Kansas Jayhawks (0-0) vs. Pittsburg State Gorillas (0-0)
Time: 7 p.m. | Location: Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence
TV: Jayhawk TV/ESPN3 | Radio: IMG Jayhawk Radio Network
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1. Bring some energy
It’s an exhibition game, against an opponent from a lower division, and it won’t hold a candle to the Showdown for Relief against Missouri a couple of weekends ago.
“The Missouri game definitely takes some of the luster off of this being our first exhibition game,” KU coach Bill Self said Monday. “Usually we have one of our better crowds of the year so they can see all the new kids. And hopefully that’s still the case. I anticipate it being a good crowd. I really don’t know. But we’ll be excited to play.”
Electric crowd or not, it’ll be up to the Jayhawks to bring their own energy in this one. Luckily, for both the players and fans, that won’t be hard to do, with this being the first actual game in Allen Fieldhouse in 246 days. That fact will be especially meaningful for sophomore center Udoka Azubuike, who played just nine games in KU’s home venue during his freshman season.
“Oh, yeah. I’m really excited about it,” Azubuike said of returning to Allen Fieldhouse for the first time since Dec. 10, 2016. “I didn’t really play much last year because of the injury and this is going to be my first time playing in the Fieldhouse in a long time. And I’m really pumped up.”
2. One possession at a time
In games such as this, where one team owns the clear advantage in athleticism, size, strength and overall talent, it’s important for that team to evaluate the outcome not by the final score but, instead, by the bigger picture.
Self said he and his coaching staff were ready to do just that, and it will begin with a close look at every second.
“I’m certainly hopeful that we try to win each possession, which doesn’t necessarily mean make a shot or get a stop every time,” Self said. “Just try to be in the right spots where we can get some confidence by doing it the right way.”
For veterans such as Devonté Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk, that concept might seem a little underwhelming. But for newcomers and young players like Malik Newman, Billy Preston, Marcus Garrett and others, it can set the tone for the season and put KU on the kind of path Self wants.
3. More from Svi
The KU guard was almost nonexistent in KU’s exhibition victory over Missouri, and that was not what anybody wanted or expected to see from the senior from Ukraine. He made just 1 of 4 shots in that MU game and did little else, finishing with three rebounds, two assists and two steals in 27 minutes.
Starting Tuesday night, Self would like to see much more of an impact from his senior guard who flirted with turning pro this offseason. That, in Self’s eyes, can start in one place.
“Everybody always tells me Svi’s 6-8,” Self began. “Well, if you’re 6-8, play to it one day. And I’m not talking about from an athletic standpoint, I’m talking about from a rebounding standpoint. Svi is an athlete. He and Lagerald (Vick) are athletic. But they don’t play with their hands above the rim near as often as they should, going after balls. That’s what I’d like to see more of.”
Kansas forwards vs. The Glass
In KU’s exhibition opener against Mizzou, Graham not only led the Jayhawks in rebounding, with 10, but he did so by totaling as many boards as KU’s three big men combined.
“The Missouri game was really an eye-opener for us,” Azubuike said. “I won’t say we’re a little team, but we just need to rebound more and play more defense. After the game, we went to check the videos and we saw that we didn’t rebound the ball very well, and I think that Missouri game really helped us a lot, preparing for this game.”
The Tigers certainly were a much bigger team than the ones the Jayhawks will face in either of their next two exhibition contests, and, for that reason, KU should flex its muscles on the glass, starting Tuesday night vs. Pitt State.
The Gorillas’ biggest player, Deitrich Cole, stands 6-foot-10, 240 pounds, but he is in his first year with the program. Other than Cole, Pitt State has just one player on its roster taller than 6-foot-7, which should allow Azubuike, Preston and Mitch Lightfoot to control the glass if their minds are focused on doing that.
Look for Mykhailiuk and Vick to hit the glass, too. Self called them both out for not getting more rebounds against Missouri.
Although the game doesn’t count, it will go down as the start of the 2017-18 season. Fans will be in the stands, Allen Fieldhouse will be rocking for the first time since last February, and the Jayhawks will be on the floor, trying to execute the game plan and make Self happy.
Nobody in crimson and blue is holding his breath for that to happen to 100 percent satisfaction, but Self said Monday that the work the Jayhawks have put in since their exhibition win over Missouri has been productive.
In that one, Self said he would be happy if his team produced 15 good minutes of basketball. In this one, he’s hoping for a little more.
“I hope it’s 20-25 or whatever,” he said Monday. “We have gotten better since the Missouri game. I think that we were exposed in that game in some ways that we, as a staff, probably knew was coming but maybe the players didn’t quite buy into it as much. But I’ll look forward to seeing how much we’ll improve. We still won’t look great.”
As with any exhibition game, there will be good moments and bad, highlights and lowlights, and the Jayhawks will emerge from the game with lessons to be learned and new areas they can emphasize in practice.
Pitt State’s return to Allen Fieldhouse also marks the return of Kim Anderson, the Gorillas’ first-year head coach who both starred as a player and coached at Missouri during previous stops.
“I’ve said it many times,” Self said. “I like Kim. He’s a good guy and I’ve known him for a long, long time. He never got, I don’t think, enough credit for being the best player in the Big Eight back in the day, and certainly was put in a tough situation at Mizzou. But I certainly hope he has great success at Pitt State.”
KU is 7-0 all-time against Pitt State and 84-9 all-time in exhibition games, including 52-2 under Self. The Jayhawks have won 25 consecutive exhibition games and 46 in a row inside Allen Fieldhouse.
G – Devonté Graham, 6-2, 185, Sr.
G – Malik Newman, 6-3, 190, Soph.
G – Svi Mykhailiuk, 6-8, 205, Sr.
G – Lagerald Vick, 6-5, 175, Jr.
C – Udoka Azubuike, 7-0, 280, Soph.
G – Jaxon Holden, 6-1, 180, Sr.
G – Donovan Franklin, 6-5, 205, Jr.
G – Grant Lozoya, 6-3, 180, Jr.
F – Xavier Adams, 6-6, 215, Sr.
C – Deitrich Cole, Jr., 6-10, 240, Jr.