Kansas vs. South Florida

News, notes and quotes on KU's thrilling 75-72 victory over Illinois State in the WNIT semifinals Wednesday night at Allen Fieldhouse while looking ahead to KU's championship game with Big East South Florida at 1 p.m. on Saturday in the Phog.

If KU (22-13) beats the Bulls (26-10), it would be the Jayhawks' first championship since capturing two straight conference titles in 1996 and 1997. A win would also mark a 23-win season, tying the 1998-99 team (23-10) for most wins in the last 10 years.

*Junior forward Danielle McCray eclipsed the 1,500 career point mark during the ISU game. She now has 1,515 total points and trails Angie Snider by just three points for ninth on the all-time KU scoring list. McCray scored 22 of her game-high 31 points in the second half and made seven of KU's 11 field goals after halftime. She was held to just two points the first 12-plus minutes of the game.

"She was antsy out of the gate," KU coach Bonnie Henrickson said, "but finished playing with a lot of poise and composure."

*KU held star guard and three-time MVC Player of the Year Kristi Cirone to just 7 of 24 shooting, including 0 of 6 from three-point range. The senior led the Redbirds with 24 points and became the school's all-time single-season scoring leader. She talked about ISU's difficulty of defending McCray.

"We just went in there and tried to play team defense on her," Cirone said. "Like Coach (Robin Pingeton) said, she's an amazing player. She's got a lot of different moves that she uses. We just try to put new bodies on her and slow her down a bit."

*This game was so big that Illinois State brought its own band, cheerleaders and dance team. The Redbirds had about 200-300 red-clad fans cheering behind the team bench.

*Freshman forward Aishah Sutherland had another impressive game. Sutherland, who entered the game averaging 12.7 points and 10.0 rebounds in the WNIT, scored nine points with seven rebounds and three blocks. She was 4 of 4 from the field.

*Junior forward Nicollette Smith hit some pressure free throws (7 of 8) in the final 1:33 of the game. Those were career highs in free throws made and attempted.

"That was probably the most pressure I have ever been put under in my life," Smith said. "I am glad I came out of it OK so people would be comfortable when I step up for late free throws in the future."

*Henrickson improved her overall record at KU to 79-78.

*Pingeton said she was "really proud of our kids" for cutting KU's 17-point second-half lead to one point in the final seconds.

"I thought they played with a ton of heart and a ton of toughness," she said. "It would have been easy to have thrown in the towel, but our kids refused to do that. ... I'm proud of our effort...and I'm proud of our never-say-die-attitude.  Our kids have a lot to be proud of."

 ISU's 27 wins this season were one shy of a school record (28 in 1980-81). The Redbirds also won three postseason games for the first time ever.

Pingeton also praised Henrickson and the Jayhawks.

"Bonnie has done a great job with this program," Pingeton said. "It's a program that's going to continue to be on the rise.  They've got some tremendous players. It was a fantastic atmosphere and they have a very talented ballclub."

Phog.net Top Stories