C.J. Giles was 8-for-10 from the field and 8-for10 from the free throw line for 24 points. Stidham served up the usual healthy diet of big band R&B, rock and jazz.
Other than that? Not so much.
Between fouls – Kansas head men’s basketball coach Bill Self classified 21 of the 27 Kansas fouls as “not very smart” – about a half-dozen palming calls (that new rule – remember?) and sloppy execution by his guards, this game had more starts and stops that a ’74 Pinto in city traffic.
When asked about the pace of the game, however, Self looked without hesitation to his own backcourt.
“Our guards didn’t do a good job getting the ball up and down the floor, getting the ball to our big guys. We had a big height advantage. (CJ) gets 24 in 16 minutes, but we still didn’t go to our big guys near enough,” he said.
Self continued, “I didn’t think our perimeter did a very good job tonight at all of creating pace and creating energy and playing off their enthusiasm.”
But Self also credited his opponent – coached by a man named Iba – with contributing to that a Kansas failure to establish pace and rhythm.
“Pitt State, they do a good job. Gene (Iba, Pittsburg State head coach and nephew of coaching legend Mr. Henry Iba) is going to make sure they pass it a few times,” Self said, grinning.
Jeff Hawkins said KU struggled to get into a flow all night long.
“A little bit in the second half, we started to get a little flow going but it kind of died off,” he said. “I think that would be a key part of our team, being able top get energy and just play with a lot of enthusiasm and guard and just play. That would help us flow and run and play better and I think we struggled with that a little bit tonight.”
Giles said nerves might have played a role in Monday night’s performance.
“We’ve just got to tone it down and focus a lot more. We were really too hyped. All of us, from the guards on down to the bigs, need to calm down. We’re still learning the game, learning all the little things we need to do to win – not just going out and doing whatever,” Giles said.
Hawkins agreed, but said the bulk of the blame falls on the KU backcourt.
Then Kansas City senior said, “The guards, including myself, were kind of flat today. I could have done a little bit more to help the young players have more energy, and I could also have brought a little more energy. I take responsibility on that, that we were kind of flat.”
So will this be one of those teams for which it’s important to get into a flow this season? Self said it doesn’t matter.
“This team can’t have that mindset. If this team has that mindset, we’re not going to be a great team. We’re going to go through stretches where we labor to score.”
Self likened this squad to one of old teams.
“Thing about it is, you should look up (at the scoreboard). I had a team at Tulsa, we went through stretches where we really labored to score, you look up and you’re ahead 24-17 just because the other team didn’t score.”
He continued, “That’s what this team has to get. Our defense isn’t very good yet, but they show signs of being good. But certainly we’ve got to improve in a lot of areas so that way, it doesn’t put pressure on our offense to score.”
“We’ve got a lot of improvement we have to do with our mindset. This team will labor to score from time to time. The big thing is, you can’t let the other team score during those stretches,” he concluded.
When it was all said and done, Monday night’s game was one of those that you mark down in the W column and say, “Thank you, sir, may I have another?”
It was also one of those games that reminds you that this team is going to play these kinds of games every now and again. Say what you will about last year’s seniors, but you don’t lose all that scoring and bring in four freshmen and not miss a beat.
This season, meaningful success will depend on whether or not Self’s squad buys into – and I mean, really buys into – what he’s selling on the defensive end of the floor. They need to learn to respond positively to a 64-58 win over Nebraska. They need to remember that when the shots aren’t dropping, that’s when the defense must clamp down. They need to remember that offense comes and goes some nights, but defense is always there, night in and night out.
And maybe I, along with about a billion other Kansas fans, would do well to remember that, too.