Courtesy: KU Athletics
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas handed No. 10 California its first loss, 62-39, of the season on Sunday night with the help of a potent defense and double-digit scoring efforts from three Jayhawks.
A 22-point performance by senior forward Chelsea Gardner led the floor. She was 7-for-17 from the field and she pulled down eight rebounds. It was the De Soto, Texas native’s ninth-straight game scoring 10 or more points. Senior guard Asia Boyd added 13 points and six rebounds off the bench. With 11 points, freshman guard Lauren Aldridge also put up double figures. Senior guard Natalie Knight had an impressive performance as she was just shy of a double-double with 9 points and 8 rebounds.
“We have the pieces – the speed, the athleticism, the basketball IQ, and competiveness – to be a good defensive team,” Kansas head coach Bonnie Henrickson said. “Some teams have a can do, but ours is a want to. You have got to find the fight, something inside of you. Not everyone wants to play on that end of the floor, but once we mature enough and recognize how important that is, it gives you and advantage. We say that your defense is going to be the reason you win, and your offense is going to tell you how much you win by. We have to believe that.”
Kansas (7-2) led No. 10 California (7-1) for a total of 35 minutes and 50 seconds and held one of the most explosive offenses in the nation to just 18 percent from the field and 19 points in the second half. On the night, Cal shot only 24 percent from field goal range. The Jayhawks outrebounded the Golden bears 36 to 18 on defense. Compared to California’s bench who had three points, Kansas had 20 total points from players coming off of the bench. Senior forward Chelsea Gardner led the floor
with 22 points and eight rebounds.
“I’m proud that within a week, we grew up and realized that we are trying to become a better half-court defensive team,” Henrickson said. “I thought we did a really good job. We missed a bunch of layups early, and looked antsy, but defensively I thought we looked solid. We forced tough two’s and rebounded the ball in traffic, and once we started to calm down a little bit, we started to hit some open three’s. Chelsea (Gardner) is that caliber of a player to attract attention in the paint, and I felt that all year that it would be important for us for make open shots. I’m certainly proud of the growth and recognizing how our offense has really a huge important on your ability to defend.”
Kansas’ defense, along with the help of foul trouble, allowed KU to hold California’s All-American candidates under both of their scoring averages. Senior guard Britanny Boyd had 12 points, while senior forward Reshanda Gray, who averages 22.6 points per game had just 11. Boyd fouled out with four and a half minutes left to play, while Gray played most of the second half with four fouls.
Kansas was silent for the first five minutes of the game, shooting 0-for-6 from the field. It was a similar story for the Golden Bears, as they were held to only one field goal in that same time stretch. Boyd ended the scoring drought with a three-pointer that ignited the crowd and sparked an 11-2 Jayhawk run to widen Kansas’ advantage. During the run, KU tallied up a quick six points by connecting back-to-back shots from beyond the arc.
Kansas had yet to hear from Gardner, but when she finally knocked in a jumper, she started a 12-2 run that would last the remainder of the half. Freshman guard Terriell Bradley added to Gardner’s efforts when she stole the ball from freshman guard Gabby Green and was fouled at the other end. She went 2-for-2 from the line and gave Kansas a 10-point lead, 22-12.
After a lull in excitement, Gardner gave Kansas back its momentum by hitting a long two-point shot just before the shot clock expired. Both teams then struggled to convert shots, but after a couple minutes, Knight found a good look and drained a trey, her third of the night.
Just before the halftime break, Boyd hit Kansas’ sixth three of the night and connected a two-point bucket on the next possession., which once again brought the Allen Fieldhouse crowd to its feet as KU took a 36-20 lead into half, which marked only the second time California has trailed this season; the last being a 38-36 deficit to Missouri on Nov. 23, 2014.
With 10 points each, Boyd and Gardner were already in double figures. The Jayhawks held Cal to shoot a dismal 31 percent from the field in the first half of play. The Golden Bears previous low shooting percentage in the first half of play this season was 41.2 percent against Hawaii on Nov. 21. Cal had shot over 40 percent in the first half of each of its 10 games this season.
