Freshman fuard Holly Kersgieter stretches out both her hands to block an opponent

Freshman guard Holly Kersgieter blocks her opponent. Jayhawks defeated the Florida Gators 76-66 on Sunday, Dec. 8. 

Since its opening loss in an exhibition game against Division II Pittsburg State, the Kansas women’s basketball team has won eight straight games, including one against a formidable SEC opponent in the Florida Gators.

After the Pittsburg State loss, there were many question marks coming into the regular season. So how exactly have we gotten to this point of sustained success throughout the season?

The balance of scoring has been key to the young team. Five Jayhawks scored in double figures in the win against Florida on Sunday for the first time this season. Currently, six Jayhawks are averaging in double figures, including junior forward Tina Stephens (10.9 points) and freshman guard Holly Kersgieter (12.6 points) coming off the bench.

The three starting guards, sophomores Brooklyn Mitchell (10.6 points) and Aniya Thomas (12.6 points) and freshman Zakiyah Franklin (11.3 points) join the group of Jayhawks averaging double figures. Additionally, senior forward Mariane De Carvalho is averaging 11 points per game while leading the young Kansas team. 

But while the offense has been steady across the board, the Jayhawks' defense has been a strong part of the squad so far this year, holding opposing teams to just 56.4 points per game.

The guards all play strong, hard-nosed, on-ball defense on the perimeter and do a great job of moving their feet. This has resulted in an insane average of 20 turnovers forced per game on the Jayhawk opponents, as well as a meek 25.5 percent shooting from three-point range given up by the defense.

Junior center Bailey Helgren provides critical rim protection on drives with her 6-foot-4 stature. She currently leads the team with seven blocks. 

The Jayhawks will have to maintain this strong defensive presence and balanced scoring attack if they are to compete better in the Big 12 this season. The past two years, Kansas has only mustered five conference wins. But this last win against the Gators is definitely a step in the right direction and shows that the Jayhawks are competing at a much higher level than previous years.