LAWRENCE, Kan. – Holly Kersgieter scored 23 points and Taiyanna Jackson had 22 points and 10 rebounds for her 21st double-double of the season and Kansas topped Arkansas 78-64 to advance to the Fab 4 of the WNIT.
The Jayhawks will face the winner of Sunday night’s Washington-Oregon matchup.
“We had a fantastic first half,” said Head Coach Brandon Schneider. “It was going to be really hard to replicate it, and Arkansas came out with a lot of fight. They were really aggressive and played downhill. Give them credit for an unbelievable third quarter. Any mistakes we made, they took advantage of them. But I like how we responded, as we were able to close out the game.”
For the third straight WNIT game, the Jayhawks led wire-to-wire on Sunday, never once falling behind the Razorbacks in a convincing win and leading by as many as 21 at one point. Kansas held Arkansas to 37 percent shooting from the floor and 30 percent shooting from deep. The Jayhawks also outscored the Razorbacks 46-26 in the paint of the Great Eight matchup.
For the third-straight postseason game, the Jayhawks got off to a fast start thanks to their suffocating defense. After not allowing Missouri to score for the first five-plus minutes in the Round of 32 and holding Nebraska to two points over the first five in the Super 16, Kansas again stifled its opponent at the start.
Kansas built a 15-2 lead at 3:47 mark of the first quarter, holding Arkansas to a 1-for-9 start from the floor and 0-of-6 from 3-point range. The Razorbacks were forced to call their first timeout after a Jackson bucket extended the lead to 13. Jackson scored 10 of the team’s first 15 points, starting a perfect 5-for-5 from the field.
The Razorbacks started to get it going offensively over the final three minutes of the quarter and cut into the Kansas lead. Arkansas used a layup with 43 seconds left to get the deficit to seven. But Kersgieter made a layup, was fouled and hit her free throw for a 3-point play to extend the lead right back to 10. The Razorbacks scored with five seconds left to make it 20-12.
The Kansas defense again turned it up to start the second quarter, with Arkansas not getting its first basket until there were more than six minutes gone in the quarter. In the meantime, the Jayhawks continued to roll on the offensive end. Leading 27-12, Chandler Prater hit a layup and was fouled. She converted the three-point play to up the Kansas lead to 18. Arkansas finally got its first basket with 3:38 left in the half, but Kansas answered right back on the next possession courtesy of a Prater jumper to push it right back to 18 at 32-14.
The Jayhawks hit five of their final six from the floor to continue to take control of the game and grab a 38-19 lead at the break. Jackson led the team with 14 points at the break, while Kersgieter had 12. Kansas outscored Arkansas 24-10 in the paint and 7-0 in second-chance points. The Razorbacks were just 7 of 29 from the floor in the first half, while Kansas shot 47 percent, going 16 of 34.
Arkansas began cutting into the Kansas lead in the third quarter and got the deficit to as few as eight with 39 seconds left in the quarter. But Wyvette Mayberry hit a layup with five seconds left to get the lead back to 10 heading into the fourth quarter. When Arkansas cut it to eight, it marked the first time the deficit was in single digits since Kansas led 20-12 at the end of the first quarter.
The Jayhawks wasted no time extending the lead back to a comfortable margin after the Razorback run. Kansas scored the first seven points of the fourth quarter to take a 67-50 lead with 7:55 to play and forcing a timeout from the visitors.
But Arkansas never got closer than nine points the remainder of the way as the Jayhawks flexed their muscles and finished off the complete effort.
Mayberry and Zakiyah Franklin both finished in double figures with 10 points and Prater added nine. The Jayhawks are now 23-12 on the season, while Arkansas finished its season with a 24-13 record.
Information for Kansas’ Fab 4 matchup will be announced later Sunday night.