STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — Once Kansas set its mind on not getting outhustled for even one more possession, the Jayhawks took over.
Ioanna Chatzileonti had 15 points and 10 rebounds, Holly Kersgieter scored 19 points and eighth-seeded Kansas beat ninth-seeded Georgia Tech 77-58 on Friday night in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Jayhawks 6-foot-6 junior center Taiyanna Jackson made things difficult in the paint on both ends, finishing with 14 points and seven rebounds. She also swatted away a pair of shots to extend her a single-season school record to 92 blocks.
Back in the bracket for the first time since 2013 under Big 12 Coach of the Year Brandon Schneider, he hoped his team’s tough schedule down the stretch — Iowa State, Baylor, Texas then Oklahoma twice — would do plenty to get his team ready.
“It built us. There are times and there are teams who see that and kind of go downhill,” Kersgieter said. “But we’ve just kind of put an emphasis on helping it let us grow. This team we have a lot of veterans, we’ve been through a lot together and we’ve never been here. We were ready, we were really excited. It showed today.”
Kersgieter, an All-Big 12 first team selection, shot 6 for 13 and the Jayhawks got out in transition at every chance — making one extra pass to find the high-percentage shots in a game that featured big runs by both teams in their first-ever matchup.
Kansas (21-9) advances to face either top-seeded defending NCAA champion Stanford or 16th-seeded Montana State, who played the second game at Maples Pavilion.
Digna Strautmane scored 18 points to lead the Yellow Jackets (21-11). Georgia Tech leading scorer Lotta-Maj Lahtinen, averaging 11 points, was held to seven on 3-for-12 shooting — 1 of 6 on 3s.
The Jayhawks jumped out to a 10-0 lead and gave it up when the Yellow Jackets went on an impressive 22-3 run to end the first quarter ahead 22-13.
They made their first field goal on Eylia Love’s 3-pointer at the 6:16 mark of the opening quarter and rallied to tie it on a 3 by Strautmane at 4:11 before going ahead on Nerea Hermosa’s basket the next time down.
But Kansas got it together to dominate the last stretch of the second quarter and the final two periods. The Jayhawks used a 14-3 run over the final 5:48 of the first half to build a 34-31 edge at the break. Georgia Tech committed five turnovers over the last 6:51 of the half and missed 6 of 7 shots.
“Couldn’t be prouder of our young women in their fight and determination really throughout the entire ballgame,” Schneider said. “We were able to ignite our offense with our defense.”
Georgia Tech reached the Sweet 16 last season under veteran coach Nell Fortner for the second time in program history, and from 2007 to 2012 made six straight NCAA Tournaments.
“It’s a disappointing loss there’s no question and it’s a tough way to end your season,” Fortner said. “We just didn’t have our best night. Kansas played really well, they did what they wanted to do and we couldn’t stop it.”
Georgia Tech: Georgia Tech shot 7 for 21 from deep. … The Yellow Jackets had nine first-half turnovers that led to 10 Kansas points and were held to nine points in the second quarter. … Georgia Tech got to the free-throw line just six times to 17 by the Jayhawks. … A highlight of the season for this group was a 57-44 win against Connecticut in December.
Kansas: The Jayhawks scored 17 points overall off the 13 turnovers by Georgia Tech. … Kansas began 4 of 7 before missing 10 straight field-goal tries spanning the first and second quarters. … The Jayhawks’ international roster features women from the Republic of North Macedonia, Croatia, Greece, Sweden, Denmark and Canada.
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