WNIT champs! KU Jayhawks defeat Columbia in front of 11,701 fans at Allen Fieldhouse
The Kansas Jayhawks, who were denied a bid to the 2023 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament despite a 19-11 record and .500 mark in Big 12 Conference play, have been crowned postseason champions — of the WNIT.
KU completed a perfect 6-0 run in the tournament by downing Columbia of the Ivy League 66-59 on Saturday before 11,701 fans at Allen Fieldhouse.
“It was just amazing watching our crowd grow and gain, especially in the student section,” said KU center Taiyanna Jackson. “Students coming out here chanting, ... it was just amazing. I just loved it. They get us going and gave us momentum.”
Coach Brandon Schneider’s Jayhawks (25-11) — they lost to TCU in the first round of the Big 12 tournament — upended Western Kentucky (86-72), Missouri (75-47), Nebraska (64-55), Arkansas (78-64) and Washington (61-36) in games contested at Allen Fieldhouse prior to the title win over Columbia.
Senior center Jackson tied a career-high with 21 rebounds and scored 17 points to pace the Jayhawks to victory. Senior guard Zakiyah Franklin scored 19 points. Junior guard Chandler Prater had 11 rebounds and nine points and Wyvette Mayberry added 12 points for the winners. Jackson was named MVP of the tourney.
Columbia was led by Abbey Hsu who scored 19 points with 12 rebounds.
“I think they were an NCAA Tournament team, and I think we were too,” Schneider said. “They average 79 points per game. ... I know for the fans it wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing game in terms of everybody making a bunch of shots, but I think it was group of women competing really, really hard.”
The Jayhawks led 31-28 at halftime. Jackson had 12 rebounds and six points in the first two quarters. Franklin had 10 points, while Prater had seven points, six rebounds and two assists the initial half. Hsu scored 12 in the half to lead Columbia.
KU’s Jackson left the game because of injury with 6:44 left in the third quarter and KU up 41-36. At that point she had 17 boards and 12 points. She returned to the game with 3:28 left in the third and KU up by that same 41-36 score. Immediately KU scored five straight points to lead 46-36, at the 2:12 mark of the third.
It was a 15-0 KU run that turned a 36-31 deficit to the 46-36 lead.
KU finished the season with 19 wins at Allen against three losses. It’s the most home wins in a season in program history. KU also finished the year winning nine of its last 10 games.
The Jayhawks won in their second appearance in a WNIT title game. KU lost to South Florida in the 2009 WNIT title game, also at Allen. KU has played in the postseason event six times, first since 2011.
Columbia finished the season with a 28-6 record. The Lions reached the final by winning four home games in New York (over FDU, 69-53; Fordham, 78-73; Syracuse, 88-82; Harvard, 77-71; and on the road over Bowling Green, 77-70).
Columbia is the first Ivy League team to reach the WNIT’s title game.