Kansas (4-0) raced to a 12-0 start and led the Lumberjacks 44-10 at halftime, the fewest points scored by an opponent since 1996. The Jayhawks held Northern Arizona to just 16.7 percent field-goal shooting in the first half and also forced a whopping 15 turnovers. Meanwhile, Kansas shot a blistering 60.7 percent from the field (61.4 percent for game) to put away the nervous and weary Lumberjacks (3-2), who were playing their fifth game in 10 days.
While KU’s defense let up the second half (NAU shot 43.3 percent the last 20 minutes and 31.5 percent for game), the ‘Hawks sill coasted to their biggest win of the season. It was also the best game of the year for Kansas, which won its 600th game in historic Allen Fieldhouse.
KU coach Bill Self praised his team’s defense afterwards.
“I think our defense was a lot better the first half,” Self said. “We guarded their plays very well, we pressured them into a lot of turnovers. The second half, we didn’t pressure them at all. We didn’t play bad defense. We weren’t quite as amped up as we were the first half. ...It’s the best we’ve played defensively so far.”
Sophomore forward Darrell Arthur scored a game-high 17 points on eight-of-10 field-goal shooting, while senior forward Darnell Jackson added 13 points and a game-best eight rebounds. Jackson also knocked down his first career three-pointer. Freshman guard Connor Teahan scored nine points in seven minutes, and made all three of his three-point attempts.
“It was a good win,” Self said. “I’m not going to get overly excited about one half, but I really enjoyed watching them play tonight. I thought for the most part we executed pretty well, we moved the ball. The shots we missed were good shots. They made two threes off (our) mental mistakes (in the first half). I think we can tighten that up. I thought we blocked out better, even though they still got some long rebounds. I think we were better than we’ve been.”
It seems KU heeded Self’s call to become more active after three so-so wins against Louisiana at Monroe, UMKC, and Washburn.
"I thought we came out with a lot of energy,” Arthur said. “Coach has been getting on us about our defense and things we need to do out there. So we came out with more intensity. We were talking more. We were just helping each other out more and just doing what coach told us to do."
The Lumberjacks’ players were quite impressed with Kansas.
"Kansas is a hell of a team,” said senior forward Kyle Landry, who scored just four points despite coming into the game averaging a team-high 15.8 points per game. “They were flying around out there and they were really athletic. We just didn't execute our sets and defense like we could. They are a great defensive team.”
While KU feasted on the Lumberjacks, the Jayhawks will have to take their defense up a notch and play hard the full 40 minutes in their next matchup against Arizona this Sunday. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on ESPN.
“The real games begin on Sunday,” Self said.