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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Keegan

Column: Wiggins makes headway, now needs help

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins heads to the bucket between Florida defenders Will Yeguete, left, and Michael Frazier II during the second half on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013 at O'Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins heads to the bucket between Florida defenders Will Yeguete, left, and Michael Frazier II during the second half on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013 at O'Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida.

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Bill Self after loss at Florida

Bill Self after loss at Florida

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Florida 67, Kansas 61

Box score

Even when athletes looks desperately lost, way overmatched, getting worse by the second, it’s tough to count them out when they have the best player on their side and ample time remains on the clock.

When all around him looked too green to handle what Kansas University coach Bill Self likes to call “a big-boy game,” Andrew Wiggins represented hope.

He didn’t shy from a physical opponent and the mistakes he did make were those of aggression, not passivity.

Wiggins didn’t play for the winning side Tuesday night in the O’Connell Center, Florida’s on-campus arena where the Gators defeated KU, 67-61, in front of a jacked sellout crowd of 12,243. But he showed many winning traits and led the Jayhawks back from a deficit that grew as large as 18 points with a few minutes remaining in the first half.

Dribbling wildly in transition and missing the mark on passes, Wiggins committed three of his four turnovers in the first 20 minutes and misfired on all three three-point attempts. But on his way to 26 points and 11 rebounds, Wiggins outscored the man he guarded in the first half, leading scorer Casey Prather, 10-0, in a half Kansas lost 36-21.

He wasn’t a part of the problem for a squad playing with guards who don’t yet know how to attack a zone. He was at the center of the attempted solution.

During Florida’s 21-0 blitzkrieg that took 8:43 off the clock and made the young Jayhawks age much more than that, Wiggins missed four shots, but wasn’t responsible for any of KU’s six turnovers committed by five other players.

“What Andrew did, he competed,” Self said. “He scored points, but he got 11 rebounds and we’ve been on his butt about doing that. And he made shots, but even some of the shots he made, I’m glad he made them and all that stuff, but that’s not what I’m glad that he did. I just thought he was more aggressive competing, which was good.”

The faster the pace, the more aggressively teammates attack, the better Wiggins plays. In the opening 20 minutes against the Gators, KU’s guards were put on their heels, confused by the defense in front of them. Kansas practiced against a 1-3-1 zone, but that’s not the same as facing it against a bunch of experienced athletes who know how to play it.

“I don’t think our guards do anything to help him right now,” Self said of Wiggins. “I thought he played aggressive, for the most part, the entire game. I just don’t think he got very many opportunities in the first half.”

Why didn’t he?

“Their 1-3-1 and our inability to attack it, that kind of stuff,” Self said. “A lot of times you don’t put it all on one kid because he doesn’t get any shot attempts for five minutes because if he doesn’t touch it, he’s not going to shoot it.”

In leading KU’s comeback, Wiggins scored 16 points and made four of six three-pointers. When Florida coach Billy Donovan switched to a man-to-man defense, Wiggins’ eyes lit up and so did the scoreboard. He received late help from Brannen Greene, who energized the team with hustle, forced a key turnover when KU applied full-court pressure and scored five points in 14 minutes. Greene also committed the biggest turnover, losing the ball out of bounds with 55 seconds left and storming KU trailing by six.

So many lessons remain for these college basketball novices, but in a game two talented players showed they have adjusted to the need to play hard every possession in the college game, the night was not without its positive signs.

For KU to look as bad as it did in a first half in which it had three assists, 16 turnovers and 19 field-goal attempts, threatening to make it a game of it in the final minute, means hope exists for another Big 12 title and long tournament run.

Having the best player on the floor in nearly every game is not a bad starting point for forming a team out of a collection of talented young individuals who have so much left to learn and so many difficult tests staring them down.

