No. 6 Kansas Slams Past Pitt State, 97-57

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LAWRENCE, Kan. — In exclamation-mark fashion, freshman center Joel Embiid slammed a pass from Andrew Wiggins through the basket for a two-handed dunk in the final minutes of Kansas’ convincing 97-57 win over Pittsburg State in the first exhibition matchup of the 2013-14 season inside historic Allen Fieldhouse Tuesday night.

The unofficial outcome that comes with exhibition play did nothing to tamper with the excitement of seeing KU’s second-ranked recruiting class on the court for the first time. Senior Tarik Black and freshmen Andrew Wiggins and Wayne Selden, Jr., each made the starting lineup, joined by veteran junior guard Naadir Tharpe and sophomore forward Perry Ellis.

Ironically, the loudest play of the night didn’t result in points for the country’s No. 1 recruit – but rather an assist. Wiggins’ dime pass hit Embiid in perfect stride, allowing him to slam the ball through the hoop much to the delight of the 16,300 fans who made it out to the informal season opener.

Although his first touch resulted in a turnover and he hit his first shot at the 9:36 mark in the first half, Wiggins’ night took a sharp turn upward as his 16 points tied Ellis for the team lead. His teammates made sure he wasn’t the center of attention as four different Jayhawks chalked up double figures in the win. The duo was was joined on the leaderboard by sophomore guard Andrew White III (12) and freshman guard Brannen Greene (10), who each came in off the bench.

Black topped the rebounding effort with 11 as Kansas doubled up the visiting Gorillas on the boards, 51-26. Tharpe, meanwhile, had more assists (9) on his own than the opposing total (6). The Jayhawks finished 35-of-65 (53.8 percent) from the floor, while holding the Gorillas to 17-of-54 (31.5 percent) shooting.

For Pittsburg State, junior guard Devon Branch led all scorers with 27 points, while junior forward Alex Williams added 15 points.

Two fouls apiece before the first media timeout sidelined Black and Selden for a chunk of the first half. White was the first off the bench and the country’s best incoming center, Embiid, followed suit to relieve Black. Those fouls kept the Gorillas in it early. While Kansas held Pitt State without a field goal for nearly six minutes to open the game, the Gorillas benefitted from free throws. Two from junior forward Alex Williams saw Pitt State cut what once was a 9-3 lead to a mere two points. An up-and-under layup from Trevor Gregory tied the score, 11-11.

With the newcomers on display, the veteran Jayhawks stepped up. White drove the lane for a layup and Ellis knocked down his third and fourth buckets of the game to try and put distance between the home and visiting teams – but it wasn’t happening. A three from the corner by PSU guard Josiah Gustafson sliced the Jayhawk lead to a single point, 21-20.

Fittingly, Wiggins’ first basket of the night kicked off an 8-0 Jayhawk run, allowing the first sizable lead of the night. Four points from redshirt freshman Landen Lucas and a bucket from Ellis propelled Kansas to a 29-20 advantage in less than two minutes. Greene chimed in with his first of three three-pointers and sent KU to the final media timeout leading, 39-28. Tharpe and White broke loose for 10 combined points and when halftime arrived, Kansas had quickly switched to blowout mode, 50-32.

KU’s mounting offense paused for a defensive stand to start the second half. By the first media timeout, both teams had scored only once, but KU’s defense around the basket started to pick up – led by Black. The senior transfer disrupted multiple shots to open the second frame, recording a block in the process. His offensive rebounding was equally impressive, pulling down back-to-back offensive boards and converting them to layups around the 15-minute mark. His effort helped Kansas clamp down on a 27-2 edge in second-chance points.

With that, the scoring was underway. Black’s put-backs lifted KU’s lead over the 20-point plateau and another three from White saw the Jayhawk advantage surge to 25 with 13 minutes still remaining.

Churning out points with more than a 50-percent accuracy, Kansas was rolling. Greene nailed two-straight three pointers and slash layup by freshman guard Frank Mason pushed the lead past the 30-point mark, 77-46, with eight minutes on the clock.

