By Jesse Newell
For a while, the Kansas men’s basketball team found life hard without starting point guard Naadir Tharpe — and graduated center Jeff Withey.
Though KU’s defense was shaky throughout, the Jayhawks still managed enough firepower late to pull away from ULM in a 80-63 season-opening victory on Friday night at Allen Fieldhouse.
Tharpe missed the contest after illegally playing in a summer-league game in Chicago a few months ago.
The Jayhawks allowed 12 combined dunks and layups to ULM, a high number that was rarely seen with the 7-footer Withey protecting the rim.
Andrew Wiggins led KU with 16 points on 5-for-9 shooting in a choppy game that was overtaken by ticky-tack officiating. KU made 27 of 43 free throws, while ULM was 18-for-29.
Andrew White III (12) and Perry Ellis (12) also added double-figure scoring for KU.
Here’s a look back to some of the action:
• The game turned when: Kansas coach Bill Self marched onto the court to argue jaw-to-jaw with an official about a foul call on Frank Mason with 15:34 left in the second half. After Self somehow avoided a technical foul, the Allen Fieldhouse crowd came to life, and a few seconds later, KU raced down the court for a Tarik Black layup — just KU’s fourth fast-break point of the game — that made it 49-41 and forced a ULM timeout.
• Offensive highlight: Andrew Wiggins once again showed his offensive potential on a baseline move with 12:19 left in the second half, taking a couple quick dribbles to his right before floating in a finger-roll before ULM’s defense could rotate. It’s the kind of tantalizing play that makes you wonder why the 6-foot-8 Canadian isn’t more aggressive off the dribble with the talent he has.
• Defensive highlight: With 9:13 left, Tarik Black poked away a ULM pass for a steal, then Conner Frankamp threw ahead for an Andrew White III layup and foul. A few seconds later, after White made his free throw, Frankamp stole the inbounds pass and put in a layup of his own, capping a 15-5 KU run.
• Key stat: Though it might be overlooked, KU was excellent on the defensive glass, coming away with 28 of 34 potential defensive boards (82.3 percent). For some context, the best defensive rebounding team in the country a season ago, Colorado State, came away with 77 percent of the potential defensive rebounds.
• Up next: KU will take on Duke in the Champions Classic at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at the United Center in Chicago.
That's a wrap. KU moves to 1-0 with the 80-63 victory. Be sure to check out the box score just above the Twitter app above for statistics and keep it right here all night for audio, post-game reaction and analysis.
Frankamp nails a three-pointer.
7-1 run by ULM, featuring a couple of three-pointers, trims KU's lead to 12. Timeout Kansas.
Under 4 timeout 2nd half at Allen Fieldhouse.
It's been a grind, but Jayhawks now up 20
Wiggins headed to the FT line.
Embiid picks up point No. eight and KU opens up its largest lead.