LAWRENCE, Kan. - Junior guard Natalie Knight hovered around the three-point line all game long on her way to a game-high four made threes, but her most important bucket came from just inside the paint with under two minutes left in the game during the Jayhawks' 62-53 victory over TCU Wednesday evening inside Allen Fieldhouse.
Knight's team-high 16 points were needed for Kansas (12-13, 5-8 Big 12) to put the finishing touches on a TCU team (14-10, 3-7) that pestered the Jayhawks on the defensive side of the ball.
Junior forward Chelsea Gardner out muscled TCU's interior players on her way to a season-high 16 rebounds, the highest of any Jayhawk since Gardner snatched 19 boards last season at TCU. Gardner added 13 points to go with her 16 boards for her 10th double-double of the season. Junior guard Asia Boyd provided some much needed scoring and energy off of the bench to become the third Jayhawk registering double figures with 13 points.
TCU was led on the night by sophomore guard Zahna Medley, who scored her game-high 20 points in a medley of ways, knocking in three shots from behind the arc and converting eight shots from the field. Two other players scored in double-digits for TCU after junior forwards Chelsea Prince and Natalie Ventress chalked up 10 points apiece. TCU's defense caused problems for KU after turning the Jayhawks over 19 times while stealing 13 possessions from KU.
Kansas played stout defense to begin the game as the Jayhawks held TCU scoreless throughout the first four minutes of play, but KU's offense struggled to put points on the board and only led, 2-0, at the 16-minute mark. Kansas would eventually build its lead out to five points, 13-8, but turnovers - thanks in large part to the Horned Frog's full-court press - sparked a 10-0 TCU run to take the lead, 18-13, with 8:56 remaining in the half.
The Jayhawks were trailing by 10 points, when Knight continued to have the hot-hand from deep for the fourth-straight contest as she rattled home threes on consecutive possessions. Knight's two back-to-back triples marked up six-straight points for the Jayhawks. Senior Guard CeCe Harper put the finishing touches on what would turn out to be an 8-0 run, after a layup and the Jayhawks went into the half trailing by four, 28-24.
The beginning of the second half mirrored the start of the game. Kansas once again held TCU scoreless for the first four minutes and took their second lead of the game after Harper drained a three. The following possession Boyd stole the ball away from the Horned Frogs and ran out in transition for a layup to put the Jayhawks ahead, 32-28, forcing a TCU timeout. Boyd continued to be the player Kansas turned to off of the bench when it needed to score.
Out of the timeout the junior from Detroit, Mich., sank a three from the corner to give the Jayhawks' their second lead of the night, 37-31. After Boyd had to go to the bench with her third foul, the Jayhawks turned to Knight to manufacture the points on the offensive end of the floor. The sharpshooting junior connected on another pair of treys to push KU's lead out to eight points, 49-37, with just over eight minutes remaining in the game.
Kansas never seemed to be able to string together multiple possessions ending with a bucket, often a result of a turnover after trying to fit the ball into tight spaces the Horned Frogs defense created with their zone. TCU had scored 18 points off of 16 Jayhawk turnovers allowing the Horned Frogs to hang around in the contest. With the Jayhawks trying to hold onto a seven point lead, 52-45, Gardner rejected a shot attempt and Harper came up with the rebound. Harper in turn, kicked the ball ahead to Boyd who converted a layup to give Kansas its eighth fast break point of the night along with a nine point lead with 4:20 left to play. Nine points would prove to not be enough of a lead to put away the Horned Frogs as TCU quickly diminished what was once a solid lead down to two points, 54-52, with 2:32 to play in regulation. Two points is the closest the TCU would get to mounting a come back.
On the following possession KU once again turned to Knight in the clutch and right on call she delivered when she was needed most. Knight caught the ball at the top of the key and threatened to pull up to bury TCU with another three. Instead of putting up a deep contested shot, Knight executed a textbook shot fake and drove the lane. The junior pulled up just inside the free throw line and buried a jumper to put KU ahead by four, 56-52.
TCU saw the door close after Knight's heroics. The Horned Frogs went cold from the floor and only converted one of their last five field goal attempts. TCU was forced to foul KU, but the Jayhawks stepped to the line with confidence and drilled some clutch shots from the charity stripe to put the finishing touches on the game, 62-53.
Kansas will be in action next when the Jayhawks travel to Ames, Iowa to take on Iowa State. Tipoff is slated for 6 p.m. from Hilton Coliseum.
KANSAS STARTERS (SEASON/CAREER): Fr. Jada Brown (11/11), Sr. CeCe Harper (20/41), Sr. Markisha Hawkins (8/14), Jr. Chelsea Gardner (24/52) and Jr. Natalie Knight (25/78)
Improves Kansas' all-time record to 769-546.
Improves the Jayhawks' all-time conference record to 236-244.
Improves KU's all-time Big 12 record to 113-176 and 56-105 in conference play under head coach Bonnie Henrickson.
Gives the Jayhawks their fourth win all-time against TCU and a two game lead in the all-time series against the Horned Frogs, 4-2.
Improves Kansas to 396-157 all-time when playing in Allen Fieldhouse and 124-56 under Henrickson when playing at home.
Improves Henrickson's record to 170-148 at KU and 328-210 overall.
Kansas swatted at least four shots for the third game in a row, and have blocked at least four shots in four of the last five contests and 16 times this season.
The Jayhawks drained 7-of-13 three pointers in the game for a 53.8 clip from long range. It is KU's highest percentage from beyond the arc, besting their previous mark of 53.3 at TCU (1/8) this season and the seventh time this season that Kansas has shot greater than 40 percent from behind the three-point line.
TCU shot just 29.4 percent (20-for-68) from the field for the game, matching the Jayhawks lowest total allowed this season, which they previously set against Texas Tech (1/11).
The Kansas defense held TCU scoreless for the first 3:52 of the game.
With the Jayhawks facing their largest deficit of the first half, 26-16, Natalie Knight drained back-to-back shots from beyond the arc, to spark an 8-0 KU run and bring them within two, 26-24, with just over a minute left in the first half.
Much like the first half, the Kansas defense held TCU scoreless for the first 5:23 of the second half, which allowed the Jayhawks to score 10 unanswered points and take a, 34-28, lead.
Junior Asia Boyd blocked a season-best two shots, eclipsing her previous high of one, which she recorded five times, most recently at TCU (1/8/14). Offensively, Boyd added 13 points off the bench, marking the fifth time in the last six games the Detroit, Mich., native, has recorded double-digit points off the bench.
Junior Chelsea Gardner knocked in 13 points and grabbed a game-high 16 rebounds for her 10th double-double of the 2013-14 season and 15th for her career and sixth in her last 10 games. Gardner's 12 points extends her streak of double-figure scoring to 10 games and her 16 rebounds are the most by a Kansas player since Gardner grabbed 19 against the Horned Frogs (3/8/13) last season.
Senior CeCe Harper dished out eight assists, marking the 11th time this season the San Antonio, Texas, native, has recorded at least seven assists.
Junior Natalie Knight recorded a team-high 16 points behind 4-for-7 from beyond the arc. The Olathe, Kan., native, has shot at least 50 percent from downtown in her last four games (15-for-23) and is shooting 38.2 percent (99-for-259) from three in her career, which would put her second on KU's all-time list.