Zakiyah Franklin’s heroics push KU Jayhawks women’s team to NCAA 1st-round win in OT

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For one last ride for this group of Kansas women’s seniors, it had to be none other than one of them to push the Jayhawks to an overtime win over No. 9 seed Michigan, 81-72, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Los Angeles.

The Jayhawks went into the fourth quarter facing a 53-44 deficit, but an explosive frame in which Kansas outscored the Wolverines 14-5 was capped off by longtime Jayhawk Zakiyah Franklin, who hit a three-pointer with 12 seconds remaining to tie and force OT.

“We run this play all the time when it’s late clock,” Franklin said of the play. “It’s just one option that’s pretty much always open, and actually was open, so I kind of just shot the ball.”

A fifth-year, Franklin extended her time in the crimson and blue to at least an overtime with that shot. And now, she gets at least one more game.

“Like (head coach Brandon Schneider) said, he was like, ‘You must be living right,’” Franklin said. “...We lived with the result, and we survived and we advanced.”

Franklin led the Jayhawks with 22 points on 56.2% shooting from the feild.

“Made a lot of big 3s tonight, but none bigger than fifth-year senior Zakiyah Franklin,” Schneider said. “I couldn’t be prouder of her.”

Schneider spoke of the impact Franklin had on the game — and the program.

“The kid’s a winner,” Schneider said. “It’s why we recruited her. Our program came from the very, very bottom of the Power Five, and we needed a kid like that that’s used to winning that, quite frankly, if you came up short, was going to be pissed off when you got on the bus or plane.

“That’s all she’s done, is help change our program around,” Schneider added. “I think it’s very, very fitting that (she made) maybe one of the bigger plays in Kansas women’s basketball history.”

Fifth-year Holly Kersgieter followed Franklin with 15 points, as did freshman standout S’mya Nichols.

“(Franklin) is I feel like a one-of-a-kind player,” Nichols said. “She can do many things that I know I can’t do. But just the trust that everyone on the team has for her, we trust her to get to the rack, we know that she can provide on offense and on defense for the team, and I feel like she played great on both sides of the ball.”

Nichols made her NCAA tournament debut on Saturday.

“I think March is honestly about getting everyone’s best basketball, and I feel like Michigan definitely delivered that for three quarters,” Nichols said. “They played great the whole game, and I think I lived up to it. It was exciting. Back and forth, not easy.

“I mean, that’s what we play for,” she added.

For the Wolverines, Cameron Williams led with 18 points on 50% shooting, followed by Laila Phelia (16) and Lauren Hansen (13).

“Give Michigan a lot of credit, I thought they were by far the best team for three quarters. Williams in particular did some things to us,” Schneider said. “But I couldn’t be prouder of our team’s resilience, and they never fragmented, they just stayed the course.”

The Jayhawks will next face the winner of the game between No. 1 seed USC and No. 16 seed Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.