Emporia State Tonight in Allen Fieldhouse

Kansas basketball is looking to get defensive in its final exhibition game tonight against Emporia State. Tipoff is 7 p.m. at Allen Fieldhouse.

The Jayhawks are coming off a 98-79 victory over Washburn on Nov. 4. While KU almost hit the century mark, the ‘Hawks suffered several defensive breakdowns and were outscored in the second half, 44-41. KU was also outrebounded for the game, 37-36.

Washburn actually led KU 14-13 with over 13 minutes remaining in the first half, before KU went on a 22-8 run to put the game away. KU, though, didn’t play with energy in the second half and was ineffective on defense. Washburn shot 50 percent after halftime, and KU freshman forward Marcus Morris fouled out with just two points in seven minutes.

KU coach Bill Self said “our closeouts weren’t very good and we don’t understand where to force guys on the floor in certain areas.”

“I learned we don’t guard very well,” Self added. “I learned that we obviously don’t rebound very well. I thought we weren’t near as aggressive toward 50-50 balls, which I thought would be a strength of this team. There are a lot of things we can learn from. ... I didn’t think defensively we were very good at all. I thought there were individuals that were good defensively at times, but not as a collection. We had way too many breakdowns.”

On the flip side Self was pleased with KU’s offense (the Jayhawks shot 60.7 percent from the field) and the ‘Hawks running game. KU had 49 points with six minutes left in the first half and finished the game with 14 fastbreak points.

KU will look to put a complete game together against Emporia State and build some momentum heading into its regular-season opener versus UMKC on Sunday night in Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas could be facing a tired team; the Hornets fell at Wichita State Monday night, 71-58. Lamar Wilbern, a 6-2 junior college transfer guard (Kaplan University/Hamilton College) led ESU with 17 points and nine rebounds, while 6-6 sophomore guard Matt Boswell added 15 points and five boards.

A Milwaukee, Wis., native, Wilbern averaged 23.2 points, 9.4 assists, 7.6 rebounds, and 3.9 steals per game as a sophomore last season at Kaplan University.

Emporia State returns just five letterwinners from last year’s 14-16 team, which finished eighth in the MIAA (7-11). The Hornets, who welcome 11 newcomers, lost all five starters and their five top scorers. Junior guard Dustin Andrews is ESU’s top returning scorer at 2.5 points per game.

KU leads the overall series with Emporia State, 16-3, including 3-0 in exhibition games. The Jayhawks beat ESU, 90-55, in their last meeting on Nov. 7, 2006. This game marks a homecoming for Hornets’ coach David Moe, who was a graduate assistant at KU under Larry Brown when the Jayhawks won the national championship in 1988.

With a game under their belt, Self expects great improvement from his team in this final exhibition contest. He said playing Washburn was difficult with the Ichabods’ 10 newcomers. While Emporia State features 11 newcomers, the Jayhawks were able to scout the Hornets in their exhibition opener against Wichita State.

“I think when you play against each other all the time, you have a false sense of who you are because the other team knows what you’re trying to do and you know tendencies,” Self said. “We didn’t know one player from Washburn from a personnel standpoint, their strengths and weaknesses, other than (Paul) Byers and the point guard (Mario) Scott and their big kid (Moriba DeCoteau) played last year, too. We didn’t know a lot of tendencies. When you get into the season scouting report ... you become a little bit better defensively just by understanding your opponent.”

KU received solid performances in its first exhibition game from junior point guard Sherron Collins (game-high 22 points) and sophomore guards Brady Morningstar (15 points) and Tyrel Reed (16 points), who swished 5-of 6 three-pointers, including four straight in the first half.

Freshman forward Quintrell Thomas also had a productive night with 10 points and six rebounds in 14 minutes.

“Quintrell impressed me the most (amongst the seven newcomers),” Self said. “If you’re going to grade our newcomers, he’s probably graded out fifth as a freshman (in practice). He’s been thinking instead of playing, and it’s hard to do that instead of reacting. But I thought he was really good in the game. I thought he was aggressive, I thought his defense was better than it has been in practice. It looked like he had taken from practice and translated into the game better than the other guys.”

Self is looking for great production from Thomas and his teammates tonight. While Self hopes KU improves defensively and on the boards, he’s also looking at the bigger picture. He knows the Jayhawks aren’t going to become a great defensive team overnight or in the next few weeks.

“If we do things right and get a little bit better every day, by February we’re going to be a great defensive team,” Self said.

Phog.net Top Stories