Monday, December 18, 2017

Notebook: Malik Newman looks ‘a lot better’; Omaha lauds KU’s home-court advantage

Holiday Hawks: Wearing a holiday-themed hat, Andre Womack, a saxophonist with the Kansas basketball band, counts down as the band performs prior to tipoff against Omaha, on Monday, Dec. 18, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Holiday Hawks: Wearing a holiday-themed hat, Andre Womack, a saxophonist with the Kansas basketball band, counts down as the band performs prior to tipoff against Omaha, on Monday, Dec. 18, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.


While Monday's 109-64 rout of visiting Omaha was celebrated mostly as the night Sam Cunliffe played big minutes and walk-on big man James Sosinski played his first minutes, a much more important thing than either one of those occurrences may have happened.

“Tonight was ‘let’s get Malik going’ probably as much as anything,” KU coach Bill Self said of sophomore guard Malik Newman, who has struggled through a few rough offensive outings during recent weeks.

On Monday, though, Newman looked much more like the player who earned preseason Big 12 newcomer of the year honors than one battling through a slump.

He made 6 of 10 shots from the floor and grabbed four rebounds to go along with four assists in 26 minutes. While none of it exactly brought back memories of his 32-point outburst in Italy in the Jayhawks' exhibition finale overseas, it was enough to please the KU coach.

“I thought he was a lot better,” Self said. “He was more aggressive. He's a really good in-between shooter and he made a couple of mid-range shots and then made a couple of threes. I thought he played pretty well.”

Newman, who also fouled three times and turned it over twice, was far from perfect, of course. But he delivered several moments that illustrated he might be getting closer to playing with a free mind. Twice in the first half, he made an extra pass to a more open shooter and each time he picked up an assist as a result of the unselfish play.

“In transition is where he struggles, to me, the most of not getting the ball out of his hands,” Self said. “Like the play he (had) Lagerald (Vick) wide open in the corner and he wants to catch it and bounce it instead of just look ahead and pitch ahead. But I thought he was better.”

As for Sosinski and Cunliffe, they were big for the Kansas bench, which outscored Omaha's bench 26-22. Cunliffe scored nine points on 4 of 9 shooting and flashed a couple of high-flying finishes at the rim. Sosinski scored four points and grabbed two rebounds while helping Kansas run out the clock.

“It felt great,” the KU football tight end said after the victory. “Four points is whatever. I'm just happy I got to play tonight. I was the only person on the team not to play yet so it was great to get that off my back.”

Compare and contrast

Omaha was no stranger to tough competition entering Monday night, having played road games at Creighton, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Washington and Louisville already this season.

But the Mavericks' players and head coach Derrin Hansen both said Kansas was a cut above anything they had seen so far this season.

“They're definitely at the top,” junior guard Zach Jackson, of Wichita, said after the loss. “But we played two other Big 12 schools too. I think a major difference between the teams was the atmosphere that we were playing in. The other two (Big 12) schools didn't have an atmosphere like this.”

Added Goddard native Matt Pile: “They say it's the best home-court advantage in college basketball. And it's definitely true.”

Hansen's take, though similar sounding, was a little more about the game that was played.

“KU's guards are phenomenal,” he said. “And 35 (Azubuike), when he catches it with two feet in the paint, he's a load. We haven't seen that. …I've never been to a game here before and it was all that it was cracked up to be. What they have here is unbelievable.”

KU falls a spot

Despite winning on the road over the weekend at Nebraska, the Jayhawks dropped a spot in the most recent Associated Press poll released Monday.

Kansas fell from No. 13 to No. 14 in the new rankings and remained the second highest-ranked Big 12 team of six conference schools currently in the Top 25.

West Virginia (10), TCU (15), Oklahoma (17), Baylor (18) and Texas Tech (21) all cracked the Top 25, with Texas and Oklahoma State also receiving votes.

