Jayhawks Take Bruins, 54-49

The Kansas women's basketball team survived a defensive, heated battle against UCLA Thursday night in Allen Fieldhouse, winning 54-49 and breaking a two-game losing skid.

No. 24 KU (4-2) shot just 37.8 percent, committed 20 turnovers, was outscored 30 to 18 in the paint, and outrebounded 43-29, including 23 to 11 on the offensive glass.

Sophomore forward Aishah Sutherland, who entered the game as the nation's leading field goal shooter (72.5 percent) missed 11 of 13 shots.
It sure wasn't pretty, but a ‘W' nonetheless.

"About the only goal we accomplished was to play poorly and win," KU coach Bonnie Henrickson said. "We weren't able to do that in the Bahamas (KU lost its last two games to Xavier and TCU on Nov. 26 and Nov. 28) and not very much last year."

On the plus side, Kansas held the Bruins to just  36.1 percent field goal shooting, outscored them 15 to 4 at the free-throw line, and forced 21 turnovers.

Senior forward Danielle McCray and junior center Krysten Boogaard combined to make six free throws in the final 17 seconds to secure the victory.

With KU up 48-46 with 18 seconds remaining, a potential game-leading three-pointer by Darxia Morris was nullified by an offensive foul McCray drew on Christina Nzekwe. Nzekwe then intentionally fouled Boogaard, who calmly hit two free throws to put KU ahead for good.

"I told her she won the game for us, " McCray said of Boogaard, who made just 5 of 14 free throws in KU's last loss to TCU.

However, it was the All-American candidate McCray who gave Boogaard a chance at the charity stripe with her drawn foul. Henrickson said McCray fought through the screen "like her life depended on it" to set up the offensive foul.

McCray was the game-high scorer with 15 points. She shot just five times, yet made 7-of-9 from the free-throw line, including KU's final four points. McCray scored just two points in the first half as she and fellow senior Sade Morris played just 10 and 12 minutes the first stanza, respectively, due to foul trouble.

Kansas rushed shots early in the game, and according to Henrickson, "never found rhythm," shooting just 26.1 percent the first half. The Bruins' mix-up defenses and pressure ‘D' gave Kansas fits, although the Jayhawks managed to shoot 50 percent in the second half.

Morris gave KU its first lead of the game (26-25) with 15:38 remaining on a fast-break layup set up by a McCray steal. There were four lead changes in the next 5:13 as KU eventually built its biggest lead of the game (43-38) on a three-pointer from McCray with 5:06 left. But UCLA capitalized off some costly KU turnovers and crept within two points before that decisive offensive foul on Nzekwe.

Boogaard joined McCray in double figures with 12 points, while Morris added eight. KU also received good play off the bench from senior guard LaChelda Jacobs (two points, four rebounds, two assists, and one steal in 16 minutes) and freshman guard Monica Engelman (five points and three rebounds in 12 minutes).

For KU, it was a pivotal victory after losing the last two games in the Bahamas.

"It's huge to win," Henrickson said. "We've really felt just crappy since we've came back. It hasn't been a fun week of practice.. ... I think this team is capable of being great, we just haven't shown it yet. We need to turn a corner and do that. At least to be average and win beats the heck out of being average and losing."

Indeed, it does.

"We had to dig down deep to find a way to win," McCray said. "Even though it was ugly, we fought through it."

KU next plays Northern Colorado on Sunday at Allen Fieldhouse at 1 p.m. (CT).

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