Kansas Falls to Alabama, 85-80

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LAWRENCE, Kan. – Despite double-digit scoring efforts from senior forward Chelsea Gardner and three other Jayhawks, Kansas couldn’t outlast Alabama as it fell, 85-80, Friday night inside Allen Fieldhouse.
Gardner, a DeSoto, Texas native posted a season-high 30 points and tallied eight rebounds on the evening. Sophomore forward Jada Brown knocked in a career-high with 12 points behind 100 percent shooting from the field (5-of-5). Seniors Asia Boyd and Natalie Knight also gained admittance into the double-digit club, both chalking up 11 total points. As a whole, the Jayhawks completed 51 percent of shots from field goal range and was strong behind the free throw line going 20-for-25. They also shared the ball resulting in 21 assists.  

“The lesson is you have to guard somebody,” head coach Bonnie Henrickson said. “If we had guarded, we would’ve been fine. We’re not going to have to score 100 points to win. We have to defend and force tough twos and rebound. When we made the run, it was off of stops and scoring in transition.”
Alabama had a total of three players in double figures as sophomore forward Ashley Williams led the Tide with 24 points and eight rebounds. Senior forward Briana Hutchen followed her with a double-double after recording 20 points and 11 rebounds. With 14 points and three rebounds, freshman guard Meoshonti Knight rounded out the trio. Alabama outshot KU with a 53 percent success rate from the field. The Tide went 7-for-13 from behind the arc. 

“(They are) A team that averages 53 points and shoots 33 percent that comes in here and scores 85 (points) and shoots 52 percent,” Henrickson said. “There’s no excuse for it. You let people shoot layups and uncontested shots, of course they feel good offensively. The longer we didn’t defend, the more it became just going to the rim, and I always say if you let people shoot layups and free throws, you’re telling them ‘we can’t beat you.’ This team needs to find a competitive spirit on the floor. We made some mistakes, but not on offense.” 
Alabama was the first to put up points on the board, even after losing the opening tip. Kansas’ Knight answered the Crimson Tide’s efforts by scoring back-to-back layups. Freshman guard Lauren Aldridge, who finished the evening with six assists and no turnovers, followed her example by putting up a basket of her own. Kansas had the lead early, 6-4.

After the first media break, Alabama came back by knocking down two free throws accompanied by a layup. Kansas replied to Alabama’s efforts and the game began to pick up with the two teams trading baskets, each scoring on their own respective possessions. KU continued to hold the lead by two at the halfway point of the first frame, 13-11.

Alabama kept fighting to pass the Jayhawks, but Gardner refused to let this happen when she pulled down a defensive board and converted a layup at the other end. However, a layup by Williams ignited an 8-0 Alabama run and helped the Crimson Tide take the lead away from Kansas, 15-19. Sophomore guard Keyla Morgan attempted to silence the run by hitting a shot beyond the arc, but freshman guard Hannah Cook matched her efforts at the other end. A wide jumper by sophomore guard/forward Oceana Hamilton followed an unanswered Kansas shot, which forced the Jayhawks to take a timeout with almost seven minutes remaining in the half, 20-24.

After the break, Alabama hit another three-point shot and a layup to widen their lead. The Kansas duo of Gardner and Knight replied by putting up six points combined to bring Kansas back within one. At the three-minute mark, Aldridge rebounded a missed Alabama free throw, which resulted in another Gardner layup at the other end. On the next Jayhawk possession, Boyd chalked up two points with a layup and gave Kansas back its lead, 32-29.

The Crimson Tide continued to battle for the advantage, but allowed six Jayhawk free throws in the last two minutes. Kansas was ahead at halftime, 38-35.

KU shot 58 percent from the field during the first 20 minutes and it held Alabama to 48 percent. Gardner led Kansas with 16 points and three rebounds. The Jayhawks as a group only missed one free throw in the first frame and went 7-for-8 from the line.

Alabama came within one right out of the gate with Williams driving the lane and making a layup. Boyd kept ahold of the Jayhawk advantage with a jumper of her own. Knight felt the energy and drained a trey on the next possession, forcing an Alabama timeout, 43-37.

With just over 13 minutes to play, Gardner excited the crowd after she put up a shot in the paint from Aldridge. This was the first field goal for Kansas in nearly three minutes, but by taking advantage of free throws Kansas was able to pull ahead 55-47.

This trend continued when Gardner completed a traditional three-point play after being fouled in the act of a layup. After the under-12 media timeout, Gardner passed it to Brown, who was deep in the paint and able to complete a two-point basket.

Senior guard Sharin Rivers stopped Kansas in its tracks when she stole the ball from Brown. Morgan took a charge to give possession back to Kansas, which resulted in two more points from Gardner. Brown rallied from her mistakes and followed Gardner’s efforts with a shot of her own. Kansas held on tight to its advantage, 64-57.

The Crimson Tide stayed close on Kansas’ heels completing eight field goals in a row throughout the second half. A missed three-pointer by Hutchen was the first shot Alabama missed in a total of eight minutes. Kansas was ahead by three, 75-72, going into the final media timeout of the game.

A jumper by Williams brought Alabama back within one. Another Crimson Tide bucket by the UA’s Knight put them ahead of Kansas by two. A foul on Gardner opened up the opportunity for Knight to complete two free throw shots. Kansas was unable to answer at the other end.

With one minute remaining in the game, the score remained close as Alabama led, 75-80. The crowd lit up when Gardner was still able to knock in a layup despite being fouled by junior forward Briana Hegstetter. Kansas did its best to regain the lead by taking its chances on Alabama’s free throw abilities. It would prove to be successful when Williams missed two free throws and Gardner was able to score at the other end. Kansas was now only down by three with 25 seconds remaining in the game.

Kansas was unable to overcome the Alabama advantage in the final seconds of the game and fell, 85-80.

  • Sophomore Jada Brown marked a career-high this evening with 12 points. She was perfect from field goal range, making 5-for-5.
  • Before the first half was over, senior forward Chelsea Gardner was already in double-figures with 16 points. She achieved a season-high 30 points by the end of the game. It was her third time to accomplish the 30-point mark and 51st double-digit scoring performance.
  • Senior Asia Boyd was the final Jayhawk to see a season-high with 11 total points.
  • Accomplishing 20-for-25 (80 percent), Kansas outscored Alabama at the free throw line.
  • Kansas’ loss brings the all-time series record to 1-2.

The Jayhawks will return to the court tomorrow at 4 p.m. to take on Temple in the second game of the 2014 Naismith Hall of Fame Women’s Basketball Challenge inside Allen Fieldhouse.
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