When the Kansas women’s basketball team made its surprise run to the Sweet 16 last season, forward Carolyn Davis had to enjoy the breakthrough from the sideline.
Davis, a 6-foot-3 forward, was leading the Jayhawks with 15.7 points per game before suffering a devastating knee injury in a February road game at Kansas State. The Jayhawks would regroup, rallying around Davis’ absence and the brilliant play of point guard Angel Goodrich.
One year later, Davis is hoping to be on the floor for another NCAA Tournament run. For Kansas, the No. 12 seed in the Norfolk Region, the road begins Saturday against No. 5 seed Colorado.
“This is what I’ve wanted since I was a freshman,” said Davis, who is averaging 15.7 points and 6.7 rebounds during her senior campaign.
The Jayhawks (18-13) limped into the NCAA field after losing five of their last seven, including a 15-point loss to Iowa State on March 9 in the Big 12 tournament in Dallas.
But there are some easy parallels to last year’s run. Just like last year, the Jayhawks lost a starter (sophomore guard Natalie Knight) to a season-ending knee injury. And just like last year, they will open the tournament against a former Big 12 foe. (Last year, it was No. 6 seed Nebraska.)
“History doesn’t have any impact on success in the future,” Kansas coach Bonnie Henrickson cautioned. “If we do anything, we should embrace how hungry we were, how excited we were, how much energy we played with.”
During last year’s run, which ended with an 84-73 loss to Tennessee in the Sweet 16, the Jayhawks held their opponents to 38.5 percent shooting. That number, Henrickson said, will be the biggest key to a repeat run.
Another key, of course, will be the play of Goodrich, an All-American candidate who willed the Jayhawks past No. 3 seed Delaware in the second round and averaged 23.3 points in three tourney games. This time around, she’ll likely be matched up with Colorado point guard Chucky Jeffery, who leads the Buffaloes with 13.9 points per game.
Goodrich averaged 14.2 points and 7.0 assists, but she said she isn’t worried about having to carry the load. In addition to Davis, senior guard Monica Engelman is averaging 9.4 points.
“I’m just looking to go out there and play my game,” Goodrich said. “Whatever I need to do to help us get a win. And we have three good senior leaders that can go out there and help us (do) what we need to do. And I feel like I don’t have it all on my shoulders right now.”
When the Jayhawks were eliminated from the Big 12 tourney on March 9, they returned home and took a few days off. Now, after a two-week layoff, they can finally return to the court against a Colorado squad that finished 25-6 and ranked 19th in the latest AP poll.
The Jayhawks’ regular season may have been a minor disappointment, but they make it up with another memorable March.
“It’s kind of set us up,” Davis said. “Just like we were last year.”