STANFORD, Calif. – A young Kansas team pushed top-seeded Stanford hard in the first half on Sunday night at Maples Pavilion, but the host Cardinal exploded in the second half and cruised to a 91-65 second-round NCAA Tournament women’s basketball victory.
The loss ended the Jayhawks’ season at 21-10. It came two days after the eighth-seeded Jayhawks defeated Georgia Tech in a first-round Spokane Region contest for their first NCAA Tournament victory since 2013.
“I thought we played well against Georgia Tech,” Kansas coach Brandon Schneider said after Sunday’s loss. “I thought there were some moments (tonight) against Stanford that we played very well. I would hope it would create a good thirst in our program to continue to grow and develop - and be a consistent participant in this tournament.”
KU guard Zakiyah Franklin paced the Jayhawks with 13 points, four assists and five boards.
In the first ever meeting between these two programs, the Jayhawks certainly made Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer sweat after trailing just 33-31 at the half.
“At halftime, I didn’t know which team was going to Spokane,” VanDerveer said.
“Our coach told us Kansas wanted it more,” Stanford center Cameron Brink said.
If it wasn’t for Cardinal guard Lexie Hull, it might have been the Jayhawks who headed to Spokane, Washington. Hull delivered a career-high 36 points, including a 14-point third period. She drained six of 11 3-pointers and added six steals, six rebounds and three assists.
“That was one of the best offensive performances I have seen,” Schneider said. “I was even more impressed with her defense.”
“We had Lexie and they didn’t,” said VanDerveer, whose club is 30-3. “She put us on her back.”
The Jayhawks came out strong, not giving an inch to the Cardinal, taking good shots, while blocking out on the defensive glass. Center Taiyanna Jackson had an early block while chipping in four first-quarter points. Jackson finished with eight points, three blocks and six rebounds.
Kansas guard Holly Kersgieter, along with Franklin, were poised throughout, keeping the Jayhawks’ attack under control. Ioanna Chatzileonti hit two big baskets late in the first quarter, including a jumper before drilling a 3-pointer from the left corner to beat the buzzer. That left the Jayhawks trailing just 20-18.
Stanford coughed up 10 of its 14 turnovers in the first half, which helped the Jayhawks stay in the game. KU’s Chandler Prater scored on a backdoor lay-in to begin the second quarter. A steal and a bucket by Aniya Thomas made it a 3-point deficit. Chatzileonti , who had 11 points, then scored on a hook shot. And Thomas knocked down a 17-footer as the Jayhawks went shot for shot with the defending champs.
Kersgieter kept it going for the Jayhawks, scoring inside while being fouled with 2:46 left in the half. The free throw caromed off the rim but Julie Brosseau’s 3-pointer tied things at 31 moments later. The underdog Jayhawks were very much in it, down 33-31 at intermission.
Franklin tied the game with a 17-foot shot to start the third quarter, then Hull began her 3-point barrage. Brosseau joined the party with another 3-pointer and the Jayhawks were down just 40-38.
Kansas, though, was outscored 58-35 in the second half and never got close again after Stanford pushed its lead to 19 points heading into the fourth quarter.
Brink finished with a double-double of 13 points and 12 boards to go along with her two rejections.
Stanford had an advantage in depth, which played into the Jayhawks wilting in the second half. It seemed Kansas simply ran out of steam.
“You can talk about their offensive performance, but I thought it was their defense,” Schneider said. “There were a lot of body blows, over and over, that took its toll. It took a lot out of us. It was difficult for us to get good looks. It was hard to get quality shot attempts. It continues to take the air out of you. It affects your ability to defend a high-octane offense.”
Despite the loss, the KU players said they were proud of the way they competed against one of the top programs in the sport on its home court.
“We gained a lot of experience,” Franklin said. “We can even learn from Stanford, the way they played. Coming back next year is the plan.”