When former Eastern Washington men's basketball coach Mike Burns was fired in May, he didn't do any favors for Kirk Earlywine, the man EWU hired in June to replace him.
Earlywine led an Eagles team that dressed just nine players into Allen Fieldhouse last night, and he left with an 85-47 loss.
"It's been really hard. I got the job in June and had to get nine new players," he said of filling out the EWU roster on the fly. "Six of those nine had never played in a Division I game a month ago, and that's an even bigger factor, just lack of experience at this level."
The Eagles fell to 3-7 on the season after the loss to KU (8-0). The team from the Big Sky Conference already had fallen to No. 8 Washington State, New Mexico, Washington, Virginia Tech, Michigan and Santa Clara.
"I inherited the toughest schedule in the history of our conference. Nobody else has ever played two top-10 teams," Earlywine said of playing KU and WSU.
The first-year coach said KU's talent is the best he has seen.
"I think there's probably less than 20 teams in the country who can look at San Antonio and the Final Four as a realistic goal, and Kansas is certainly one of those teams," Earlywine said, adding Washington State is as well. "But Kansas is a whole other animal in terms of length and athletic ability and style of play. They just overwhelmed us."
KU dominated EWU on the glass, outrebounding the undermanned team, 48-27. And that was after a first half in which the Eagles held their own on the boards.
"I thought our block-out was pretty decent in the first half," Earlywine said of the effort in the first 20 minutes when KU outrebounded EWU, 20-17, and had just five offensive boards on 16 missed field goals. "They cranked it up at the beginning of the second half, and we couldn't or didn't do anything about it."
If there was a silver lining for EWU, it might have been the play of junior guard Adris DeLeon, who scored a game-high 24 on 8-of-11 shooting with three 3s and five free throws.
But Earlywine didn't see it that way. Asked about how DeLeon tried to keep EWU in the game, the coach cut off the question at the pass.
"On one end of the floor," he said, apparently disappointed in the guard's defense, or lack thereof. "He's got some talent when the ball's in his hands; unfortunately, the ball sticks in his hands too much."
Neither DeLeon nor any of his teammates was made available to media after the game.
The coach said part of the problem with DeLeon's play stems from the fact that he didn't play prep hoops; he only played in summer leagues and at the junior-college level at the College of Southern Idaho.
"We need him to get shots for his teammates more," Earlywine said after the 5-foot-11 guard registered just two assists against KU. "But he's learning. He's getting there."
Kellen Williams added 13 points, but it wasn't enough to slow down KU and its superior size.
Although Williams pulled down 11 boards to register a double-double, KU forwards Darnell Jackson and Darrell Arthur scored the first 15 points for the Jayhawks.
"If I was in coach Self's shoes, I'd have done the same thing," Earlywine said. "We got a 6-foot-4 4-man (Williams). Hell, I'd have thrown it down there every time, too."
"They had a bigger guy at every position and a better athlete at every position," Earlywine said. "Therefore ... it was a 38-point margin."