Kansas dominated in the post, outscoring No. 12 Arizona 50-26 in the paint and handing the Wildcats its first loss of the season in a 77-50 win on Thursday night at McKale Center.
“First of all, credit to Kansas. They came in here and manhandled us,” Arizona head coach Adia Barnes said. “They had a really good gameplan. They executed, and they made it really hard for us to do a lot of good things. They outplayed us in every sense of the way. They outmuscled us inside, (Taiyanna) Jackson was a force, as we knew she would be coming into this game, but she was.”
Jackson dominated the post, scoring 19 points and had 15 rebounds.
“She’s a good player, I think she’s underrated. I definitely think she’s one of the top posts in the country,” Barnes said. “Just with her length, she made us alter shots. We probably missed, I’d say 12 layups in the first half.”
Arizona held a 20-18 lead over Kansas with 6:20 remaining in the second quarter. It was the last time the Wildcats would lead for the remainder of the game.
Kansas (8-0) held a 26-22 lead over Arizona at half and went on to pull away, outscoring the Wildcats 49-28 in the second half.
Arizona was limited to 31 percent shooting from the field, while Kansas shot 46 percent.
The Jayhawks outrebounded Arizona 51-31, with many of its defensive rebounds leading to fast break points for the Jayhawks.
“We need to box out, we need to guard the ball better, and we need to level up and step up when things are hard, Barnes said. “When your back is against the wall, and you are down, and you are fighting, you need to produce. You need to play, and we need that and we don’t have that yet. Give us some grace, because we are a brand new team. This is the best team we’ve played. We have seven new players.”
Barnes believes the team needs to get better at putting teams outside of their comfort zone and play smarter.
“Those are things — that next-level stuff — that we had as a Final Four team. We don’t have that yet, but we’re going to get that because we’re going to work on that every single day until we get it. If we’re going to lose, we’re going to lose the way I want to play, with the fight that I want to, and we’re going to find the people that want to do that because I am not going to lay down.
“I refuse to sit at McKale and watch another team just pound us. They’re not 27 points better than us. They’re a better team right now for sure.”
While Barnes recognizes the team is still learning the system, instilling the mentality she demands of them on the court is a work in progress
“It is a totally different system for most. We are learning and getting better but we’re not applying right now what we’ve been working on, and I think that’s the disappointing thing,” she said. “I can live with losing. I really can. It’s basketball, we’re going to lose a few games. The hustle and the mentality and the huddling and the communication, the controllable things, I can’t live with not doing, so I’m going to find a way to extract those things, and we’re going to do it.”
Arizona (7-1) next plays Texas Southern on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at McKale Center.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com writing intern Kevin Murphy was born and raised in Tucson, and has followed Arizona Wildcats athletics since childhood. Murphy is a journalist product manager with the Green Valley News & the Sahuarita Sun. He is currently attending the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU where he is working towards a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication and Media Studies.