Kansas Upset Bid Comes Up Short at No. 7 West Virginia
MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — Junior Natalie Knight drained a three-pointer with just under two minutes remaining. Her trey capped off seven-straight points from the Jayhawks, which narrowed their deficit to five points in a last minute attempt to upset No. 7 West Virginia, but Kansas couldn’t rally past the No. 1 defense in the Big 12 and fell, 67-60, Tuesday night inside WVU Coliseum.
Senior guard CeCe Harper led all scorers and tied her season-high with 19 points. Harper also dished out seven assists and tied her career-high with three blocked shots. Harper’s efforts helped keep the Jayhawks close, but Kansas (12-18, 5-13 Big 12) wasn’t able to overcome West Virginia (27-3, 16-2 Big 12) on its senior night.
Also finishing in double-digit points for the Jayhawks was Knight, who finished with 17 behind three makes from beyond the arc to move her into sixth all-time at KU for three pointers in a single season. Junior forward Chelsea Gardner also recorded 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds, despite playing just 17 minutes because of foul trouble. Filling in for Gardner was junior forward Bunny Williams who grabbed seven rebounds to tie her season-high, matching her mark against Central Michigan (11/28/13).
West Virginia was led by sophomore guard Bria Holmes, who scored 16 points and grabbed six rebounds for the Mountaineers. Seniors center Asya Bussie and guard Christal Caldwell added 14 points each and nine and six rebounds, respectively, to help West Virginia clinch at least a share of the Big 12 Championship.
After an opening bucket from West Virginia, Gardner delivered a three-point play to give the Jayhawks their first lead of the game, 3-2. Knight kept Kansas in front, with a three from the corner. WVU forced the ball inside early and forced Gardner into two early fouls and a spot on the bench. The Jayhawks matched the first-place Mountaineers point-for-point early, but with Gardner on the bench the offense got stagnant and allowed WVU to score five-straight points and gain a four-point advantage, 14-10, with 13:38 left in the first half.
Back-to-back possessions with a bucket allowed Kansas to cut the WVU advantage to three, 20-17, and forced a timeout from the Mountaineer bench. Harper continued to keep the pressure on West Virginia, scoring five-straight points to keep the Jayhawks close, 20-19, headed into the under-eight timeout with their leading scorer on the bench. After both teams were silent for several possessions, Knight put the lead back in Kansas’ favor, 21-20. Another bucket from senior guard Markisha Hawkins on the next possession gave the Jayhawks their largest advantage of the first half, 23-20, with 5:40 remaining in the half.
Coming out of the final media timeout of the first half, the Mountaineers finally broke the seal, scoring their first basket in nearly seven minutes to bring the Kansas lead back to one, 23-22. Knight responded with her second three of the game to put the Jayhawks back in front by one, but a 10-2 run from the Mountaineers in the final two minutes gave them the advantage, 32-28, headed into the break. Knight led the Jayhawks with 10 points at the half.
Gardner returned to the Kansas lineup in the second half, but lasted just 1:10 before picking up her third foul of the game. Even with their leading scorer back on the bench, the Jayhawks kept pace with the Mountaineers, thanks to the efforts of Harper and Knight. With the score tied at 34, Williams put in her second bucket of the night to put Kansas in front, 36-34, with 17:11 left in the game.
Six unanswered West Virginia points followed the William’s bucket to put the lead back in their favor, 40-36. The Mountaineer offense finally started to show some signs of improvement by scoring their next three baskets in under a minute to build their lead to six, 46-40, with 12:55 left in the game. The Jayhawks got a steal and the chance to cut the lead to one possession, but a turnover in transition and a WVU three gave the Mountaineers their largest lead of the game up until that point, 51-43, and forced a Kansas timeout with 11:20 left in the game.
With the Jayhawks in need of an offensive spark, Gardner returned to the lineup out of the timeout. Gardner answered the call, with four-straight points to help the Jayhawks cut the lead to six, 55-49, with 8:16 left. After the under-eight timeout, the Mountaineers began to show why they are one of the top teams in the country, building their lead to as many as 13, 62-49, with just less than four minutes to play. The Jayhawks battled back and cut the West Virginia lead to five, 63-58, with just under two minutes to play, thanks to Knight’s third three of the game. The late rally wasn’t enough and the Mountaineers hung on to win their 27th game of the season, 67-60.
The Jayhawks begin postseason play on Friday, March 7, at the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship in Oklahoma City, Okla. All games will be played at the Chesapeake Energy Arena, with opponent information and game times to be announced later this week.
KANSAS STARTERS (SEASON/CAREER): Jr. Asia Boyd (14/14), Sr. CeCe Harper (24/45), Fr. Dakota Gonzalez (2/2), Jr. Chelsea Gardner (28/56) and Jr. Natalie Knight (29/82)
• Makes Kansas’ all-time record 769-551.
• Makes the Jayhawks’ all-time conference record 236-249.
• Makes KU’s all-time Big 12 record 113-181 and 56-110 in conference play under head coach Bonnie Henrickson.
• Gives West Virginia a three-game winning streak against the Jayhawks and evens the all-time series to 3-3.
• Makes Kansas 369-390 all-time when playing on the road and 46-93 under Henrickson away from Allen Fieldhouse.
• Makes Henrickson’s record 170-153 at KU and 328-215 overall.
• The Kansas defense held West Virginia scoreless for nearly seven minutes in the first half from the 10:08 mark, until the 3:17 mark.
• The Jayhawks held the Mountaineers to just 32 points in the first half. WVU had been held to 32 or less in the first half just eight previous times during the 2013-14 season, including the first matchup against the Jayhawks in Allen Fieldhouse on Jan. 2.
• West Virginia shot just 38.6 percent for the game (27-of-70), which is its lowest percentage since its game against TCU (2/16/14).
• The Jayhawks 60 points are their fewest since scoring 55 against Texas (1/28/14).
• Junior forward Bunny Williams grabbed a season-high seven rebounds, besting her previous mark of six against Central Michigan (11/28/13).
• Junior forward Chelsea Gardner scored the first Kansas’ points of the night with a three-point play. She finished with 11 points to extend her streak of double-figure scoring games to 14 and has a total of 27 double-figure scoring efforts this season.
• Senior guard CeCe Harper scored a game-high 19 points to tie her season-high, matching her total against Arkansas (12/4/13). The San Antonio, Texas, native also dished out seven assistsand is one assist shy of tying Lynette Woodard for eighth place on KU’s single-season assist list. Harper has recorded at least seven assists 13 times this season. Harper also had a career-night on the defensive end by tying her career-high of three blocked shots, which she previously recorded twice, most recently against Purdue (12/15/13).
• Junior Natalie Knight knocked in three shots from beyond the arc to reach sixth place on KU’s single-season three pointers list.
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