jayhawks led by as many as 14 points in the second half, but the Wildcats held them without a field goal for the final 5:54 of the game and cut the lead to five with 41 seconds left. Freshman guard Leticia Romero scored three straight baskets for Kansas State, but Kansas was a perfect eight for eight from the line in that time.
Romero, who entered the game leading Big 12 freshmen with 14.2 points per game, scored 17 points. She was joined in double figures by Katya Leick, who had 12 points.
Five Jayhawks finished in double figures, led by Gardner, who had 21 points and 10 rebounds for her third straight double-double. Harper added 16 points, Boyd had 11 and Hawkins and Knight each scored 10.