Wiggins and Ellis teamed up for a 12-2 run headed into the final media timeout and Black’s free throw directly out of the break pushed Kansas close in on the century mark. Embiid’s crowd-roaring slam all but finished up the 97-57 win.

No. 6 Kansas will continue exhibition play when it hosts Fort Hays State on Tuesday, Nov. 5, at 7 p.m. inside Allen Fieldhouse. The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.

Game Notes
Kansas now leads the all-time series with Pittsburg State 10-0, including a 6-0 mark in exhibition play. The Jayhawks and Gorillas first met Jan. 3, 1944 in Lawrence, a 35-21 Kansas victory. KU and PSU have met seven times in the last 14 years, with the five most recent in exhibition play. In the teams’ last regular-season meeting on Nov. 28, 2001, Kansas defeated Pitt State by a score of 105-62.

KU STARTERS: Wayne Selden, Jr. (Fr.), Naadir Tharpe (Jr.), Andrew Wiggins (Fr.), Perry Ellis (So.), Tarik Black (Sr.)

-Makes Kansas 62-9 all-time in exhibition games
-Extends Kansas’ home exhibition winning streak to 39 games dating back to the 1994 season
-Makes Kansas 10-0 against Pitt State, including 6-0 in exhibition games
-Improves Kansas head coach Bill Self to 30-2 in exhibition play while at KU
-Makes KU 53-4 in exhibition games in Allen Fieldhouse
-Makes Bill Self 21-0 in home exhibition games while at Kansas.

-The Jayhawks held the Gorillas without a field goal for the first 5:25 of the game.
-Over the final 4:25 of the first half, Kansas went on a 14-4 run to go to the locker room with a 50-32 lead.
-Kansas committed 27 fouls Tuesday night, eclipsing the previous high of the last three seasons. Kansas hasn’t been whistled for more than 18 fouls in a home exhibition contest in the last three seasons. The 27 misdemeanors were the most in exhibition play since committing 28 against Washburn in 2008.
-The Jayhawks’ 97 points were there most in an exhibition since scoring 101 against Fort Hays State (11/8/11).
-KU’s 67.7 free throw percentage was its highest in its last seven exhibition matches, dating back to Fort Hays State in 2011, when the Jayhawks shot 74.3 percent from the charity strip.
-Kansas’ 40-point margin of victory marked the sixth time the Jayhawks beat an exhibition opponent by 40 points in the Bill Self era.

-Sophomore guard Andrew White III’s 12 points would have been his second-highest scoring output of his career.
-Sophomore forward Perry Ellis tallied 16 points would have been the second-most points scored in his career.
-Freshman Andrew Wiggins scored his first bucket at the 9:36 mark in the first half and went on to add 14 more in the remaining 29:36 of the game.
-Ellis’ eight rebounds would also have been the second most in his time as a Jayhawk.
-Junior Naadir Tharpe dished nine assists, which would have been his second-highest dime total of his career.

Kansas Head Coach Bill Self
On what he took away from the game tonight:
“Well, I took away a lot of things. One, we’re not very good yet. I mean that’s probably the biggest thing, we don’t guard the ball worth a flip. The fouls they called on us wasn’t anything surprising, they would have been fouls last year or whenever. We have four or five guys that have to defend on the perimeter, we switched ball screens and our big guys didn’t guard. Devon Branch got anywhere he wanted with the ball and I thought he was probably the best player in the game without question. We have a lot to learn and we were nervous. Even (Andrew) Wiggins and Tarik (Black) were nervous because they want to do well. We have some things we certainly have to improve on, but I do think that there were some positives out there. When you’re playing that many guys and there are that many stoppages, it is hard to get rhythm.”
On guys having to help and guys being at the wrong place at the wrong time:
“Without going into names, you can call anybody out on the perimeter, there’s no pride in guarding the ball. You don’t guard the ball because you’re not ready or what not and then you don’t even come close to running through a pass because you’re not in the right spot, but this will be a good teaching take for our guys. We actually did some good things. We didn’t shoot the ball very well. You know Joel (Embiid) and Landon (Lucas) played pretty good, but they got seven turnovers in 27 minutes. I mean how can big guys turn the ball over like that? Just not being smart at all, and we have to have somebody other than Naadir (Tharpe) that can make a pass to finish a play and right now he is the only one, so we have a lot of things to work on. We look young out there because we are young, but I do think there were some pretty good things.”

