Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Gameday Breakdown: No. 7 Kansas vs. Washburn University

Kansas redshirt freshman Jalen Wilson goes up for a reverse layup during a game against Kentucky Tuesday night during the Champions Classic inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Dec. 1, 2020. Photo courtesy of Phil Ellsworth of ESPN.

Kansas redshirt freshman Jalen Wilson goes up for a reverse layup during a game against Kentucky Tuesday night during the Champions Classic inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Dec. 1, 2020. Photo courtesy of Phil Ellsworth of ESPN.


No. 7 Kansas Jayhawks (2-1) vs. Washburn Ichabods (3-0)

Time: 7 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020

Location: Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence, Kan.

TV: Big 12 Now via ESPN+ | Radio: IMG Jayhawk Radio Network

Log on to for our live game blog coverage and follow the staff on Twitter: @KUSports @mctait @bentonasmith & @SJacksonLJW

Keys for Kansas

1. Adjust to the atmosphere

Most seasons, the home opener at Allen Fieldhouse brings a certain amount of buzz with it, as Kansas fans are fired up to see their team back in action and the players themselves are ready to put on a show.

This season, there will be no fans at the fieldhouse, only cardboard cutouts, a handful of media members and coaches, players and staff members from each team.

Playing in an empty gym won’t be entirely new, of course, as Kansas played in a vacant Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Tuesday night and competed in front of just 300 fans in Fort Myers, Fla., last week. But those were on the road.

Playing inside an empty Allen Fieldhouse will take some getting used to, not only for the feel of it all but because these players are so used to getting a lift from the home crowd every time they suit up in Lawrence.

“It's going to be different,” KU coach Bill Self said after Tuesday’s win over Kentucky. “But it's gonna be different all year long and we might as well just roll with it.”

2. Defend the 3

Former KU guard Brett Ballard’s Ichabods enter this one shooting 42% from 3-point range on the season, knocking in 31 of 74 attempts in their three games — all victories — so far this season.

“We’ve got to guard and get to shooters,” Self said of the defensive game plan versus the Ichabods.

Three of the four Washburn players with double-digit 3-point attempts so far this season are shooting above 40%, with Tyler Nelson’s 8-of-14 clip (57%) leading the way.

Nelson hit seven of eight shots from 3-point range in the Bods’ most recent victory.

Jet-quick guard Jalen Lewis (7-of-15) is next at 47% and leading scorers Drew Maschoff (18 points per game, 5-of-12 3-point shooting) and Tyler Geiman (17, 5-of-16) round out Washburn’s 3-point attack.

Kansas, so far this season, has held its opponents to 34.5% shooting from behind the arc. That mark was helped greatly by KU holding Kentucky to 3-of-21 shooting from 3-point range on Tuesday night.

3. Let the small-ball lineup blossom

Typically when the Jayhawks’ face in-state programs like Washburn in exhibition play, it’s KU’s size that sets them apart and makes it nearly impossible for the opponent to match up.

While that figures to be a factor in this one, as well — and it could be just the game junior forward David McCormack needs to get out of his early-season funk — the Jayhawks also should get ample opportunity to continue to fine-tune their small-ball lineup.

Guarding shooters on the perimeter will require Kansas to play small for large chunks of this one, and that can only be viewed as good news for the Jayhawks.

The smaller lineups, with Jalen Wilson at the 5 and Dajuan Harris on the floor as a second point guard, have been KU’s best this season, producing a plus-33 plus/minus number during the first three games.

That’s plus-33 despite the Jayhawks’ scoring differential being just plus-13 in its first three games.

McCormack and Mitch Lightfoot should get the chance to build some confidence against the Ichabods, who have just two players taller than 6-foot-7 and no one bigger than 6-9, but this also will be a great, low-pressure opportunity for KU’s perimeter players to continue to build chemistry.

Marquee Matchup

Kansas offense vs. itself in the turnover department

The Jayhawks have struggled to take care of the ball during the first 10 minutes of all three of their games so far this season.

Against Kentucky on Tuesday night, KU turned it over eight times in the first half, with many of those coming in the first 5-10 minutes, which allowed UK to build a lead of as many as 13 points before KU clawed back.

Prior to that, it was 10 first-half turnovers and a decent-sized hole against Saint Joseph’s and four turnovers in the opening couple of minutes and another double-digit deficit in the first half of the loss to Gonzaga.

