Kansas coach Bill Self has been very consistent in the days leading up to the start of the 2014-2015 basketball campaign. While, he loved many things about last year’s squad, one flaw that still irks the 12th year coach is the lack of defensive prowess. That was a big problem considering defense is a hallmark of many of Self teams.
Monday night in Allen Fieldhouse, Self’s new team, filled with almost as much youth if not more than last year’s group showed the signs of getting back to playing the way he demands, as they ran Washburn off the floor in the first half and then coasted to an 85-53 victory. The key to a 42-13 halftime lead began simply with defense. It was one reason Self could crack a smile, albeit for a few seconds afterwards.
“Looking at the first half, we were pretty active,” Self said. “You know, I don't know if we can defend the block because they didn't throw it inside very often, and you've got to be able to finish your possessions and be a good rebounding team, which that remains to be seen. But, I think there are some things that are good about our guys that could eventually be a very good defensive team.”
The Ichabods struggled in the first 20 minutes, shooting just 17 percent from the field with only five makes on 30 attempts. Kansas blocked seven shots and held Washburn to two field goals over the last 12 minutes of the first half.
Offensively, there was kind of balance you’d expect to see from such a lopsided affair. 12 different Jayhawks scored, led by much heralded recruit Cliff Alexander, who powered his way to 14 points and nine rebounds in his first college game after admittedly experiencing butterflies prior. Combined with the energy and production from the other bigs, this year Kansas squad could impose their will on opponents with their size and it may all start with a freshman.
“Cliff had a good line. But, the whole thing is we've got a huge size advantage,” Self said. “We shoot 15 out of 33 shots the first half, I think, for threes, so that was not very smart at all. We just clipped off shots. We've got to learn to play through our bigs more.
Another trademark of such a game was the attention on the newcomers and the freshmen definitely had the eyes of the 16,300 fans upon them. Guard Devonte Graham started and finished with seven points and three assists. Kelly Oubre came off the bench and added nine points, four boards and two assists and Sviatoslav Mykailuik hit two three pointers to score six points. All played with consistent energy and effort which pleased their coach.
“Yeah, I was pleased with everybody's effort, didn’t play great, but I was certainly pleased with everybody's effort,” Self said. “They scored 13 points the first half and that's pretty good. They're a hard team to pressure because of their motion. I thought that we looked pretty good defensively at times the first half, too. Second half I didn't, but first half I did.”
Kansas concludes exhibition play next Tuesday night in Allen Fieldhouse against Emporia State.