Five minutes into the first quarter of Wednesday night’s game, I had flashbacks of the 2016-2017 season.
Nebraska had established a stiff press that Kansas could not break in the first quarter. There were no gaps to drive the lane and, after wasting most of the shot clock passing around the perimeter, Kansas found themselves chucking up poor shots to no avail.
When Nebraska began building a lead, it seemed that Kansas started to go into panic mode. The players on the court looked scared. The bench was quiet.
All of this was all too similar to the lousy feel of most games last season.
In this same situation a year ago, Jessica Washington would be forced to take – and miss – the majority of 20-plus shots because of her weak supporting cast. By halftime, Kansas would be trailing by double-digits, and by game’s end, everyone would simply be thinking, “Can this game just end already?”
However, this is a much different team.
This is a team with multiple reliable scoring options. This is a team with solid depth off the bench. This is a team with players that can make open layups, which sadly was an issue for the Jayhawks last season.
Because of the added talent, this team quickly proved on Wednesday night that they are not the same squad from a year ago, and refuse to be judged as such. They charged back with 26 points in the second quarter and made this matchup a game down the stretch.
Unfortunately, ice cold shooting doomed the Jayhawks, and they put up a measly 13 points in the entire second half. While that is alarming in the short term, the bigger picture is a much more positive one.
The team collected 17 offensive rebounds and – despite not making a field goal in the fourth quarter – were still in this game until the last few minutes. Off nights shooting the ball like Wednesday night’s performance are usually few and far between (ask the KU men’s team), so while the numbers drooped like they did much of last season, this game had an entirely different feel. The team still wanted to be there and compete with a fire we saw so little of last season. One or two more shots made, and we could still be talking about an undefeated team.
Despite the end result, fans have to be happy to see how this team is changed. There is reason for optimism – and reason to see how Wednesday night’s game was, in a way, a win.