Unbeaten TCU and KU both dropped a spot in this week's poll, with Virginia jumping them from No. 16 to No. 13 after a 20-point home victory over Davidson.

Elijah and Natalie Johnson?

The marriage announcement for former KU basketball players Elijah Johnson and Natalie Knight appeared in the Journal-World on Monday and the two newlyweds attended KU's victory over Omaha together.

Elijah Johnson, who was an instrumental part of KU's run to the 2012 Final Four, was introduced to the crowd during a second-half timeout and received a partial standing ovation from the Allen Fieldhouse faithful.

Natalie, who was one of the best 3-point shooters in KU women's basketball history, was not introduced to the crowd but sat by beaming with pride behind the KU bench.

This and that...

KU's victory improved the Jayhawks to 9-2 for the fourth year in a row... KU is now 1-0 all-time against Omaha and 15-5 against members of the Summit League... The Jayhawks close out non-conference play at 10 p.m. Thursday against Stanford at the two-year old Sacramento Kings venue Golden 1 Center.

More news and notes from Kansas vs. Omaha

By the Numbers: Kansas 109, Omaha 64.

By the Numbers: Kansas 109, Omaha 64.


Larry Knzas 3 years, 3 months ago

Newman was better. Not “a lot” however.

Bryce Landon 3 years, 3 months ago

Elijah Johnson may have been an instrumental part of KU's run to the Final Four in 2012, but he was also a big factor in KU's Sweet 16 collapse in 2013. He never really gelled in his role as point guard for the 2012-2013 team, and he single-handedly lost that game for us against Michigan when we went from up 14 after the under-3 timeout to losing in overtime. I still can't believe that imbecilic 10-second violation he committed, nor can I believe he passed up an open lane to the basket to tie the game and send it into double-OT, and instead unexpectedly passed to Nadir Tharpe, forcing him to attempt a game-winning three that missed at the buzzer. That could have been us playing Louisville for the national title instead of Michigan, and I swear we would have beaten Louisville if we'd gotten there.

Shannon Gustafson 3 years, 3 months ago

You're a "Debby Downer" if I've ever seen one. Do you think anyone on here isn't aware of what you said? What's the point of bringing it up now? Oh yeah, that's right, it's because the article didn't say anything negative so you just couldn't help yourself.

Gerry Butler 3 years, 3 months ago

Thank you Shannon. - Some people can just never look at positive things, they always have to find SOMETHING to whine about or they are not happy. I mean Good God , Ol Bryce is always right there complaining about something all the time, gets pretty tiresome., like you said if there isn't something in an article being negative then he just not happy, and Elijah didn't lose that game by himself. If you wanna look at it that way the other four made plays during the game that could of had a hand in Michigan's comeback - not just Elijah, but whatever makes you feel better about yourself there Bryce go ahead and knock yourself out whatever floats your boat. You have NO IDEA if we could of Beat Louisville or not so give that up - -please

Bryce Landon 3 years, 3 months ago

Some people just can't handle the truth. Elijah's senior year sucked.

Shannon Gustafson 3 years, 3 months ago

It has nothing to do with the truth of your statement. I never disputed that. It has to do with you being unable to stop bringing up negative stuff from years ago. Get over it and move on. The piece about EJ was about getting married (a positive story) so do you really think it would be fitting to use a negative part of his career as a "reminder" of who he is to KU bball? It's like if his best man at his wedding decided to talk about negative stuff during his speech. You just don't do it because it's 1) rude, 2) stupid, 3) unrelated to the event, and 4) idiotic.

Marius Rowlanski 3 years, 3 months ago

I don't get. Just some random thought to a KU bad memory file. Doesn't seem to have much to do to the article.

Brad Avery 3 years, 3 months ago

Matt Pile from Goddard is a good player for UNO; would have been a better alternative as a 4-year developmental, depth player than Jack Whitman, the William and Mary guy who took a coffee break in Lawrence during the summer.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.