Fifteen games into her new career as Kansas head coach, Bonnie Henrickson has almost experienced it all. Ten of those regular season games have given the new Head Hawk a chance to pace up and down historic James Naismith Court. KU’s five road tests have given her a chance to lead her club against Top 25 competition in both conference and non-conference play.
KU’s new coach has also already experienced a game day with Kansas State in town and the exciting atmosphere that the Sunflower Showdown always presents. Saturday night, Coach Henrickson will try to add two more important experiences to her first season as Jayhawk coach: her first taste of the Border Showdown with Missouri and hopefully her first Big 12 win as KU’s head coach.
The 7-9 (1-4) Missouri Tigers return to Lawrence where the Jayhawks (7-8, 0-4) are 15-10 all-time against Mizzou. Kansas also leads the overall series standings with a 34-31 record against the Tigers. Last year, the two rivals split the two games series, with the road team winning each game. If Kansas wants to claim at least one win again this year they’ll have to overcome a significant size advantage for the Tigers.
“We go from playing arguably, probably the smallest team, Texas A&M, in the league to one of the biggest teams in Missouri. They start a 6-3 (EeTisha) Riddle, a perimeter player that is bigger than anyone we have on our team. So again, they’re a lot bigger and we have an emphasis that the smallest team beat us in A&M and got 18 offensive boards, certainly we’re having nightmares about what the biggest team in the league potentially could do to us if we don’t box out and rebound any better than we did last week.”
Another key for Kansas will be defending former Leavenworth High School standout Tiffany Brooks, who has led all Missouri scorers in conference play with a 16.2 point per game average. Henrickson has been impressed by what she’s seen of Brooks, ever since the former Lady Pioneer transferred from Kansas State last winter.
“She can get to the rim and finish. She has a good mid-range game and also defensively can be a force on the ball. She does a nice job getting into passing lanes and does a nice job pressuring the ball.”
Inside the Tigers are led by 6-3 junior center Christelle N’Garsanet, who is second on the team in scoring at 12.4 points per game and leads the team in rebounding with over six boards per night. N’Garsanet’s length has caught Henrickson’s eye.
“N’Garsanet is very long and lanky. We’ve got to respect her athleticism and her length when we try to pass around her.”
Once again for Kansas, some of the biggest keys will come on the defensive end. The Jayhawks have held each of their four conference opponents below their scoring average and they intend to the do same on Saturday night when the Tigers come in scoring almost 62 points a game.
“Defensively, we’ve got to really work hard and work together and then not only force tough shots but also create some offense from our defense.”
The Jayhawks have had a week off between games and hope the extra time away from game competition has helped them to heal up a bit and get ready for what they hope will be their first conference win of the season. Kansas expects a great atmosphere on Saturday night and Coach Henrickson is hoping her team can get a little extra energy from the home crowd.
“I promise you our kids will come with tremendous, energy, focus, concentration and effort. They’re excited about the opportunity to play at home. It’s an opportunity for us to win a league game at home and we’re excited about that chance. We’re really looking forward to the passion and the energy and focus from the stands.”
Tipoff is set for 7 PM and be sure to come early and bring your donation for the Indian Ocean Tsunami relief fund. KU Students will be collecting donations for the American Red Cross relief effort inside the Allen Fieldhouse doors between 5-7 PM Saturday night.