Every coach in America knows how important it is to win conference games on the road. If any team wants to challenge for its conference championship, winning road games against tough teams is imperative to establish credibility as a legitimate contender. Bonnie Henrickson’s Kansas Jayhawks did exactly that Saturday night in Morgantown, West Virginia.
Despite falling behind 17-4 early, the Lady Jayhawks clawed their way back into the game and only trailed by one at half. A late lay-up by Carolyn Davis helped seal the 60-59 victory for the Jayhawks. Davis scored 14 in the contest and Angel Goodrich led the team with 16 points and had 4 assists. The scrappy point guard also added 6 steals in the big win.
It has not been an easy journey for Coach Henrickson. In her ninth season at Kansas, it has taken time to get the program turned around. Her tenure has been marred by major injuries to key components yet the Jayhawks were able to overcome a season ending knee injury to star Carolyn Davis late last year. Despite this loss, the Lady Jayhawks were able to make a surprise run in the NCAA Tournament, earning a spot in the Sweet Sixteen.
Henrickson has been able to continue that late season success thus far in the 2012-2013 season. The Jayhawks are 11-2 and 2-0 in the Big XII. The conference, which features the defending NCAA champions Baylor Bears, is as tough as any conference in the country. In the latest US Today coaches’ poll, the Big XII has four teams ranked in the top 25 and 4 more schools that received votes. Kansas, ranked 21st, is proving last season’s run was no fluke.
If the Jayhawks want to challenge the mighty Baylor Bears, they have to win games like the one last night against talented, veteran squads. The West Virginia Mountaineers were selected as the number two team in the conference during the preseason and although things have not started as they hoped in their new conference, the Mountaineers are not a cupcake, pushover opponent. Make no mistake, last night was a big victory for Kansas and Henrickson.
Of course, things will not get any easier. The Jayhawks travel to Stillwater, Oklahoma this week for a big match-up against the 12th ranked Oklahoma State squad on Tuesday night. The Cowgirls are going to be hungry for a victory. They entered the week undefeated but they dropped a rough one against Texas Tech earlier in the week and they have to face Baylor today. Another big win against a high quality opponent on the road would go a long way to establishing Kansas as a serious contender in a fantastic conference but the Cowgirls may be desperate for a win. It should be a great game.
Bonnie Henrickson is an excellent coach but has suffered from a long string of bad luck throughout her time at Kansas. The results of her hard work are just now showing up in the wins column. It would be a great step forward for her program if they can finish this season strong and make a solid run in the tournament. Hopefully, it will help her keep the program improving in future seasons as well. I was a big Marion Washington fan but I have always been disappointed that she was unable to take advantage long term for all of her successes in the mid-1990′s. It looked for awhile in those heyday 90′s like Kansas was going to become a perennial force but it just didn’t work out that way. Hopefully, Henrickson will be able to springboard the Jayhawks into a team be reckoned with season in and season out – just like they are this season.