Bill Self playfully slapped 7-foot-6, 300-pound giant Mamadou Ndiaye on the backside as he interacted with the UC Irvine junior seconds after the final horn sounded in Kansas University’s 78-53 victory over the Anteaters on Tuesday night in Allen Fieldhouse.
“The big fella ... I got a little nervous shaking hands with him in the handshake line. He was huge. I’ve never seen anybody that big before,” Self gasped after the Jayhawks held the Senegal sensation to limited damage — 12 points, eight boards and two blocks in 26 minutes.
“To see Landen (Lucas, eight points, four boards, one steal 15 minutes) and our guys guard him ... he was a full head or taller than all our guys,” Self added.
The (11-1) Jayhawks, who led by just two points, 28-26, at halftime, outscored the (10-5) Anteaters, 50-27, the final half. KU wound up out-rebounding an Irvine team that also boasted 7-2 Ioannis Dimakopoulos (two threes in two tries, 10 points with two boards), 6-10 Mike Best (four points, two boards) and 6-10 Jonathan Galloway (two points, one board, 17 minutes) 35 to 28.
“We didn’t come close to attacking them the first half, I think just because he was in the game,” Self said of Ndiaye, an imposing presence in the Anteaters’ zone defense. “We never thought about getting the ball in the middle. We were so passive.”
KU senior forward Perry Ellis, who had one point the first half — “not even a player, not even a factor,” Self said — finished with 14 points and nine boards.
“Lights out second half,” Self stated of the 6-foot-8 Ellis.
Kansas basketball coach Bill Self takes questions from the media after the Jayhawks' 78-53 win over UC Irvine to close out 2015. Self discusses KU's front-court rotation, as well as the upcoming Big 12 schedule and more.
Ndiaye’s presence was on display early when he swatted a shot of 6-10 Hunter Mickelson into the stands. Mickelson provided six points, three steals, two boards and a block in 11 minutes.
“It was tough. He was really big and really skilled,” Mickelson said of Ndiaye, who hit three of five shots and six of nine free throws. “I just tried to hit him high and not let him get down low on the post, hold him high enough so our guards could dive in and steal (KU had nine steals; Ndiaye suffering three turnovers).
The 6-10 Lucas was also up to the challenge against Ndiaye.
Kansas Jayhawks Perry Ellis, Frank Mason III and Devonté Graham meet with the media following a 78-53 victory over UC Irvine at Allen Fieldhouse.
“There’s nothing you can do to prepare for that situation,” Lucas said. “He’s something I’ve never seen before. His elbow was at my face (level) every time. That’s not the most pleasant thing to find out.”
The Jayhawks had interesting exchanges with Ndiaye in the handshake line.
Lucas, Brannen Greene (10 points, 0-2 from three on a night KU hit five of 17 threes) and Wayne Selden, Jr. (eight points, seven boards, five assists) all hugged the big guy.
“I told him, ‘Good game,’’’ Lucas said. “We went at it during the game. It was competitive and stuff.”
Sophomore guard Devonté Graham (nine points, three assists), whose three threes the first half as well as Frank Mason III’s eight tallies kept KU ahead by one bucket at the break, made Ndiaye laugh.
“I said, ‘Good job, big fella.’ I guess that’s why he said, ‘Good job, little fella,’’’ Graham said. “It was fun. I didn’t have to go against him. It was more the bigs. It was unique. He was actually huge.”
Noted Ellis, who hit four of seven shots and four of four free throws the final half, good for 13 points: “It was different, man. The first half I was hesitant. We were all hesitant in driving. We just came out and attacked the second half.”
KU, which has won 11 straight Big 12 regular-season titles, will open conference play against Baylor at 3 p.m., Saturday, in Allen. KU will then meet Oklahoma at 8 p.m., Monday in Allen. If KU beats Baylor, the Jayhawks figure to move up to No. 1 in the AP poll on Monday. Oklahoma would likely move up to No. 2 with a home win Saturday against Iowa State. No. 1 Michigan State lost to Iowa on Tuesday night.
— See what people were saying about the game during KUsports.com's live coverage