For the Kansas women’s basketball team this season, the formula has been simple.
If Aquanita Burras, Erica Hallman and Crystal Kemp play well the Jayhawks usually win. When those three struggle, the whole team struggles.
“We don’t have a lot of wiggle room,” Kansas coach Bonnie Henrickson said. “(Burras, Hallman and Kemp) have to play pretty well every game. If one of (them) doesn’t play well, we’re going to have a hard time winning.”
Entering Saturday’s game against Missouri (7-12, 1-6 Big 12 Confernce), Kansas (9-10, 2-6) is coming off back-to-back double-digit losses to Nebraska and Oklahoma.
Burras, Hallman or Kemp have led the team in scoring during the Jayhawks’ nine wins. Four of the team’s losses have come when one of those three is not the leading scorer. Of the three key players, Burras has struggled the most. She scored 12 points combined in the two recent losses, well below her season average of 9.9 a game.
Henrickson said that one of her biggest responsibilities is determining how much conditioning to do at practice, because Burras, Hallman and Kemp play so many minutes. All three average more than 33 a game.
“It’s a fine line,” Henrickson said. “You don’t want to overpractice, but if you don’t condition them enough, you don’t get them up and down; they’re not ready on game day.”
Kansas found out how valuable bench play can be in its 59-48 loss to Nebraska. While the Cornhuskers starters did not play exceptionally well, freshman Danielle Page came off the bench to score 12 points and grab 11 rebounds.
Kansas’ reserves combined for two points, two rebounds, and two assists in 28 minutes. Sophomore Sharita Smith played the most at 12 minutes.
“That Page girl, she goes crazy off the bench,” Henrickson said. “We don’t have anybody like that off the bench, so we have trouble if one of those starters is struggling. It’s not an excuse, it’s a reality. Those three have got to bring what they’re capable of every single night.”
The most recent time the Kansas women played Missouri it won 63-61 on Jan. 22 in Lawrence, Kan. Burras, Hallman and Kemp met Henrickson’s expectations, combining for 40 points, 14 assists, and 21 rebounds.
Two weeks later, The Tigers are still looking for a win. Kansas will face a Missouri team that has lost eight in a row. Its past two losses, to Texas and Texas Tech, were by 19 and 30 points.
Missouri coach Cindy Stein said her players have to focus on each game separately.
“We’re asking them not to think of where we are in the standings, but what we have to accomplish game by game,” Stein said. “That should always be your focal point, but especially in this situation.”
While Kansas has had its three stars set for most of the year, Missouri has struggled to find leadership.
Stein said that because of inexperience, her players weren’t sure whether they wanted the role of “being a go-to person” on the offensive end. She said Tiffany Brooks and LaToya Bond have begun to take on leadership roles.
“I think they understand the need for it a little better,” Stein said. “They’re accepting it now.”
To beat Kansas, Stein said the Tigers will have to play better interior defense and be solid at the point guard position.
If the rest of Kansas’ season is any indication, though, the Tigers’ first concern should be stopping Burras, Hallman and Kemp.