The second half began with the Golden Bears and Jayhawks trading baskets from the field. California struggled with foul trouble and had two players already having three or more fouls. The Jayhawks took advantage of this opportunity and had a perfect performance from the free throw line, giving them 12 extra points thus far in the game.
At the 13-minute mark, Gardner provided energy yet again by draining another long two-point shot. The Golden Bears were unable to reply and only made one of nine shots over the course of six minutes. A pair of made free throws from Bradley gave Kansas its largest lead of the game so far, 50-30.
Although the Golden Bears fought to come back, Aldridge completed four free throws in less than 30 seconds. Kansas was now a perfect 18-for-18 from the line. Down the stretch, Boyd connected an NBA-range three-point shot exciting both the Jayhawks bench and crowd. Kansas took the win, 62-39.
Final Score: Kansas 62 No. 10 California 39
• Kansas held Cal to shoot a dismal 24 percent from the field over the course of the game, only making 15-of-62 attempts. The Jayhawks have now held three opponents under 25 percent from the field this season, including another 15-of-62 effort by Texas Southern and a 17-of-73 (23 percent) mark by Georgetown.
• The stifling Jayhawk defense held the Golden Bears to 18 percent shooting in the second period of play – the lowest in a half by a KU opponent since the Jayhawks held Colorado to make 17 percent of its shots (5-of-29) on March 23, 2013.
• Cal’s 31 percent from the field in the first half of play set a new season low for the Golden Bears. California’s previous low in the first half of play this season was 41.2 percent against Hawaii on Nov. 21. Cal had shot over 40 percent in the first half of each of its eight games this season until Sunday.
• Cal’s 39 points were the fewest by a Kansas opponent this season and the fewest by the Jayhawks’ opposition since Idaho only managed 36 points on Nov. 11, 2012. From Cal’s perspective, the point total scored by the Golden Bears was the lowest since a 32-point performance against UCLA on Feb. 6, 2010.
• KU’s 36-20 lead over the Golden Bears at halftime marked the largest lead an opponent has had over Cal this season and only the second time California has trailed this season at the midway point of the game – the last being a 38-36 deficit to Missouri on Nov. 23, 2014. Kansas eventually went on to record a 25-point lead in the contest.
• Kansas’ 20-point lead over California with 8:40 remaining in the contest marked the first time an opponent had held a lead of 20 or more points since No. 4 Stanford ran up a 30-point advantage over the Golden Bears on Jan. 30, 2014.
• The Golden Bears trailed the Jayhawks for 35 minutes and 50 seconds in the first half of the game, the longest that an opponent has held a lead on Cal this season, topping the previous long stretch of 7:31 against Missouri on Nov. 23, 2014.
• KU’s 25-point lead with 49 seconds to play in the game proved to be the largest lead an opponent has held on Cal this season, erasing the previous high of seven points by Hawaii on Nov. 21, 2014.
• The last time Kansas defeated a team ranked in the nation’s top-10 occurred Jan. 19. 2014 when the Jayhawks beat No. 7 Baylor 76-60 inside Allen Fieldhouse. The win gave Kansas its first fourth win over a top-10 team under head coach Bonnie Henrickson and its first win over any team playing on national television this season.
• After a record setting performance from three-point range in its last game, Kansas continued to scorch the nets from three against California with a 7-11(63.6) performance behind the line.
• The Jayhawks shot an astounding 95 percent from the free throw line converting 19-of-20 attempts, which became the second best free throw percentage by a Kansas team on a minimum of 15 attempts from the charity stripe. KU’s 95 percent also became the second best mark in program history for free throw percentage in a game, besting 94 percent which had been done three times, most recently in 2010.
• KU’s performance from the line also shattered the previous high this season of 80 percent against Alabama on Nov. 21, 2014 in which the Jayhawks made 20-of-25 attempts.