LAWRENCE — Andrew Wiggins pushed through the door of the Kansas locker room and stepped through a hallway, finding his away into the Allen Fieldhouse media room.
By RUSTIN DODD
The Kansas City Star
It was nearly 25 minutes after No. 2 Kansas’ 88-58 destruction of Towson on Friday night, and Wiggins began to peer at a box score in front of him. He studied it for a moment, then looked up. He had seen enough.
In a 40-minute offensive clinic, the Jayhawks had scored 88 points and shot 60 percent from the floor. They had scored 48 points in the paint, and put on the kind of transition dunkfest that had attracted Wiggins to play for Kansas coach Bill Self.
But there was something else on the box score, something that spoke to Wiggins’ unselfish sensibilities. The Jayhawks had put up 88 points — and nobody had taken more than eight shots.
“When we’re playing our game, no one can stop us,” Wiggins said. “When we just play in the flow of the game, no one can stop us. We have too many tools, too many weapons to use.”
Wiggins had finished with 16 points on six-of-eight shooting while snaring seven rebounds, sparking a 49-16 first-half beating with 14 points before the intermission. But this was the sort of dizzying night where everything seemed to work, where the team Kansas was playing — Towson, in this instance — seemed about as relevant as the Washington Generals. Just more than 24 hours earlier, Self had stood in Allen Fieldhouse, wishing his young team would unveil more of its rather ridiculous supply of athleticism.
By the end, the Jayhawks had improved to 4-0 while paying heed to their coach’s demands.
“If there’s a better team in the country,” Towson coach Pat Skerry said, “I’d like to find out who they are, and I certainly don’t want to play them.”
As you might expect, Self wasn’t ready to agree with Skerry’s assessment — not yet, anyway. But it was hard to find much wrong with Kansas on Friday. Freshman center Joel Embiid continued his early season surge, finishing with eight points, eight rebounds and three blocks. In the first half, he ignited the onslaught with an assortment of long outlet passes, pulling off his best impression of outlet master Kevin Love — or for an older generation, Wes Unseld.
“I think it’s more instinctive,” Self said. “He’s smart. He understands. He’s got feel.”
Senior Tarik Black, who has been plagued with foul trouble this season, snapped out of his funk with six points and two thunderous dunks in the early minutes of the first half. And freshman Wayne Selden added 12 points and a two-handed dunk over a defender as the Jayhawks took a 49-16 lead at halftime.
“It just shows how our team is,” Wiggins says. “We play for each other. No one plays selfishly. We play unselfish, and that’s why we’re a winning team.”
In some ways, this victory was a pretty good representation of why Wiggins came to Lawrence. The Jayhawks played extremely fast, and they threw lob after lob, and they played together. In the north end zone of Allen Fieldhouse, a group of students held up letters that pretty much said it all:
“I thought we really got out and ran better than we have,” Self said.
Wiggins, meanwhile, was free to quietly affect the game in subtle ways. Late in the second half, as Towson leading scorer Jerrelle Benimon began to get hot, Wiggins slid over and kept him scoreless for a span of minutes.
“He was scoring.” Wiggins said. “I just wanted to see how I’d do on him. I think my defense is underrated.”
For a night, Self was plenty content with an unselfish Wiggins. On another night, it might have been different.
“That’s who he is,” Self added. “But he’s the type of kid that I really believe, in a game like this tonight, that’s the way it should be, but in a game where you struggle to get baskets, he needs to be taking 15 or 20 shots.
“That’s what the good players do.”
So now Kansas prepares to head for the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas next week, where it will open against Wake Forest on Thursday afternoon. Three games in three days — three chances to showcase their abilities to a national audience. But all that best-team-in-the-country talk? That stuff, Self says, can wait.
“By the end,” Self said, “if our young kids keep getting better, I think we’ll have a chance to be in the conversation out there. But this is a different year. …
“There’s a lot of nice teams out there. But when we play, and we play with energy, I think we can be one of the better ones.”
To reach Rustin Dodd, call 816-234-4937 or send email to email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/rustindodd.