The Kansas Jayhawks bounced back after their mediocre effort versus a physical San Diego State team to defeat the Oklahoma Sooners 90-83 in their Big-12 conference opener.
A Freshman was the highlight of the night for Kansas, but not one of the usual stories. No, it wasn’t Andrew Wiggins and it most certainly wasn’t Joel Embiid tonight, who did look quite stylish sporting some “Kareem-like” sports goggles. Fellow Freshman Guard/Forward Wayne Selden, Jr. remembered that he too is a freshman phenom and a McDonald’s All-American.
The Roxbury, Massachusetts native broke out of his shell last night, scoring a career-high 24 points on 9/17 shooting including a much needed 5-10 from three-point range, an angle that Kansas has yet to capitalize on. Selden tied his career-high of 15 points in the first half and 13 of those points came in the first 8 minutes of the contest.
The Jayhawks field goal percentage was up from Sunday’s effort, not that it could be much worse as Kansas shot a disappointing 30% from the field. Tonight, the Jayhawks got back to work and finished the game with 55% shooting from the field.
The three-point shot finally showed up in a game for the Jayhawks, who shot 50% from long range in last night’s victory. Turnovers continue to ruffle the feathers of the Jayhawks as they turned the ball over 14 times again. This kind of thing is expected from a young team, but Rock Chalk Nation has to be asking themselves “when is this going to stop?” Kansas continues to be their own worst enemy at most times, making careless mistakes with the basketball that costs them valuable possessions. The competition only continues to get steeper and the better teams in the Big-12 will capitalize on Kansas’ high-school level mistakes.
Joel Embiid was a non-factor for the second consecutive game, due to the fact that opponents continue to throw double-team after double-team at the Cameroon native. Embiid seemed to struggle at first with handling the lightning quick double-team of the San Diego State Aztecs, and received more last night from Oklahoma. With every game, Embiid will improve more and more on handling those situations as they are thrown at him. Coaches, players, and anybody who knows Joel describe him as a sponge, thirsty for as much knowledge as he can apprehend, and I am fully confident Coach Bill Self will provide him with the cerebral tools to succeed in any situation.
Andrew Wiggins was a shell of himself last night, only scoring 9 points, all in the first half. This is only the second time this season that Wiggins has scored in single digits, the first coming in the Jayhawks 67-63 November victory over UTEP in the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament. Wiggins, although he has been more consistently better than not, has many things that need some serious work between now and the end of the season if he still intends to enter his name in the 2014 NBA Draft. As I have touched on before, Wiggins lacks a “killer instinct.” He has to understand that if he makes good decisions with the basketball, his teammates and coach won’t care what happens. I expect he will take that leap of faith during the laborious 4-game schedule ahead of them that entails #25 Kansas State, #9 Iowa State, #11 Oklahoma State, and #7 Baylor consecutively. Kansas will have to bring their A-game for the next two weeks or that 10th consecutive Big-12 title could fade away quickly from Bill Self and his Jayhawks.
Perry Ellis bounced back nicely off his uninspired 2-point effort against SDSU and returned to his old form, scoring 22 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Naadir Tharpe has a nice night as well, scoring 17 points on 5-7 shooting and dishing out 3 assists to only 1 turnover.
Oklahoma G Cameron Clark had the game of his life last night, scoring a career-high 32 points on 10-18 shooting and 12-16 shooting from the charity stripe. The Kansas defense had no answer for this guy as he continued to score at will from the tip-off to the final buzzer. Fellow Guards Buddy Hield and Jordan Woodard also compiled nice performances as Hield scored 18 and Woodard scored 10.
A small weight should be removed from the Jayhawks shoulders after showing the ability to bounce back off a rather pathetic effort from Sunday to notch their first conference win of the season. Their work will be cut out for them, however, over the next two weeks as I said before, taking on four Top 25 teams in a row. Luckily for Jayhawk Nation, three of those four games are at home in Allen Fieldhouse. Their lone road game lies at Fred Hoiberg’s #9 Iowa State Cyclones. Kansas needs to focus on one game at a time, starting with their in-state rival Kansas State.
#18 Kansas (10-4, 1-0) and #25 Kansas State (12-3, 2-0) square off Saturday January 11 at 1 PM. The game can be seen on both ESPN and ESPN3.