The Kansas women’s basketball team won its fourth straight game and picked up a highly coveted Power 5 victory on Wednesday night, knocking off Nebraska, 69-52, at Allen Fieldhouse.
Nebraska (9-3) entered the game averaging more than 80 points per game and was held to 29% by the KU defense.
The win moved the Jayhawks to 7-4 on the season and ended non-conference play on a high note. After a week off, KU will enter Big 12 play against West Virginia on Dec. 30 at home.
KU was 0-for-4 against Power 5 foes entering Wednesday night, with close losses to Penn State, Virginia Tech and UConn and an 11-point loss at Texas A&M. All four of those games came away from home, and Nebraska was the first Power 5 foe to visit Allen Fieldhouse this season.
Here’s a look back at some of the more memorable moments, good and bad, from Wednesday's tough win over the Cornhuskers.
• Bench bonus: The Jayhawks need to develop depth, but that’s not going to happen with the starting five playing 35+ minutes each per game. To that end, KU coach Brandon Schneider elected to start the second quarter with three subs in the game while Kansas played with a slim lead. Laia Conesa, Danai Papadopoulou and Ryan Cobbins joined starters Wyvette Mayberry and Holly Kersgieter in the KU lineup and the Jayhawks actually pushed their lead to nine (23-14) before that group of reserves checked out. All three subs scored during the run and each also made an impact elsewhere, be it on defense, the glass or in setting up a teammate.
• Twin doesn’t play: Don’t get it confused. Taiyanna Jackson was out there for 33 minutes during Wednesday’s win. But she wasn’t in the mood to play around with anybody. In fact, by the time she was fully pulled into the fight after Nebraska’s Alexis Markowski challenged her down low, physically and verbally, Jackson stayed fired up the rest of the night and did not come down. Her play was turned up a notch. She talked and roared and barked and cheered after nearly everything that happened and she walked away with the last laugh — a KU victory. She also nearly recorded another double-double, finishing with 12 points and 9 rebounds along with 3 blocks and 2 steals.
• Ready to fight: With Wednesday being the Jayhawks’ last chance to get a Power 5 win before the start of Big 12 play, you could see early on that it meant something. That was true for both teams, really, but it was great to see Kansas match Nebraska’s willingness to rumble right out of the gate. Had they not been, the Huskers brought the kind of effort that could’ve led to an early 6-10 point lead for the visitors in a hurry. Instead, KU led after one quarter and held the lead for the vast majority of the game. Those kinds of starts are going to be critical in the Big 12, so this will go down as a great reminder of that and tune-up for it.
• Playmakers: One of the ways the Jayhawks countered the ultra-physical nature of the Nebraska defense was by driving right at them. Multiple KU players did this throughout the night, but few did it as consistently and as well as Wyvette Mayberry and S’Mya Nichols. Their decisions to attack off the dribble didn’t always lead to points, but it was always the right play and the approach forced Nebraska to play back on its heels a little more than the Cornhuskers would’ve liked. It also showcased a strength of both players and created opportunities for their teammates, as well.
• S’Mya cracked: The freshman guard was beating Nebraska’s guards off the dribble at will and getting to the hoop easy and often in the early going on Wednesday. But after one take, midway through the first quarter, she was smacked in the throat and came back down the floor struggling to find her breath and in clear discomfort. No foul was called and the contact was probably inadvertent. But it had an impact, and Nichols checked out of the game and was looked at by trainers at the next dead ball. After a couple of gulps of water and deep breaths, Nichols was deemed to be fine and rejoined her team on the bench. She checked back in less than 2 minutes of game clock time later and finished the game 13 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists but also 7 turnovers in 30 minutes.
• Turnover issues: Speaking of turnovers, the Jayhawks had 15 on the night, and several of the ones they gave away were almost all avoidable and came as the result of miscommunication or clear frustration. That’s the way things go sometimes in these hotly contested matchups. But KU will spend some time during the next week addressing that and doing everything they can to prevent stretches like that from happening in future games. In fact, after one turnover in Wednesday’s victory, KU coach Brandon Schneider went out of his way to try to calm his players down, walking toward mid-court screaming, ‘Next play! Next play! Next play!’ on the way.
• Sweet sequence pushes the lead to 19: With KU playing a high-energy brand of basketball from the start, one of their best sequences led to a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter and turned the Allen Fieldhouse crowd wild. Moments after driving into the paint and scoring off the dribble on her own, Holly Kersgieter pushed the ball up the court in transition and flipped it ahead to Zakiyah Franklin after stopping on a dime at the free throw line while running full speed. Franklin wasted no time flipping a pass across the lane and over the head of a Nebraska defender into the waiting hands of Taiyanna Jackson, who went right up and was fouled while she finished the bucket. Jackson missed the free throw that would’ve put the Jayhawks up by 20, but it was that kind of play that we expected to see all season long from the Jayhawks and that kind of play that we got a few different times in this one. This wasn’t a “What the heck was that?” type of thing but rather a “What the heck is it gonna take to see more of that?” moment.
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