Wildcats fall to the experience of the Jayhawks

(Photo by George Walker | Collegian) Senior forward Katya Leick dribbles around KU guard Charlicia Harper in the Wildcats' 71-64 loss to the Jayhawks Saturday in Bramlage Coliseum. Leick nearly finished with a double-double, recording 12 points and 9 rebounds.Photo credit: George Walker

In the first installment of this year’s women’s basketball Sunflower Showdown, a late scoring outburst by freshman guard Leticia Romero and a near double-double from senior forward Katya Leick couldn’t help K-State come back against rival Kansas in Bramlage Coliseum. The Wildcats (8-11, 2-6 Big 12) tried to make it close, but in the end a strong performance by the Jayhawks’ (10-10, 3-5 Big 12) leading scorer Chelsea Gardner was too much for the Wildcats to handle as they fell 71-64 Saturday.

“It is a disappointing loss anytime you drop one at home in Big 12 play,” head coach Deb Patterson said. “We did not make the plays that were going to kick us over into victory.”

The first half was dominated by Gardner, the Jayhawks’ star junior forward. With 17 points and eight rebounds, Gardner had most of her team’s production in the half. With no other player over five points, and shooting 0-7 from the 3-point range, the Jayhawks depended on Gardner close to the basket.

In the first half, the Wildcats’ offense was led by senior forward Ashlynn Knoll, who had five points in the half. Romero, with only three points in the half, put her teammates into good positions with solid passing. Her four assists kept her team close, going into the break with only a six-point deficit, 32-26.

The second half started positively for the Wildcats, with three steals and a third foul for Gardner. With the Jayhawks’ centerpiece on the bench for most of the second half, Kansas relied on their experienced players to keep them ahead. The Jayhawks finished with five players scoring in double digits, and two players who were two rebounds away from double-doubles.

The Wildcats’ turnovers played a significant role in the outcome of the game. With 10 points off of eight Wildcat turnovers in the first half alone, the Wildcats couldn’t get a run going against a Jayhawk team that had only two turnovers in the first half. The Jayhawks finished with 16 forced turnovers in the game, and only allowed five points off of their own turnovers.

“They had a game plan for us, they had something we had to do and we didn’t execute,” Leick said after the game.

The Wildcats’ inexperience showed through with their performance at the free-throw line, going 9-21 in the game. The Jayhawks countered that with a 71.4 percent showing from the charity stripe, icing the game down the stretch.

“The free throw shooting today was an absolute indication of, mentally, the lack of maturity, competitive and toughness that will separate you,” Patterson said after the game. “[The free throw shooting] was a very big factor in the game.”

The Wildcats next will try to end their two-game skid when they play Oklahoma Wednesday in Bramlage Coliseum. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.