The Kansas Jayhawks (3-0) played poorly in the first half Tuesday night but turned things around after intermission to defeat a talented Iona Gaels (1-2) squad, 86-66.
The biggest failure by the Jayhawks was on the defensive end. Kansas just does not seem to apply the pressure on defense as ferociously as in the past under Head Coach Bill Self. At times, they seemed to allow wide open 3-point attempts. The Gaels stayed in the game by completing 10 of 31 long range attempts.
The Jayhawks have 12 legitimate players to throw at teams (11 last night – Brannen Greene did not play for undisclosed reasons); they should be in attack mode defensively at all times. Players are losing their man on the perimeter, letting others drive to the basket with just cursory attempts to stop them. They just lack an aggressiveness on defense right now.
The Jayhawks started the game a bit flat. It was somewhat expected, considering their last game was a full week ago and it was a big clash on a national stage against the Duke Blue Devils. It took the young Jayhawks some time to realize that Iona didn’t care who Kansas beat the last game. They were there to play ball.
Kansas played much better in the second half. They aggressively attacked the basket from the paint on offense, and were much more aggressive on defense. They athleticism eventually wore down Iona at the end, allowing the Jayhawks to pull away.
The Jayhawks did have some very nice performances. Perry Ellis led the team in scoring again, tallying 21 points on 9-11 from the field. He added 7 boards to his line as well. After a slow first half start, Andrew Wiggins played much better in the second stanza, piling up 13 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and two steals for the game.
Freshman 7-footer Joel Embiid, playing basketball in front of his father for the first time, had maybe the most impressive game of anyone. The big center from Cameroon was 7 for 7 from the field on his way to a 16-point, 13-rebound outing.
Others that had a nice game include Naadir Tharpe, who netted 5 points and 3 rebounds, but also dished out 10 assists and only had 1 turnover. Wayne Selden dropped in 7 points and had 5 assists and no turnovers.
As a team the Jayhawks shot 56.9% from the field. They out rebounded the Gaels 40-26, and Kansas dished out 23 assists while Iona only recorded 12. The Jayhawks had 5 blocks to just one for Iona. Kansas turned the ball over just 11 times.
Some negatives aspects of the game include a paltry 28.6% shooting percentage from 3-point range, and only 64% from the charity stripe. Also, Kansas only forced 11 turnovers despite being a much deeper and much more talented team.
KU only committed the 11 turnovers, but 7 came from the Jayhawks’ back up big men, Jamari Traylor with 3 and Joel Embiid had 4. Everyone else did a great job taking care of the ball.
Senior transfer Tarik Black continues to struggle with foul issues as he picked up three in just 9 minutes of action.
One player also stood out, and not because of any overwhelming success or failure. Freshman point guard Frank Mason continues to impress with his speed, quickness, and ball handling abilities. His ability to get to the rim is fantastic. Once he learns how to finish those drives with made shots, and can understand when to kick the ball out to the wing, he will be unstoppable.
Kansas now prepares to play Towson on Friday at Allen Fieldhouse. The Tigers have had one of the most remarkable turnarounds in college history in recent years. Just two years ago, Towson finished 1-31, but last year, they went 18-13, and they are 3-1 so far this season, including a win over Temple.
This will be no pushover game on Friday.
Kansas is 3-0 and averaging just under 87 points a game. This is going to be a fun year!