The Kansas women’s basketball team’s first NCAA Tournament appearance in nearly a decade won’t be a one-and-done stint.
Holly Gersgieter led eighth-seeded KU with 19 points, and the Jayhawks rallied from a 10-point first half deficit to take a 77-58 victory over ninth-seeded Georgia Tech in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday night in Stanford, California.
KU will play in the NCAA second round Sunday, most likely against No. 1 seed and defending national champion Stanford.
“Couldn’t be prouder of our young women and their fight and determination really throughout the entire ballgame,” KU coach Brandon Schneider said.
The Jayhawks, in their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2013, started well Friday. KU opened with a 10-0 run, with forward Ioanna Chatzileonti contributing five early points.
Georgia Tech took control just after that. The Yellow Jackets scored 22 of the next 25 points, while also drawing two first-quarter fouls on KU forward and rim-protector Taiyanna Jackson, which moved her to the bench for the rest of the half.
Her KU teammates, though, rallied. The Jayhawks scrapped for loose balls and won the toughness battle in the second quarter, outscoring Georgia Tech 21-9 for a 34-31 halftime lead.
“They just kind of played harder than us,” Gersgieter said of the end of the first quarter. “We couldn’t rely on them to stop making shots or stop playing hard. We had to fix it ourselves.
“So it wasn’t really X’s and O’s. It was just kind of mental like, ‘Hey, we expect runs to happen. It’s how you respond.’ And obviously, we responded well.”
Jackson returned with a vengeance after that.
The 6-foot-6 junior-college transfer shot 4 for 4 in the third quarter for eight points, as the Jayhawks scored 24 points on 9-for-15 shooting to build a double-digit lead.
“I thought she was terrific and probably the primary difference in the second half,” Schneider said of Jackson. “We really debated playing her with two (fouls) in the first half, but we were fortunate to make a little run and not let it get out of hand.
“I thought she was terrific on both ends of the floor. One of her more complete games — in particular in the second half — of the entire season.”
Georgia Tech didn’t have an answer in the fourth quarter, as KU improved to 21-9.
Chatzileonti added 15 points, while Jackson (14) and Kansas City native Chandler Prater (12) also hit double digits. KU finished with 46 points in the paint.
Schneider — in his seventh season with KU — picked up his first Div. I NCAA Tournament victory. Schneider’s last NCAA experience was in 2010, when he won the Division II national championship with Emporia State.
“Obviously we have the scouting report done on both of our potential opponents, and we have staff that are working on that, but I’ll get to work on our next opponent obviously this evening,” Schneider said. “Players need to celebrate and enjoy this.”
This story was originally published March 18, 2022 9:54 PM.