Before joining the handshake line, the Kansas women’s basketball team stormed center court, embracing and smiling, a celebration it had long been denied.
KU defeated TCU 81-64 on Friday in the first round of the Big 12 women’s tournament in Chesapeake Energy Arena, ending a 20-game losing streak for the Jayhawks. It was a season-high in points for KU.
“Obviously, just really proud of our team’s effort,” KU coach Brandon Schneider said. “We haven’t had the kind of year that we wanted from a record perspective, but I really have to give our players a lot of credit. The last three weeks I think we’ve gotten significantly better. It’s nice to see them put it all together tonight in a winning effort.”
It was the first victory against a conference opponent for KU, 6-24 overall and 0-18 in the Big 12, under Schneider, who is in his first year with the program.
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Eight of the nine Jayhawks who played scored against the Horned Frogs, 16-14 and 8-10. KU had lost twice to TCU since Feb. 17, including a 55-52 defeat Monday.
“We’ve played them three times I think in 14 days, and that’s, I think, a big challenge,” TCU coach Raegan Pebley said. “I don’t care who you’re playing, but especially (Power Five)-level talent three times in 14 days is especially hard, I think, especially for the team that won.
“… Playing Kansas the times that we’ve played them prior to this game, watching them it was always shocking to me that they hadn’t won a game.”
Four Jayhawks scored in double figures. KU sophomore guard Lauren Aldridge carried KU with 20 points in the final three quarters, leading all players with 23 points. Chayla Cheadle, Tyler Johnson and Kylee Kopatich also provided double-digit scoring performances for the Jayhawks.
Despite a 42-32 halftime advantage behind an 11-0 run early in the second quarter, Aldridge said the Jayhawks felt no lead was safe. During their 20-game losing streak, they led at the break only three times.
“I think we have had a couple of games this season where we went into the half up and didn’t finish very well at all,” Aldridge said. “I think it was just a total change of mind-set for us coming out of the half. I think that we knew what it felt like to be on the other end of it, and we didn’t want it to happen again.”
Although KU held a 60-46 lead at the end of the third quarter, with victory easily within reach, the Jayhawks waited patiently until the final buzzer to celebrate.
They outscored TCU in each quarter, shooting 53.8 percent for the game while holding the Horned Frogs to 36.2 percent.
The Jayhawks will face Texas, the tournament’s No. 2 seed, at 6 p.m. Saturday. A No. 10 seed has never won a second-round game in the tournament.
“I think we are going to use all the energy we can get playing against Texas,” Aldridge said. “We are excited about the opportunity. So we’ve got to see what happens, but we’ve got to come with a lot of energy, though.”
Big 12 women’s basketball tournament
At Oklahoma City
Friday’s first round
(9) Texas Tech 89, (8) Iowa State 84
(10) Kansas 81, (7) TCU 64
(4) Oklahoma State vs. (5) Oklahoma, 11 a.m. (FSKC)
(1) Baylor vs. (9) Texas Tech, 1:30 p.m. (FSKC)
(2) Texas vs. (10) Kansas, 6 p.m. (FSKC)
(3) West Virginia vs. (6) Kansas State, 8:30 p.m. (FSKC)
First two quarterfinal winners, 1:30 p.m. (FS1)
Second two quarterfinal winners, 4 p.m. (FS1)
Semifinal winners, 8 p.m. (FS1)