Via Kansas Athletics
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas Women’s Basketball completed its dominant run through the WNIT on Saturday in the championship game with a 66-59 win over Columbia to claim the program’s first WNIT Championship.
“Coming into this game I thought that the two most important stats were going to be the free throw margin and the rebounding,” Head Coach Brandon Schneider said. “We accomplished that and I think our girls played their hearts out.”
The Jayhawks used an 18-3 run to close out the third quarter to create breathing room and eventually earn the win over the Lions. Taiyanna Jackson collected her fifth double-double of the WNIT and 23rd of the season with 17 points and a career-high tying 21 rebounds. Zakiyah Franklin led all scorers with 19 points, going 9-for-9 from the free throw line. The win not only secured a title, but also gave Kansas 25 wins on the season as the Jayhawks finish the season at 25-12.
Unlike KU’s previous WNIT games, Saturday’s championship game opened up as an offensive affair with both teams getting up and down the floor quickly in a fast-paced start. The Jayhawks held a slight 11-10 lead over the Lions at the first media timeout with 4:50 remaining in the opening quarter. Kansas got a pair of 3-pointers from point guard Wyvette Mayberry, who accounted for six of the first 11 points. Chandler Prater converted a three-point play to make it 11-8. Columbia then got back-to-back buckets around the media timeout to take a 12-11 lead.
Columbia (28-6) made a 6-0 run out of the media timeout with a bucket from Hannah Pratt to make it 14-11. But back-to-back buckets in the paint from Jackson put Kansas right back in the lead at 15-14 with 2:03 left in the first quarter. The Jayhawks wouldn’t score again though in the quarter and Columbia got a layup from Paige Lauder with 1:30 left to take a 16-15 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Trailing 20-17 early in the second quarter, the Jayhawks answered back with a 5-0 run courtesy of a Jackson bucket and a three-point play from Franklin, that was originally called a charge and overturned to a block, with her converting the free throw. Columbia came right back with a 3-pointer from Abbey Hsu to go up one at 23-22. After the two teams exchanged a pair of free throws, Franklin canned a 3-pointer to put Kansas up 27-25 with 3:01 left in the half.
About 90 seconds later, Prater converted a fast break layup to put Kansas up four, which marked the first and only time in the half that either team led by more than a single possession. But on the next trip down the court, Columbia hit a 3-pointer to make it a one-point game at 29-28. Kansas got the final bucket of the half – a jumper by Prater – to go up three, 31-28, which stood as the halftime score.
The second half started with an 8-0 run from Columbia over the first 1:08 of the third quarter that included a pair of 3-pointers and a basket from Hsu. But trailing 36-31, Kansas came right back with a run of its own, going on a 10-0 spurt to take a 41-36 lead midway through the third. Kansas got six points from Jackson during the run and baskets from Holly Kersgieter and Prater.
The Jayhawks were just getting started taking command of the game. The 10-0 run turned into an 18-3 run to make the score 49-39 in favor of Kansas at the end of the third quarter. Following the 10-0 run, neither team scored for more than three-plus minutes. But a Jackson basket and a 3-pointer from Kersgieter on back-to-back possessions put Kansas up 10. Columbia finally hit a 3-pointer to break a 15-0 run, but Franklin hit a three for the Jayhawks the next time down to put the lead back to 10 and put an exclamation point on the 18-3 run.
“What I thought was great was that our players got to experience a crowd like this one today,” Schneider said. “I felt as though it was as juiced as when the men play here. After the half we started playing with more intensity and made very few mistakes in the back half of the game.”
Columbia got the deficit down to six three times in the fourth and five in the final 10 seconds of the game, but couldn’t get over the hump as Kansas had an answer each time. Mayberry finished with 12 points, while Prater had nine points and 11 rebounds in the win.