By Matt Tait
It may have been billed as Andrew Wiggins' debut in a Kansas uniform, but KU's incredible depth stole the show.
Behind waves of Jayhawks who simply kept attacking overmatched Pittsburg State, the KU men's basketball team kicked off the 2013-14 season with a 97-57 exhibition victory over the Gorillas at Allen Fieldhouse.
After a slow start in which he traveled on his first touch and missed a couple of jumpers early, Wiggins warmed up and began to flash some of the skills that have made him one of the most hyped KU players of all time. His numbers weren't great — 5-of-13 shooting for 16 points, six rebounds and two blocks — but he showed enough glimpses of what people came to see.
As for the rest, Perry Ellis paced KU's offense with an efficient 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting, Andrew White III added 12 and was one of the more aggressive players all night, and Naadir Tharpe chipped in with seven points, nine assists and no turnovers.
Tarik Black led KU with 11 rebounds. Perry Ellis ripped down eight.
Also, after the game, KU coach Bill Self announced that Tharpe would miss the season-opener against Louisiana Monroe after illegally playing in a summer-league game.
Here’s a quick look back at some of the action Tuesday night:
• The game turned when: The Jayhawks closed the first half with a 14-4 run to open up a 50-32 halftime lead despite nine turnovers and a slow start. Tharpe and Andrew White III chipped in with five points apiece during the knockout run — both hit a three and added another bucket — and Brannen Greene also scored four points during the run.
• Offensive highlight: It took a while — more than 13 minutes to be exact — but Wiggins' first real highlight in a KU basketball uniform came on an alley-oop pass from Jamari Traylor with 6:52 to play in the first half. Wiggins was a little shaky early, but this kind of athletic play is what fans expected to see all along. The pass wasn't great and instead of catching it high near the glass, Wiggins had to readjust on the way up to catch it at the front of the rim and power it in over Pitt State's Trevor Gregory. After landing, Wiggins flexed and let out a primal scream that ignited the Allen Fieldhouse crowd.
• Defensive highlight: Take your pick of two Tarik Black blocks during a two-minute stretch early in the second half. The first came in transition when Pitt State's Terrell Eaddy rose up from just outside the lane and tried to cup the ball to attempt a dunk. Black was having none of that and ripped the ball out on its way up. The other, on a reverse layup attempt by Jake Bullard, was a little more legitimate as Black pinned the ball on the other side of the rim and plucked the rebound. We've said this before, but Black is a solid athlete and a heck of a lot more than just a big body.
• Key stat: Fouls and free throws. The two teams combined for 50 fouls and shot a total of 61 free throws. There are plenty of other options here. As expected, KU out-rebounded Pitt State 51-26, the Jayhawks hit 6 of 18 (35.3 percent) three-point shots (compared to just 2-of-13 for PSU) and the Jayhawks outscored the Gorillas 27-2 in second-chance points. But with the new rules making their way into college basketball, fouls and free-throw shooting were as hot a topic as any tonight. It remains to be seen if the trend of whistle after whistle after whistle will continue, but it looks like something you might want to get used to. ... at least for now.
• Up next: The Jayhawks will wrap up their exhibition schedule with another Tuesday home game against Fort Hays State at 7 p.m. on Nov. 5.
Ellis, Wiggins lead KU with 16 points apiece.
KU still has some starters in.
Ellis up to 14 points.
Andrew White III, Naadir Tharpe have been KU's most impressive players so far.
Some old scores coming through. Here's the latest.
Wiggins is going to draw a lot of fouls this year.
Greene misses the dunk on the cut to the rim.
KU 0-for-5 from three so far.
Lucas makes both free throws.
Pitt State cuts it to two.
Wiggins with two blocks and a steal. Still no points.