Courtesy: Kansas Athletics
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas senior forward Chelsea Gardner tallied a team-high 17 points while turning in her second-straight game shooting over 60 percent with 10 attempted shots. However, coupled with Gardner’s five personal fouls and No. 3 Baylor’s 15 offensive rebounds and 15 second chance points, the Jayhawks fell to the third-ranked team in the nation, 71-63, Saturday afternoon inside Allen Fieldhouse.
Kansas (9-9, 0-5) trailed by just five points, 64-59, and was looking for a late surge when Gardner was whistled for her fourth foul with three minutes and one second to play in the second half. Gardner’s foul sent Baylor to the free throw line in a one-and-one situation. The free throw attempt was not successful, bouncing off of the rim and into Baylor guard Nina Davis’ arms for one of her game-high eight offensive rebounds. Davis went back up with the rebound when Gardner raked her across the arm for her fifth and final foul with exactly three minutes to play in the game.
Prior to the disqualification, Gardner had converted three of KU’s last four made baskets. Now, with three minutes to play, and her permanent absence for the remainder of the contest, the Jayhawks went cold from the field (1-of-3) making their last field goal attempt with 48 seconds to play in the game. The drought allowed No. 3 Baylor (15-1, 5-0) to extend its lead to as many as eight points and take the victory. Sophomore forward Caelynn Manning-Allen
grabbed one of her team-best eight rebounds.
Along with Gardner’s team-high 17 points two other Jayhawks joined her in double figures. Freshman guard Lauren Aldridge chipped in a career-best 14 points, while senior guard Natalie Knight scored 11. She dished out seven assists compared to no turnovers. Sophomore forward Caelynn Manning-Allen conributed a strong 24 minutes from the bench adding six points, eight rebounds and a team-high two blocks.
“This certainly isn’t where we want to be, but I felt like we got better today,” head coach Bonnie Hendrickson said. “I thought our energy was better and I thought our effort was better. We took care of the ball and we went to the free throw line. We didn’t settle. We had more free throw attempts than we had turnovers. When we do that, we have a chance to win either if it’s non-conference or in the league. It’s just gut-wrenching that we had 17 missed shots in the second half and they had 12 offensive rebounds and that’s where it is. I thought we got good minutes from Caeylnn (Manning- Allen) off the bench. It’s good to see her and Chelsea (Gardner) play together and at times pretty well.”
Davis came up huge for the Lady Bears leading the floor with 24 points, 14 rebounds and five steals in 34 minutes of play. Baylor shot extremely well in the first half making 16-of-26 attempts (61.5 percent), but quickly cooled in the second period of play to 9-of-27 (33 percent) partially allowing Kansas to inch back into the game.
Baylor only missed two shots of its first seven shots throughout the opening five minutes of the game. The Lady Bears would lead by as much as nine during that time, but the Jayhawks forced a few turnovers and were able to swing momentum in their direction. Going almost shot-for-shot with Baylor and 4-of-4 from the field, Kansas came back within three, 24-21.
To Baylor’s delight, the Jayhawks fell into a slump after the comeback as Kansas only made two of its next 10 shots. The Bears were still firing on offense and established a 14-5 run to build their largest lead of the game, 37-26.
Now deep in the first half, the duo of Knight and Aldridge knocked in a quick five points with a three-pointer and a jumper to lessen the Baylor advantage back into single digits. Knight’s jumper would be the last connected field goal by either team for the remainder of the half. BU was ahead by nine at the break, 40-31.
Baylor got off to a slow start in the second half after making only two of its first seven shots. Kansas was in a similar situation until Gardner accomplished a traditional three-point play. With a stop at the other end, Kansas established a 7-0 run and forced BU into a scoring drought that lasted nearly three minutes.
Both teams fought to start a run, but neither was able to. The two teams traded baskets and Kansas kept chipping away at the Baylor lead. Igniting the crowd, Aldridge drained her second three of the game to become the third Jayhawk to post double figures with 13 minutes left to play. More imporatntly, Aldridge brought the Jayhawks within four points.
Back-to-back shots from the Jayhawks put Kansas down only by one, the closest they had been all game and the fight continued. Baylor would push back, but KU did what it could to put the Lady Bears’ lead to rest. It was a three-point game with less than five minutes to play when Kansas missed on a few costly baskets and allowed Baylor to score on the other end.
Kansas entered into a scoring silence, which allowed the Bears to establish a more comfortable lead of as much as six. Already in foul trouble, there was little Kansas could to do to gain control of the game. The Jayhawks’ offense wasn’t able to overcome the lead and ultimately fell, 71-63.
• Kansas completed 17-of-19 (90 percent) charity shots, the highest percentage with a minimum of 10 attempts since California (12/7) when the Jayhawks chalked up a 95 percent of the free throws behind a 19-for-20 mark.
• Compared to a 62 field goal percentage in the first half, the Kansas defense held Baylor to a 33 percent mark in the second half. The lowest by the Bears in a single half since they fell to Kentucky on Nov. 17.
• Both in double figures, seniors Chelsea Gardner and Natalie Knight posted their 15th game with 10 or more points with 17 and 11 points, respectively.
• Freshman guard Lauren Aldridge surpassed her previous career high of 13 points with 14 points against the Bears.
The Jayhawks will take to the road again to face Texas Tech on Wednesday, Jan. 21 at 7 p.m.