Kansas found themselves trailing a Mountain West team at halftime in their final non-conference game of the season on its home floor. It was eerily similar to that of a year ago in a home loss to another team from the same league.
But, unlike last year’s loss to San Diego State, UNLV wasn’t going to come away with the same good fortune, as guard Frank Mason helped ignite the Jayhawks in the second half and behind energy, defense and hustle, Kansas grinded out a 76-61 victory in Allen Fieldhouse. At 11-2, KU can find comfort in that they kept fighting after trailing at halftime, a trait that will serve them well going forward.
"It's just one of those games,” head coach Bill Self said. “Sometimes you can be mad at guys when things don't go well, but sometimes other teams just play better. I thought we did some good things the first half, we just needed to score. We had a couple of things that happened to us where we didn't get a goaltending call and it turned into three points for them; a five-point swing, things like that which turned in their favor. We had opportunities, so I just told them (at halftime) to keep doing what they were doing; staying active and play with energy and things will work out."
Mason led Kansas with 18 points, while Perry Eliis and Wayne Selden chipped in 16 points each. However, it was the energy and effort that Self had been looking for the past several weeks that aided the Jayhawks as they seized control of the affair.
Now, Kansas is set to finally begin conference play and their quest to win a remarkable 11th consecutive Big 12 championship, which will begin with a road game at Baylor, Wednesday night. Self hopes the tough opening slate to the team’s season will help them in that pursuit, as he reflected on the first 13 games.
"From a record standpoint, I think it's great. I'm not going to apologize for going 11-2 with that schedule,” Self said. “The two losses we had stunk; that makes it feel like it wasn't as effective of a non-conference (schedule). Going 11-2 against the hardest non-conference schedule in the country, that's a good record, especially when you don't play a ton of games at home. The reality of it is we didn't play as well as our record was. If you told us before the season we would be 11-2, we would have said, 'That's a good non-conference.' Last year we played a good non-league slate and finished 9-4. From a win-loss standpoint, it was good. From a getting-better standpoint, I would say it was average. I do think that Lafayette was a good win; I thought Temple was obviously a disaster; I thought Kent State was a good win and today was a good win. We played the way we need to play moving forward."