K.U. sophomore guard Brooklyn Mitchell dribbles a basketball in Allen Fieldhouse

Sophomore Brooklyn Mitchell dribbles down the court. The Jayhawks beat the Gators 76-66 Sunday, Dec. 8. 

Column

For how well Kansas women’s basketball performed late against the Florida Gators, there were deficiencies that if not addressed could become major weaknesses in conference play.

The biggest standout against the Gators was the amount of turnovers Kansas had. The Jayhawks turned the ball over 19 times against Florida while only garnering 15 assists. Sophomore guard Brooklyn Mitchell, who led the team in points and assists, turned the ball nine times herself.

That has been the leading issue for Kansas, an inability to consistently keep the ball in its possession. The Jayhawks average 15.5 turnovers this year, although they force 20 turnovers a game. The reason Florida made that deficiency so evident is the height and defensive knack of Florida.

The Gators have been a lock down defensive team this season, holding four different opponents to under 50 points. Kansas struggled in the early portion of the game against the Gators, trailing at the end of the first quarter and unable to consistently get good looks at the rim.

Against conference foes, Kansas will face off more against what it saw in Florida: bigger guards and better defense. But the difference will be that most of the Big 12 conference is better offensively than the Gators.

For the Jayhawks to compete against conference opponents, turnovers need to be limited. Six players on the roster have double digit turnovers this season and the two starting point guards, freshman Zakiyah Franklin and Mitchell, each have more than 20.

On one hand, the Big 12 is struggling in the early portion of the year with teams like Texas facing obvious drop-offs, although Texas is coming off a win against then-No. 17 Tennessee. There are only three teams in the conference undefeated still, one being Kansas.

On the other hand, most teams have played tougher competition than the Jayhawks, and nearly every team in the conference is more experienced.

The turnover issue is going to carry over when the Jayhawks play tougher competition. Kansas can’t change the youth of its team, but it can game plan to limit turnovers and make smarter plays.

One area the Jayhawks have somewhat struggled is in the fast break. Many times, especially apparent on 2-on-1 fast breaks, the player with the ball will go right at the rim, fail to draw a foul, miss the shot and somebody else has to clean up the points or the other team ends up with the ball.

There have been times Kansas grabs a steal, runs up the court and then immediately turns the ball right back over.

Things like that are momentum killers. Failing to get the easy points can shift the entire dynamic of a game, and for a team like Kansas that shoots only 31% from three, down-low easy baskets are the best way to gain offense.

Kansas will compete with almost every team on the defensive end, but it is all about finishing on offense. The problems may not seem to be as serious right now, considering Kansas is undefeated. But last year, the Jayhawks went 10-1 in non-conference play and finished the year 13-18.

Coach Brandon Schneider could have a serious dilemma on his hand if he is unable to clean up his team’s turnovers. If Kansas cannot find offense come conference play, that 7-47 conference record from the last three years could very well carry over into this season once again.