In short, the Jayhawks have to start taking better care of the ball early so they don’t have to crawl out of these double-digit holes late in the first half and at the start of the second half.

Somewhat surprisingly, senior point guard Marcus Garrett, who led the Big 12 in assist-to-turnover ratio last season, has been one of the Jayhawks’ biggest offenders in the turnover department.

Garrett turned it over four times against the Zags and three more times against Kentucky on Tuesday night and he and McCormack lead the team with 15 combined turnovers.

Jayhawk Pulse

Unlike most matchups with Washburn, which typically are played during the exhibition portion of the schedule, this one will count on Kansas’ official win/loss record.

Fun fact: The will not count for Washburn, which competes at the NCAA Division II level in the MIAA Conference.

That should create an interesting dynamic between the two teams, but probably won’t do much to change the competitive nature of this one. The Ichabods will still be fired up for the opportunity to take on one of college basketball’s best. And the Jayhawks figure to be locked in on fixing the things that need improvement.

When asked about the unique opportunity to play an exhibition game in the middle of the regular season, Ballard, who is 65-31 in his fourth season at WU after both working and playing for Self at the outset of his coaching career, joked: “(It) means I don't have to put this on my official coaching record.”

He added: “It’s a great opportunity for everyone involved in our program to play in the best venue in all of sports against one of the best teams in the country. Our players are excited and we look forward to competing against an elite team.”

Kansas leads the all-time series with WU, 38-3. That includes a 9-0 mark in exhbition games. The game between the two that was played on Nov. 15, 2007, was the last time the game played out like it will in this one, with KU playing a regular season game and the Ichabods playing an exhibition.

The Jayhawks have won 47 consecutive home openers dating back to the 1973-74 season and will be playing for the second time in an eight-day stretch that includes four games.

KU will play host to North Dakota State at 3 p.m. On Saturday and welcome No. 9 Creighton to town for a 4 p.m. top-10 clash on Tuesday.

Probable Starters

No. 7 Kansas

G – Marcus Garrett, 6-5, 195, Sr.

G – Ochai Agbaji, 6-5, 210, Jr.

G – Christian Braun, 6-6, 205, Soph.

G – Jalen Wilson, 6-7, 190, RS-Fr.

F – David McCormack, 6-10, 265, Jr.


G – Tyler Geiman, 6-1, 175, Sr.

G – Jalen Lewis, 5-11, 170, Jr.

G – Tyler Nelson, 6-3, 195, Soph.

F – Will McKee, 6-7, 195, Jr.

F – Jonny Clausing, 6-9, 220, Jr.


Steve Zimmerman 1 month, 2 weeks ago

You should add to "Keys for Kansas" in every game KU plays this season:

  • McCormack needs to stop doing his 'moving screen' *

  • McCormack needs to finish strong towards the rim, not moving away from it *

  • McCormack needs to destroy the rim on putbacks just like last year *

  • McCormack needs to stop tapping his feet on boxing out *

  • McCormack should use his shoulder strong to the basket instead of fading away and use jump-hook shot *

  • McCormack should use power dribble strong and quickly go up to the rim instead of dribble and pass just to miss the opportunity to score *

I guarantee, if he does all of the above, KU will WIN IT ALL.... Go Jayhawk!

Chris Condren 1 month, 2 weeks ago

ESPN+ is just a scheme to cheapen ESPN cable subscriptions and shake more money out of fans.

Mallory Briggans 1 month, 2 weeks ago

ESPN+ has over 10 million subscribers the math 5.99 x 10,000,000 x 12 thats not a bad chunk of change . If ESPN+ helps the coffer of ESPN so we can enjoy the " free sports " then the 5.99 is worth it . I'm a subscriber and live in Texas so 5.99 to watch the Jayhawks i have no problem . I said last year when KU games went to streaming the lesser games ......some of the same people complaining are some of the same people that go to Starbucks and pay for an overpriced coffee everyday .

Bryce Landon 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Here's another key to the game: Don't rest on the laurels of the win over Kentucky. Our win over UK means nothing if we crap our pants against a Division II school.

Brett McCabe 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Matt, I appreciate your professionalism. We all know that there is one key to the game: have five dudes show up.

Benjamin Shear 1 month, 2 weeks ago

What a strange idea, that the game is an exhibition for one team, but a regular season game for the other. What kind of weird world do we live in? I, for one, am in favor of ESPN+. Cable is for old people who eat at Applebee's and still have a landline.

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