Comments

Allin Herring 4 months ago

I was at this game Tuesday night. First it may have been sold out but there were at least two thousand empty seats in the O'Connell Center (which by the way is a s... hole for a basketball arena). I must say there were allot of Jayhawk fans at the game but we had nothing to cheer about! There is something wrong when your team is ranked playing another ranked team who has a great basketball history behind it and there is 2000 empty seats! Give me a break. I would not be to proud saying I was a Gator! A game like this in Allen field house would have been packed 2 hours before the game! Now to the game. I lived through the Ted Owens era and I can say that if this team continues to play like the crap I saw Tuesday night then this team has the "potential"l to be the worst KU team ever. The first half was the worst display of KU basketball I have ever seen! Turnover after turnover for almost 9 minutes from all of our players that have oh so much "potential". That includes our MR NBA! Wiggins fit right in with the rest of the team stinking up the O'Connell Center with all of their "potential". I must say Wiggins played much better the 2nd half especially when the Gators gave us a break and played some man to man defense. Wiggins did hit some 3's late in the game to make it respectable but if he does start doing that on a regular basis he is not going to keep his MR. NBA title! I am tired of hear about all of their "potential". They have not shown so far any spark of improvement in their play and if they do not start showing it pretty soon Oklahoma State is going to enjoy some "potential" pie in 2014. We have got to find someone who can hit a shot farther out than a layup or it will have the "potential" to be a long season!

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John Randall 4 months ago

Every one in HawkLand could see these young guys still struggling in early December, except most of the teenagers in the gym.

I'm glad this year's schedule has been tough enough to reinforce the lesson.

OK, guys, you aren't good enough to slack off between showtime moments. Just have to wake up to the fact that "We are in Kansas now."

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Matt Stucker 4 months ago

I think it might be best to take a deep breath, sit back, and see what happens in the next few games. I would agree that the last week or so is basically unchartered territory, but I don't believe that Coach Self has forgotten how to coach, or the kids with talent have forgotten how to play. I too am frustrated, but expect that the team will figure it out with the help of experience.

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Tony Bandle 4 months ago

Let's see..second road game in four days, at a Top 20 team with a 20 game home winning streak, two best players back for Florida, KU starting 4 freshmen against 4 Gator seniors...sounds like a pretty good formula for a huge challenge.

Did they fail???...yes and no....they failed to win...they didn't fail to compete.

Think of it this way..now we come back to our backyard in KC, then three straight in Allen. It is not out of the realm of possibility we go into conference at 10-3.

Looking at the non-con schedule at the start of the year, didn't that sound about right based on the youth of these guys????.

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Shaun Hardie 4 months ago

24 turnovers was the reason we lost. Every player contributed to this L. This is a young team and I know we should be patient but come on, 24 turnovers! Florida is not that good of a team but they had seniors who played under control and they manhandled our bigs. This is early in the season and I don't think there is going to be a lot of games where we turn it over this many times. If I were an opposing team, I'd consider throw a 1-3-1 zone or a 2-3 zone at them because KU doesn't know what to do against it.

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Ian Emerson 4 months ago

I'm literally not mad at anyone except for one person and that person is Tarik Black. He missed a crucial putback during our second half that screamed lack of leadership too me. As a senior and a veteran on our team we needed him too come through for us and just likes it's been the whole season, didn't. Also Brennan robbed Andrew of a miracle comeback we need him to make shots but that was a HORRIBLY lazy mistake to turn the ball over at that time.

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Jim Jackson 4 months ago

I wonder why Andrew White does not see more action? He has a good shoot and is big, physical presence?

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Janet Cinelli 4 months ago

I felt very bad in the first half last night. I also felt bad after the end of the Colorado game, and when we got home from the horror in Atlantis. But, today, I feel good. Why? (1) Bill Self is our coach; (2) we have a ton of talent; (3) it is ONLY December! Our guys are going to get their acts together, and come February, we are going to rock! I was anxious to read Keegan's column today, as I was guessing he would end it with hope! And, he did! And, he's right!
It is time to do what we Jayhawk fans aren't used to doing: be patient!

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Michael Leiker 4 months ago

People need to get off Wiggins jock. The kid has done some ok things, but last night he was an absolute turnover machine who happened to hit a few shots when the game was out of hand. Just got ripped multiple times. I think we're at the point now where it's ok to say that he just doesn't seem 100% bought into this whole playing college basketball thing.

He blew opportunities in transition, choked an easy turnover forced by one of his teammates right out of bounds in the last minute of the game. That 3 point jumper is never going to be something that he hits consistently, it's just a bad looking jump shot. It's brick city.

Kansas fans should be smarter than this. Letting all this hype about a bunch of 18 year olds get as overblown as it did was something I didn't think we'd ever see here and it's disappointing. We'd be wise to start bringing some reality down on these guys before this season gets out of hand.

Self has the toughest task of his career. He has to completely adjust his coaching style away from his normally aggressive, scrapping, clawing, defensive mentality while trying to fire up a bunch of kids with laid back passive personalities. He'll have to be talking out of both sides of his mouth to say the least. Tough task for anyone. Might be a very long year.

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