BOULDER, Colo. –- Kansas is headed to the Sweet 16 for the second year in a row after back-to-back upsets against No. 5 Colorado and No. 4 South Carolina. The Jayhawks are the first No. 12 seed to advance to the Sweet 16 since San Francisco in 1996.
Senior guard Monica Engleman scored a career-high 27 points, including 18 in the first half, to guide Kansas past the tough South Carolina Gamecocks 75-69.
“Monica was on fire tonight, so we did our best to get her the ball,” said Kansas senior Angel Goodrich about her teammate.
"These tournaments are all about `Survive and Advance,' " said Engleman, who normally averages 9.8 points per game. “These three seniors and the rest of the team, we were hungry, and we wanted to do everything possible, individually and collectively, to advance."
In a game that had 11 lead changes and six ties, Engleman broke a tie when she sank a jumper with 3:15 remaining in the game to put Kansas up 69-67.
Twenty-three seconds later, South Carolina’s Ashley Brunner, who led the Gamecocks with 16 points and 12 rebounds, tied the game for the sixth and final time.
Engleman then took the ball the other way and tallied the assist to Carolyn Davis who scored the final go-ahead basket with 2:30 in the game.
South Carolina had several opportunities to re-take the lead, but went 0-for-6 from the field in the closing minutes and 0-for-2 from the free throw line. Meanwhile, Angel Goodrich, who posted 20 points and eight assists, sank 3-out-of-4 free throws in the final 18 seconds to hold onto the lead.
"I thought it was a great game,” said Kansas head coach Bonnie Hendrickson. “It's a one-possession game with less than 30 seconds left. For this time of year it's exciting. We've been in a lot of tight games, from a confidence standpoint. I was proud that we were able to get stops and finally get a defensive rebound and knock down some free throws.”
South Carolina, who normally holds opponents to 49.5 points per game, didn’t have an answer for the speed of the Jayhawks who shot 51.4 percent from the field and scored 42 in the first half including an 11-5 run in the final minutes of the first half to take a one point advantage at the break.
In the second half, it was a very defensive game as both teams were disrupting the others offense. A three pointer and a free throw by Goodrich at the 12:28 mark gave Kansas a seven point lead, their largest of the game. But South Carolina answered with 7-0 run to re-tie the game at 59.
Kansas, who was very composed in the down the stretch, said they’ve been in this situation before. “Last year the tournament really helped prepare us for this year and I think we were more comfortable. I think playing in the Big 12 prepared us as well.” said Goodrich.
“We just wanted to stay aggressive and play confidently. We knocked down some free throws, they missed some free throws -- as a coach one of the most special things is just sit back and watch them play. They were amazing.” added Hendrickson.
South Carolina finished the game with three players posting double-doubles: Ashley Bruner (16 points, 12 rebounds), Aleighsa Welch (16 points, 11 rebounds) and Elem Ibiam (12 points, 10 rebounds).
After back-to-back upsets, Kansas has now proven they are a very talented team, loaded with seniors who are hungry to break through after overcoming serious injuries in previous seasons (Davis and Goodrich).
They finished the regular season on the bubble with an 18-13 record, but it now appears they may have been under seeded and could become the tournament's Cinderella story. The Jayhawks now advance to the Norfolk, VA regional where they will play the winner of Notre Dame/Iowa game on March 31.
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