In a bit of an anti-climactic home opener, the No. 7-ranked Kansas basketball team, coming off games against Indiana and Duke, handled Siena, but struggled to put the visitors away until the final minutes in an 86-65 victory Friday night at Allen Fieldhouse.
Powered by their three-point shooting (8-for-21) and timely answers to KU baskets much of the evening, the Saints (1-2) kept the Jayhawks from turning their first home date into a non-stop raucous party.
Still, the depth and talent of the Kansas roster finally proved more than enough for Bill Self’s 207th win at the fieldhouse — giving him sole possession of the title of most victories coached in the venue, surpassing Ted Owens’ 206. KU is 207-9 under Self in home games and 387-84 overall.
Typical of a Self-coached team in one of these non-conference home matchups, Kansas (2-1) had five players in double figures, led by — who else — senior point guard Frank Mason’s 18. Sophomore forward Carlton Bragg scored 15, junior guard Devonté Graham added 13, sophomore Lagerald Vick put up 12 off the bench and freshman wing Josh Jackson scored 11, despite foul trouble keeping him off the floor all but six minutes of the first half.
View a gallery of images from the Jayhawks' Friday night matchup against the Saints at Allen Fieldhouse.
Here’s a quick look back at some of the action:
• The game turned when: It seemed late in the first half, when KU led by as many as 12, the Jayhawks would end Siena’s hopes long before the game ended. The Saints weren’t on board with their night going that direction.
The KU fans inside the fieldhouse really never felt comfortable in this one until the final minutes. Siena got within five in the second half before a jumper and layup from Vick got the Jayhawks into a bit of an offensive flow.
A Mason jumper, some Graham free throws, another Vick layup and back-to-back Svi Mykhailiuk buckets later, the lead reached 23.
• Offensive highlight: Twice in the final two minutes of the first half, Kansas drew up a lob play, featuring screens on the weak side of the floor — and twice sophomore Vick rose up high above the Siena defense to finish with jams.
But neither of those dunks, which led to a 40-30 advantage at the half, drew the oohs and ahhs of Jackson’s break-away jam earlier in the game.
With the ball in his hands coming off a steal, the freshman phenom saw nothing but open court in front of him. In a flash, Jackson got from the back court to the rim and cocked the ball back for some extra style points on his way to a thunderous one-handed dunk that rocked the fieldhouse.
• Defensive highlight: In one two-minute stretch of the second half, Siena could hardly get a shot off in the paint without seeing Lucas swat it away.
First, Khalil Richard tried to pull off a reverse when his driving route took him straight into Lucas’s waiting arms. But the senior KU center just waited for the ball to go up and rejected it.
Next, Kadeem Smithen headed to the key with his sights on a tear-drop bucket. Lucas wasn’t having it. The fifth-year big man skied as high up as his body would take him and stymied the floater.
Finally, Javion Ogunyemi just tried to out-quick Lucas to the rim on a catch in the paint and the Jayhawks’ active pivot got in perfect position for another rejection.
Lucas finished with five blocks in 21 minutes.
• Key stat: Points in the paint. It’s the area KU must dominate in games such as this, and the Jayhawks did, outscoring Siena 46-26.
• Up next: The Jayhawks head to Kansas City, where they open the CBE Classic on Monday night versus UAB.
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