KU fans joked across Twitter that newly named football coach David Beaty deserved at least some of the credit for inspiring the Jayhawks' comeback victory over Florida at Allen Fieldhouse on Friday night, and why not?
Until Beaty took the floor at halftime to say hello to the KU fan base, the Jayhawks (6-1) looked pretty awful in falling flat and behind by 15 to the Gators as the teams entered the locker room at halftime.
Of course, there's no doubting that Bill Self and what he said to the KU players during the break had more than a little to do with the Jayhawks' roaring comeback, but most of Friday belonged to Beaty and if KU fans are half as kind to the new coach when football season rolls around, the program might actually be headed somewhere positive.
Until then, there's a whole lot of basketball left to be played and if the Jayhawks more often look like the team they were in the second half and less like the team that sputtered up and down the floor in the first, there figure to be some great days ahead in the immediate future.
Coming off of a pretty solid showing in the Orlando Classic, I wondered how the Jayhawks would respond against a tough Florida team and an even tougher coach in Billy Donovan. Initially, things looked good and the Jayhawks stormed out of the gates and to an early lead. But Florida kept fight, kept its composure and then put a heck of a scare into Kansas. It might not have been much fun for KU fans while it was going down, but that might go down as one of the best things to happen to this team. They played well in Orlando and looked good doing it. That wasn't the case for the full 40 minutes on Friday, but these guys now know they can fight back and pull themselves out of trouble. Being down by 18 at home early in the second half probably qualifies as a little more than “trouble,” and you can bet that Self and the veterans on this club will make sure every player on the roster remembers exactly how that felt so they won't find such
Three reasons to smile
1 – Wayne Selden got back on track in a big way and did it with what Self called “real points.” Selden looked to be in as much of a zone as I remember seeing him in since he lit up Oklahoma in Norman last season and he scored from inside and outside with the look of a guy who knew success was coming. It was only a matter of time for Selden to get going again and now that he has, maybe he'll be able to play with an ever clearer head the rest of the season. One thing to note about Selden's big scoring night, though: He finished with zero rebounds, one assists, one block and zero steals. At least when he wasn't shooting it well, he was still contributing in other areas. And I thought it was interesting that his game against the Gators was almost all about scoring. Something to keep an eye on.
2 – What can you say about the fight the Jayhawks showed in the second half? They were intense, hungry, passionate and, well, just better. The players fed off of each other's energy and seemed to really ramp it up after each made bucket or each forced turnover. The fans were fantastic in doing their part to help the cause and the whole thing was pretty impressive to watch.
3 – KU's free throw shooting was fantastic. And the way Florida closed the game, the Jayhawks needed every one of them. Four guys missed just one or no free throws, led by Cliff Alexander's 8-of-8 showing and Devonte' Graham's 9-of-10 clip. Not bad for a couple of freshmen in clutch moments.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – On a night when the building was as fired up as it had been all season and a day when KU named a new football coach, the Jayhawks struggled to match that intensity in the first half. After a decent start, they shut it down and looked slow, sluggish and disinterested, which probably had a little something to do with the way Florida was taking it to them. KU responded with incredible energy in the second half — and the Fieldhouse faithful continued to urge the Jayhawks on — so the first-half funk is not reason to panic.
2 – KU coughed it up nine times in the first half and almost all of them were simply careless mistakes. The Jayhawks telegraphed passes, were lazy with the basketball and, perhaps worst of all, seemed to really try to press after making a mistake. They cleaned it up considerably in the second half, but their first-half issues were a good reminder that this is still a young team learning how to play for Self and how to play together.
3 – I hate to keep picking on the guy, but somewhere along the line, Jamari Traylor lost his confidence and that is really affecting his play. Against Floriday, Traylor missed two easy shots, committed two pretty bad turnovers and played his second lowest number of minutes (15) this season. It's not just that Traylor has lost confidence that's a concern. It's the fact that (a) he's still too important to this team to sit completely and (b) you can really see that every little mistake he makes bugs the heck out of him and that seems to add to the problem.
One for the road
KU's spirited come-from-behind win over the Gators...
• Made Kansas 6-1 or better for the third-straight season and 10th time in Bill Self's 12 seasons at KU.
• Gave Kansas a 1-1 record in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge with both games against Florida.
• Made Kansas 4-2 all-time versus Florida.
• Made Kansas 3-0 in Allen Fieldhouse this season, 178-9 in AFH under Self and 717-109 all-time in the venue.
• Improved Self to 331-70 while at Kansas, 538-175 overall and 2-1 all-time against Florida.
• Made KU 2,132-823 all-time.
The Jayhawks continue their stretch of tough games, when they travel to Georgetown on Wednesday for a 6 p.m. tipoff with the Hoyas. The game will be shown on FOX Sports 1.