Gardner scores 30, but Jayhawks fall to Alabama

Kansas senior forward Chelsea Gardner (15) scores two of her game high 30 points over Alabama junior forward Nikki Hegstetter during the first game of the 2014 Naismith Hall of Fame Women's Challenge Friday evening at Allen Fieldhouse. Despite Gardner's 30 points, the Jayhawks were unable to hold off the Crimson Tide, falling 85-80. The Jayhawks will take the court again tomorrow for game two of the challenge against Temple. Tip off is set for 4 p.m. at Allen Fieldhouse.

On a night star senior forward Chelsea Gardner delivered 30 points and Kansas University’s women’s basketball team made 51 percent of its field goals, coach Bonnie Henrickson would like to think her team had done enough to leave Allen Fieldhouse with a victory.

The Jayhawks couldn’t find that final, critical part of the equation Friday against Alabama, though, in an 85-80 loss in the first game of the three-day Naismith Hall of Fame Women’s Basketball Challenge.

Henrickson couldn’t quite believe it afterward, especially because KU (2-1) had so many defensive breakdowns against a Crimson Tide team (2-2) that came to town averaging 54 points a game on 33.7-percent shooting. Against the Jayhawks, Alabama’s point total skyrocketed, as the visitors made 57.7 percent of their second-half shots en route to 50 points in the final 20 minutes.

“There’s no excuse for it. No excuse,” KU’s frustrated coach said. “You let people shoot layups and uncontested shots and of course they felt good offensively.”

Kansas had no solution for the Crimson Tide’s Ashley Williams (24 points) and Briana Hutchen (20 points), and Alabama hit 30 of 57 shots.

“This team needs to grow up and find a competitive spirit on that (defensive) end of the floor,” Henrickson said, adding the issue wasn’t KU’s offense.

Indeed, Gardner came within four points of her career high, fellow seniors Natalie Knight and Asia Boyd chipped in 11 points apiece and sophomore forward Jada Brown added 12 on 5-for-5 shooting as Kansas converted 29 of its 57 field-goal attempts.

It seemed — even late in the game — the half-court play-making of KU senior guard Knight (seven assists), freshman guard Lauren Aldridge (six assists) and sophomore guard Keyla Morgan (six second-half points) would give the Jayhawks enough to survive.

However, Alabama hit seven of its final 10 shots and made just enough free throws (5-for-8) in the final 39 seconds to win.

Gardner (eight rebounds, one block) admitted defensive miscues plagued Kansas.

“People who were open were supposed to be ball-side denied,” Gardner said. “That’s where we kind of broke down.”

Alabama outscored KU 13-5 in the final 4:43. Alabama took a 77-75 lead when Meoshonti Knight drove in for a layup with 2:30 left in the game. She then hit both free throws with 2:03 to go, giving the visitors a four-point lead and plenty of confidence for crunch time.

The Jayhawks, who looked smooth most of the night with the ball, missed seven of their last 10 shots.

“We had a couple of great looks,” Aldridge said of the final minutes. “Natalie had a three, I had a layup, (Gardner) offensive rebounded it. We got good looks, the ball just didn’t go in the basket.”

Henrickson, of course, finished the night worried far more about her team’s defense.

“It’s a breakdown from a toughness and an effort and want-to (standpoint),” she said. “It’s not a can-do, it’s a want-to,”

First-year guard out for season: Henrickson announced a few hours before the game junior guard Timeka O’Neal will miss the rest of the season due to a tear in her right knee’s anterior cruciate ligament. Her injury occurred following one official appearance in a KU uniform. She played eight minutes and hit a three-pointer in a season-opening victory over South Dakota.

O’Neal will apply for a medical hardship and should have two years of eligibility remaining at Kansas, after starring two years for Johnson County Community College.

The Jayhawks play host to Temple at 4 p.m. today.

ALABAMA (85)

MIN FG FT REB PF TP

m-a m-a o-t

Ashley Williams 35 9-12 6-10 4-8 4 24

Briana Hutchen 31 8-10 2-4 2-11 3 20

K. Middlebrook 32 3-10 2-4 0-2 4 9

Hannah Cook 30 2-9 2-4 0-0 3 8

Nikki Hegstetter 30 1-5 0-0 1-2 5 3

Meoshonti Knight 13 4-6 3-4 0-3 2 11

Sharin Rivers 15 1-3 3-5 0-1 2 6

Quanetria Bolton 9 1-1 0-0 0-2 2 2

Oceana Hamilton 5 1-1 0-0 1-1 0 2

team 2-5

Totals 30-57 18-30 10-35 25 85

Three-point goals: 7-13 (Hutchen 2-3, Cook 2-3, Rivers 1-1, Middlebrook 1-3, Hegstetter 1-3). Assists: 17 (Middlebrook 6, Hegstetter 3, Cook 2, Knight 2, Rivers 2, Williams, Hutchen). Turnovers: 16 (Hutchen 4, Middlebrook 3, Williams 2, Cook 2, Knight 2, Rivers 2, Hegstetter). Blocked shots: 1 (Hamilton). Steals: 6 (Rivers 2, Hutchen, Middlebrook, Hegstetter, Knight).

KANSAS (80)

MIN FG FT REB PF TP

m-a m-a o-t

Chelsea Gardner 38 13-21 4-6 4-8 3 30

Jada Brown 31 5-5 2-3 2-6 3 12

Asia Boyd 13 3-4 5-6 0-1 5 11

Natalia Knight 38 4-11 2-2 0-4 0 11

Lauren Aldridge 38 1-5 5-6 0-2 2 7

Keyla Morgan 22 3-7 2-2 1-1 4 9

Chayla Cheadle 5 0-0 0-0 0-1 5 0

Terriell Bradley 13 0-4 0-0 0-2 4 0

Bunny Williams 2 0-0 0-0 0-0 1 0

team 0-3

Totals 29-57 20-25 7-28 27 80

Three-point goals: 2-15 (Morgan 1-3, Knight 1-5, Boyd 0-1, Aldridge 0-3, Bradley 0-3). Assists: 21 (Knight 7, Aldridge 6, Morgan 3, Gardner 2, Boyd, Cheadle, Bradley). Turnovers: 16 (Boyd 4, Morgan 4, Gardner 3, Brown 2, Bradley 2, Williams). Blocked shots: 2 (Gardner, Brown). Steals: 4 (Aldridge 2, Gardner, Morgan).

Alabama 35 50 — 85

Kansas 38 42 — 80

Officials: Tina Napier, Scott Yarbrough, Beverly Roberts. Attendance: NA.

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