Kansas junior forward Dwight Coleby will know just about everything there is to know about Purdue’s basketball team prior to Thursday night’s NCAA Midwest Region Sweet 16 contest at the Sprint Center.
Minus a detailed scouting report, which will be presented to the Jayhawks by KU coach Bill Self this week, Coleby still was able to brief media members on the Big Ten regular-season champs after KU’s 90-70 second-round NCAA Tournament victory over Michigan State on Sunday in Tulsa, Okla.
“Just big,” Coleby said of the Boilermakers (27-7), the No. 4 seed in the region, who went 14-4 in the Big Ten in 2016-17.
“We know they are huge,” added the 6-foot-9, 240-pound Coleby, who came up big with three points, four rebounds and a steal while playing 9 minutes in the second half of the top-seeded Jayhawks’ win over the ninth-seeded Spartans.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
The biggest Boilermakers are 6-9, 250-pound sophomore forward Caleb Swanigan and 7-2, 290-pound junior center Isaac Haas.
Swanigan, who averages 18.5 points and 12.6 rebounds in 32.5 minutes per game, scored 20 points with 12 rebounds and seven assists while playing 34 minutes in Saturday’s 80-76 second-round victory over Iowa State. Swanigan, the Big Ten’s player of the year, has made 52.7 percent of his shots, including 35 of 81 threes for 43.2 percent. He also has 103 assists to 112 turnovers.
Haas, who has started 15 games and come off the bench in the rest, scored 14 points and grabbed three rebounds against the Cyclones. For the year, he has averaged 12.6 points (on 58.8 percent shooting) and 5.1 rebounds.
Swanigan on Sunday was announced as a finalist for the Naismith Trophy as national player of the year with KU’s Frank Mason, UCLA’s Lonzo Ball and Villanova’s Josh Hart.
“I haven’t seen him much,” Coleby said of Swanigan. “I watched two games all season. He’s a great player. We’ve got to find a way to stop them and come out with a win.”
Self said Sunday the Jayhawks would work on some of the scouting on Monday and return to full practice on Tuesday. After Tuesday’s workout, the Jayhawks will head to their team headquarters, the Westin Crown Center Hotel. KU will practice from 3:10 to 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Sprint Center. The practice is open to the public. Tipoff for Thursday’s game will be approximately 8:40 p.m., or 30 minutes after a Sweet 16 game between Oregon and Michigan at 6:09 p.m.
“That is a different animal. We haven’t seen that this year, a team that plays through their bigs. That’s how they play. Certainly they are really good at it,” Self said.
He added, “They can shoot it from all spots.” Purdue has made 48.1 percent of its shots, 40.4 percent of its threes and 75.9 percent of its free throws.
“When they play the two bigs together (Swanigan, Haas) it’s a different look than what we’ve seen all year long,” Self said. “When they play one (Swanigan) he’s hardest to guard because they’ve got four shooters around him. We’ve got to come up with a game plan.”
Self and several of the Jayhawks were able to watch the Iowa State-Purdue game on Saturday night.
“I probably saw 80 percent of it,” Self said. Purdue squandered a 19-point lead and trailed by two with 3 minutes left before 5-10 junior guard P.J. Thompson hit a three to put the Boilermakers back on top, 74-73. Swanigan and Vince Edwards — a 6-8, 225 junior who had 21 points, 10 rebounds and four assists against Iowa State — both scored to give Purdue a 78-73 lead with 1:36 left.
“I was really impressed because when you think of it right now going into it, they’ve got some guys that we haven’t seen down low yet,” Self said. “We haven’t gone against an inside presence scoring like Caleb, and of course the big fellow off the bench. So we’ve got to come up with a way to eliminate post touches and still get to their shooters because they can stretch it from all the spots to the perimeter.”
Self pointed out Purdue had 27 assists on 31 baskets against the Cyclones. Like Swanigan, combo guard Dakota Mathias (6-4 junior) had seven assists.
“There’s nobody that would execute in the half court or share the ball any better than that. So obviously we gotta do a great job getting the shooters,” Self said.
Swanigan’s name will be mentioned plenty in days leading up to the game, that’s for sure. His nickname “Biggie” was given to him by an aunt several years ago.
“Swanigan is a load,” said KU sophomore forward Carlton Bragg. “He’ll be a big challenge for us. He can pretty much do everything. He had seven assists as well. For a big guy, that’s pretty good.”
Bragg, who had one rebound and three fouls in 5 minutes against Michigan State, said he was impressed with the inside play of teammate Coleby.
“It comes down to playing your role like tonight,” Bragg said Sunday. “Dwight had an awesome game tonight. I’m proud of my boy. Coach called his number. We need energy coming off the bench.”
Coleby, who now has played 9, 7 and 6 minutes in KU’s last three games, said he’s always ready.
“Be locked in the game, don’t be sidetracked, don’t let other things influence me, just stay focused,” Coleby said of his keys to success.
He experienced a touching moment after the contest when KU coach Self approached him in the locker room.
“(He said) that he was proud of me and I deserved this moment,” said Coleby, who this season has been slow to recover from ACL surgery that had him sidelined his entire redshirt season of 2015-16 — one that followed his transfer from Mississippi.
“He works hard. I’m proud of him,” Bragg added of his fellow big.
Purdue ready for road challenge
Edwards said the Boilermakers look forward to playing at the Sprint Center, despite all the KU fans that will be in the building.
“There’s no better feeling than when it’s a place when all the hostility’s against you,” Edwards told the Indianapolis Star, predicting an “us against the world” environment to the newspaper.
“It’s a huge environment to be in, and to have all that adversity and everything, to come away with the win and hear silence as you walk out of a gym is an amazing feeling.”
“We enjoy playing on the road,” junior guard Dakota Mathias told the Indy Star. “We like all the boos and the hatred coming towards us. We’ve won in a lot of hostile environments, a lot of big-time places, so this isn’t going to be any different.”
Garrett honored by Gatorade
Kansas signee Marcus Garrett, a 6-5 senior combo guard from Dallas Skyline High School, on Monday was chosen the Gatorade Texas Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
Garrett, who is ranked No. 37 in the Class of 2017 by Rivals.com, averaged 17.3 points, 10.4 rebounds and 9.1 assists a game for Skyline (34-2), which lost in the Class 6A state semifinals. He had 12 triple doubles and 32 double doubles.