LAWRENCE, Kan. - Freshman Nicollette Smith scored a game-high 19 points and made four clutch free-throws in the final minute to lead the University of Kansas women's basketball team over Hartford, 76-72, in its season opener at Allen Fieldhouse on Sunday afternoon.
Smith's 19, which included four of the Jayhawks' 11 three-pointers, were the most points scored by a KU freshman in a debut since Crystal Kemp scored 21 in her first collegiate game in 2002. Smith also pulled in 10 rebounds.
Sophomore Sade Morris also had a standout game for Kansas, setting a career high with 17 points, surpassing her previous best of 15 which was set Northern Illinois last season.
After a slow start, the Jayhawks went on a 21-6 run midway through the first half to take a 25-15 lead on two straight baskets by freshman Chakeita Weldon. Kansas' lead grew to as much as 15 and was never less than nine in the opening frame as the Jayhawks took a 37-27 lead into the break.
KU extended its lead to 48-37 on a Morris trey just over five minutes into the second, but Hartford staged a comeback, going on a 16-7 run over the next eight minutes to cut the margin to 55-53. After three Smith free-throws which were then followed by a Hartford score, Morris regained the momentum for her squad with a streaking lay-up plus the foul, igniting an 11-2 KU run to push the lead back to 69-56 with 3:14 remaining.
Hartford battled back again, going on a 12-3 run, capped by back-to-back three-pointers by MaryLynne Schaefer, to make it a 72-69 game with 19 seconds remaining. After two Smith free-throws, Schaefer nailed another trey to cut the lead to two with nine seconds left. However, Smith sealed the win with two more shots from the charity stripe.
Kansas shot 51.9-percent from the field for the game and connected on 19-of-22 free-throws, including a perfect 7-for-7 by Smith. KU held the Hawks to just 39.3-percent shooting and turned 16 Hartford turnovers into 20 points.
The Jayhawks' bench, led by nine points from sophomore Kelly Kohn, outscored Hartford's by a count of 37-16.
Sophomore Danielle McCray scored 13 points - all in the first half - and grabbed seven boards while Catic, Kohn and Morris each dished out four assists.
Hartford was led by Diana Delva's 18 points and seven rebounds.
KU will be in action again on Wednesday, when it hosts UMKC at 7 p.m. in a game that will be televised by Sunflower Channel 6.