There was a moment in the first half, just under 4 minutes left, when the Kansas Jayhawks hit the 50-point mark on Fort Hays State. That, of course, wasn’t all that surprising.
The Jayhawks shot 50.8 percent from the floor Tuesday night as they rolled to a 92-75 victory in their second and final exhibition game.
But in the moments after freshman Brannen Greene drained his second three-pointer and pushed the score to 50-28 with 3:45 left in the half, it was worth taking a look toward the Kansas bench. The Jayhawks had gone on a 29-8 run in just more than 6 minutes. And freshman phenom Andrew Wiggins sat on the bench, still scoreless as the Jayhawk freight train chugged on.
“I think we’ve got a lot of depth,” said reserve sophomore forward Jamari Traylor, who finished with 11 points and seven rebounds.
So what does Kansas look like without its No. 1 overall recruit? Well, against a Fort Hays State squad from the MIAA, it looked pretty good.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that can stretch the floor,” Traylor said. “We’ve got bigs that can score. Joel (Embiid) did a pretty good job this game, scoring in the paint.
“But as far as Wiggins, I think he’s going to get a lot more comfortable. Everything is going to flow a lot more easy. I wouldn’t worry about today.”
One week ago, Kansas plodded through its exhibition opener against Pittsburg State, looking impressive in flashes, but a little fragmented, to use Kansas coach Bill Self’s words. Self simplified things a little in the last week of practice, focusing more on defense. On Tuesday, the Jayhawks certainly looked more in control.
Even as Wiggins finished with just 10 points in 20 minutes, the Jayhawks came in waves. Greene and fellow freshman Conner Frankamp both made two three-pointers in the first half, adding to the onslaught. Still, Self wasn’t quite happy with the defensive performance, pointing to the fact Fort Hays State shot 49.1 percent.
“We went through periods of time in the last five years (where) we go 52 or 55 games, where nobody shoots 50 (percent), home or away,” Self said. “And then to have a team shoot as well as they did against us tonight obviously tells me, although we may be trying, we don’t guard like we think we guard.”
On Friday night, Kansas will open the season against Louisiana Monroe at Allen Fieldhouse. And one week from Tuesday, Kansas will find itself in Chicago, preparing to take on No. 4 Duke in the Champions Classic. So maybe there was a little more importance on an exhibition game in early November.
The coming season also means that Wiggins will soon have more time to showcase his athleticism.
In the second half, freshman guard Frank Mason turned a steal into a fast-break chance, and Wiggins found himself near the right block. Mason flipped a pass toward the rim, and Wiggins, who took off from just outside the lane, flushed an alley-oop that shook Allen Fieldhouse.
“I knew he was athletic enough to go and get it,” Mason said.
It was another confidence-building play for Mason, who started Tuesday while KU prepares to play its opener without junior guard Naadir Tharpe, who will serve a one-game suspension. Mason finished with four points and six assists in 19 minutes, appearing a little more in rhythm.
“With all the athletic guys we have on this team,” Mason said, “we all showed up to pass, not just to shoot first.
Now the season turns real. The opener is just days away. And Duke waits around the corner. Maybe the Jayhawks aren’t ready, Self says, but there aren’t many teams in America that are.
“I don’t know who’s ready right now, but it’s time to start,” Self said, “so we don’t have a choice. The good thing is we’ll find out exactly where we are to start the season.”