Some nights, the ball just doesn’t fall in the hole and for Kansas, that could best describe their night, as they opened the regular season with a 74-55 win over Southeast Missouri State, Friday night at Allen Fieldhouse in The Opening round of the CBE Hall of Fame classic.
The Jayhawks had trouble shooting throughout the night and shot 24 of 62 for 39%, including 2 of 21 from three-point range. Despite the tough sledding, coach Bill Self felt better about his team’s progress.
"I thought we did some good things considering they only shot 29 percent and we out-rebounded them (49-37)," Self said. "We only turned it over 13 times and we go 24-of-28 from the free-throw line. That typically is going to be a 40-point game. There is no way you can't win that game by 30 or 40 unless you go 2-for-21 from three."
Senior Jeff Withey led the way, as he was one of three Jayhawks in double-figures, scoring 17 points and 12 rebounds for his seventh career double-double. He also recorded half of the team’s 10 blocks on the evening. Redshirt freshman Ben McLemore was one point shy and true freshman Perry Ellis was two rebounds shy of notching double-doubles in their official Jayhawk debuts. McLemore grabbed nine points and 12 rebounds, while Ellis added 15 points and eight rebounds.
Sophomore guard Naadir Tharpe tallied a career-high 10 points, including seven in the last six minutes and 20 seconds of the game. Tharpe was big, as Elijah Johnson was plagued by foul trouble all night, eventually fouling out with 4:04 to play in the game. Afterwards, Self was pleased, but knows he can build on Friday night.
“He did some pretty good stuff, but it’s not where it needs to be, but it’ll get there.” Self said.
The Redhawks kept it close until midway through the second half, trailing by as little as six, before Kansas turned a close game into a runaway.
Attention now turns to Tuesday night’s showdown with Michigan State and coach Tom Izzo, who will have his team ready after they fell to Connecticut on Friday.
“I don’t know Tom that well, but they may practice in football pads and helmets tomorrow and our guys will practice with pillows,” Self said. “I think our guys are very capable of reacting favorably, but we may have to have a guy to get punched in the mouth to really understand that they’re going to hit us first, if we’re not ready. So, we better get our guard up and be ready to go.”