Gardner Welcomed to 1,000-Point Club In Regular-Season Opener
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas has 1,000 reasons to celebrate thanks to senior Chelsea Gardner, who became the 27th Jayhawk to chalk up 1,000 career points in KU’s season-opening victory against South Dakota, 68-60, Sunday afternoon inside Allen Fieldhouse.
“It’s huge for her,” said head coach Bonnie Henrickson. “She has been a focal part of our program for the last couple years. She’s been important at the five. When Carolyn got hurt her sophomore year, Chelsea came off the bench and was in the starting line up. She had a great finish to that year. It’s a credit to her work. She deserves that accomplishment.”
Gardner, a DeSoto, Texas native, became the 10th player under Bonnie Henrickson to accomplish this feat. She is also the ninth forward and fifth from the state of Texas to join the club. Not only did she reach 1,000 career points, she also recorded her 19th-career double-double with a total of 24 points and 11 rebounds. Kansas saw double-digit scoring efforts from senior Natalie Knight (15) and freshman Lauren Aldridge (11) as well. Overall, Kansas shot 33 percent from field goal range. The Jayhawks had a total of 37 rebounds and nine steals.
“Defensively we were pretty good in the stretches,” said Henrickson. “We have to clean it up, though. We will have our hands full this week with Texas Southern and the tournament this coming weekend. We won’t practice a lot, but we will be playing a lot.”
The Coyotes had three players in double figures of their own. Senior Nicole Seekamp led the double-digit scoring efforts with 21 points and five rebounds. Senior Raeshel Contreras (17) and junior Margaret McCloud (10) joined Seekamp. SDU shot 32 percent from field goal range and hit four baskets from beyond the arc.
“In a close-game situation like that it’s important to find a way to win,” said Henrickson. ” We need to get stops down the stretch and make our free throws. It was a good late game situation for our young kids to learn from. There will be good things on film for us to learn from.”
South Dakota struck first with a layup from junior Tia Hemiller. Kansas sophomore Jada Brown answered at the other end for the Jayhawks. On the next possession, Knight sank a three to give Kansas its first lead of the game. After holding the Coyotes scoreless for nearly four minutes, Seekamp knocked in a jumper to score the first points for South Dakota since Hemiller’s layup. However, Kansas still led 7-4.
USD found a spark during the first media timeout, the Coyotes hit back-to-back shots. Kansas was only able to answer one of those. Knight used this as motivation to grab a steal from junior Kelley Stewart and convert at the other end, bringing the tally to 12-10 with Kansas on top.
South Dakota came back to tie up the score, but a three-point basket by junior Timeka O’Neal would pull the Jayhawks ahead for just a while longer. The Coyotes answered with a shot beyond the arc of their own. With nine minutes left to play in the first frame, Gardner was fouled on a layup attempt and accomplished a traditional three-point play at the line, giving the Jayhawks back their lead, 18-15.
The Coyotes hit back-to-back three-point jumpers forcing a Jayhawk timeout with SDU ahead, 18-21. Gardner refused to let the Coyotes shine, hitting a jumper coming out of the break. She continued to be strong offensively when she converted another layup on the next Jayhawk possession. After trading leads a few more times, Kansas was able to pull ahead by one before heading into the locker room for halftime, 33-32.
There were a total of 7 lead changes in the first 20 minutes of action. Kansas shot 34 percent from the field and held SDU to 24 percent. The Jayhawks pulled down 14 defensive boards, while the Coyotes had 11. Gardner led Kansas in the first frame with 13 points and seven rebounds.
Gardner was the first to score for either team to start the second half. On the next Kansas possession she was fouled in the act of shooting and tallied another traditional three-point play, allowing the Jayhawks to lead 38-32. Knight took advantage of an opportunity when she pulled down a defensive rebound and went coast-to-coast with a layup at the other end. Boyd followed suit and put in a layup on the next possession.
A layup by junior Margaret McCloud ignited a Coyote 10-0 run that lasted five minutes and pulled them back within one point going into the under-12 media break, 47-46. With USD continuing the run, a free throw by McCloud tied the game yet again. With just over eight minutes left to play, a layup by senior Raeshel Contreas officially gave the Coyotes back the lead, 49-47.
A bucket by freshman Terriell Bradley ended the Jayhawk scoring drought that lasted nearly seven minutes. With less than five minutes left in the ballgame, both teams were in foul trouble. Kansas had two players with three or more fouls and South Dakota had four.
“As a whole, they aren’t as focused on guarding on the inside when Chelsea isn’t in the game,” said Knight. “Their focus is guarding the perimeter. We have to be aggressive when she isn’t in the game.”
The Jayhawks and Coyotes traded baskets, neither team being able to pull away from the other. Gardner was calm under the pressure and sank in a layup despite being fouled. The bucket marked her 1,000th-career point. The dead ball called for the final media timeout of the game.
“I knew when I came back in during the second half I had to make shots,” said Gardner. ” I was focusing on finishing around the rim. My 1,000 points means a lot to me, but it also means a lot to win. We need to keep that up.”
Kansas took back the lead and forced an USD timeout with just over a minute to play. Knight was fouled just before the timeout and sank both attempts from the line once the game resumed. KU now led by four, 59-55. Aldridge increased the lead by sinking two free throw shots of her own. While the teams continued to battle out the final seconds, the Coyotes were unable to make a comeback and fell to the Jayhawks, 68-60
• Gardner became the 27th Jayhawk and the 10th under head coach Bonnie Henrickson to reach 1,000 career points. She is also the 9th forward and 5th player from Texas to join the club.
• Gardner also posted her 19th-career double-double with 24 points and 11 rebounds.
• Kansas is now 37-10 all-time in home openers and 10-1 under Henrickson. The Jayhawks have 10-straight season openers.
• The Jayhawks remain perfect in the all-time series against South Dakota and impeove to 3-0 against the Coyotes.
The Jayhawks will return to action on Tuesday, Nov. 18, against Texas Southern. Game time is slated for 7 p.m., in Allen Fieldhouse.
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