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Kansas women’s basketball has put itself in position to win the 2023 Postseason WNIT

LAWRENCE — The month of March this year could have been one the Kansas women’s basketball program would soon like to forget.

There was the Big 12 Conference tournament loss against TCU. There was missing out on an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. And should Kansas have approached the 2023 Postseason WNIT differently, it would have gone into the offseason lacking much momentum.

But with each round, the Jayhawks have made the most of their opportunity to keep playing together. They’ve dispatched team after team, as they did Wednesday with a 61-36 win at home against Washington in a WNIT semifinal matchup. And according to Kansas senior guard Holly Kersgieter, the fact that they’ve made their way into the WNIT championship game now is no longer tied to any disappointment that came from not making the NCAA tournament.

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“I don’t think we look at it like that anymore,” Kersgieter said. “We’ve played, what? Five games? And that can only be your mindset for so long until it gets bored. And so, you’ve got to play for something else. And now, we’re not thinking about the tournament. We’re not in that mindset anymore. We’re playing for us, because we’re playing to win a championship regardless of what type it is. And we’re having a lot of fun, obviously. And we’re past the revenge type of thinking, and just being us again.”

Kansas senior guard Holly Kersgieter (13) shoots for three against Washington in the first quarter of Wednesday's WNIT semifinal game in Allen Fieldhouse.
Kansas senior guard Holly Kersgieter (13) shoots for three against Washington in the first quarter of Wednesday's WNIT semifinal game in Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas (24-11) was dominant defensively in this latest victory. It was balanced scoring the ball offensively. The Jayhawks have been able to coast to the finish in many of their WNIT wins, and this would be no different.

Head coach Brandon Schneider thought there might have been some nerves early, as they played in front of 7,229-strong. That’s the largest crowd they’ve played in front of at Allen Fieldhouse this season. But they found their footing and led the majority of the way.

Now they can turn their attention from Washington (19-15) to Columbia (28-5), which just won on the road in its semifinal against Bowling Green. Kansas’ chance at the title will come Saturday, with a 4:30 p.m. (CT) tip-off that’ll take place in Allen Fieldhouse as all five of the Jayhawks’ previous tip-offs in the WNIT have this year. And they will do so, according to senior guard Zakiyah Franklin, with the same approach they have had for each one that has come before it.

“It’s a great feeling right now, but we’re just trying to, like, take it one day at a time,” Franklin said. “So, we know that tomorrow it’s kind of like a repeat, kind of like how we’ve been talking about just off day, then one day prep, and just trying to just stay focused on the task at hand.”

Kansas senior guard Zakiyah Franklin (15) reacts after a three-pointer made against Washington in the fourth quarter of Wednesday's WNIT semifinal game in Allen Fieldhouse.
Kansas senior guard Zakiyah Franklin (15) reacts after a three-pointer made against Washington in the fourth quarter of Wednesday's WNIT semifinal game in Allen Fieldhouse.

Just how large the crowd will be for that championship game, is anyone’s guess at the moment. Every game during this WNIT run, the next game has always seen a more significant crowd than the last. But regardless, Kersgieter said she can’t show enough appreciation for the crowds they’ve already seen during their WNIT stretch.

Kersgieter said it’s even a little emotional, thinking about it. It’s made her feel as if she’s seeing what it is truly like to be playing basketball at Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse. And Schneider appreciates that his administration has made the commitment to ensure they’ve been able to enjoy these opportunities.

“We’re extremely grateful for the commitment that Travis (Goff) and Nicole (Corcoran) and the rest of the administration has made, otherwise we wouldn’t get to experience the environment that we had tonight,” Schneider said. “It was terrific, and I hope everybody that came enjoyed themselves.”

Schneider continued: “I love the fact that they booed a call when it was a 25-point game. So, they were still into it, engaged. But that, to me, is a Kansas basketball fan. They know the game. They love basketball. I think (men's basketball) coach (Bill) Self has created an environment here where our fans appreciate defense. So, hopefully, especially in that regard, they can be happy with what they saw.”

Jordan Guskey covers University of Kansas Athletics at The Topeka Capital-Journal. He is the National Sports Media Association’s sportswriter of the year for the state of Kansas for 2022. Contact him at jmguskey@gannett.com or on Twitter at @JordanGuskey.

This article originally appeared on Topeka Capital-Journal: Kansas women’s basketball can win the 2023 Postseason WNIT title