Kansas sophomore forward Perry Ellis
On how it felt to play in a game:
“It feels good, we’ve been practicing since summer. It was good to get that first game out of the way.”
On what the team can improve on:
“There are a lot of things that we need to learn defensively. It’s a lot of little things that we have to emphasize on and that will really help us, but it just takes time.”
Kansas sophomore guard Andrew White III
On his improvement this season:
“Starting as soon as we lost to Michigan, I just recommitted myself to working. I tried to emphasize on some things I’m not good at (like) ball handling. I wanted to get my body a little better. I wanted to get faster,  more lateral speed, just doing whatever I had to do to help this team. Now hustle is something that has really improved my game so it might look like it’s a big skill advantage that I have this year, but it’s really just a hustle, making plays on defense things like that to help the team.”
On his dunk at the end of the first half:
“Coach tells the wings to always run the floor hard and he says run and touch the baseline whether you have a basket or not so that’s something I kind of take pride in, really listening to coach with that point. I saw we got a rebound and I just put my head down and took off running. Coach says your first three steps you need to take off. My point guard Naadir (Tharpe) had his eyes up and found me for a dunk, great team play, but that’s just something that coach tells us to do every day. [He] screams for us to run the floor, so that’s what I did and it paid off thanks to Naadir.”
Kansas junior guard Naadir Tharpe
On how the team played:
“I thought we did alright. The second half I thought we did much better, but there’s a lot of young dudes, and a lot of dudes are nervous. I was just trying to get us into the flow of the game. In all I think we should try to go out there and play hard and we won so that’s the most important thing.”
On his leadership this season:
“Everybody is just trying to be aggressive, coach tells everybody to go out there and play aggressive. So some plays you’re going to turn the ball over, but I just try to be as poised as I can, being a junior and trying to be the leader of the team. That’s just what I’m going to try to do every night.”
Pittsburg State Head Coach Kevin Muff
Opening statement:
I’ll just make this statement, I’m very appreciative of what Coach Self and the University of Kansas does for Division II basketball in the state of Kansas. I’m very grateful, we’re all grateful, what an awesome experience. Hall of fame coach, a program that ever since it’s existence, from the founding of basketball all the way up until today, is pinnacle to what everybody wants to achieve. It’s just awesome. It’s a great opportunity. We’re very appreciative as a university and as a program to come here. This will make us better. This prepares us for our season. Obviously we have a lot of new faces so this will be helpful for us.”
On whether he thought they could hang in with Kansas:
“That was the first thing we said in the pregame talk was that the majority of their players that would be on the floor played high school basketball last year. They’ve maybe had some good experience as McDonald’s All-Americans. They were high school players last year and the adjustment to the college game isn’t easy. Give our guys credit too. We’ve had one player in our starting rotation play significant minutes last year, so we’ve got a new team too. Not necessarily made up of all freshman, or as many freshman as Kansas. I thought our guys really came out in the first half and took a really good shot at them and withstood there aggressiveness and assertiveness. Coach Self may not say that but we were battling and did a really good job of just hanging in there and being competitive and attacking. Our offense was really good at times and defense, I thought we battled a little bit.”
On what he saw from Andrew Wiggins:
“He’s a 6’8″ guard who can put it on the floor and can shoot. I know he didn’t shoot great from the perimeter. I half expected that because he’s 18 years old, then you come out there and you see your face out there and you get all the media hype behind you. It’s hard to come out and do that, but I think you saw glimpses of what he’s capable of. What a tough matchup, I think we’re big. Our three guards that we start are 6’5″ and above on the perimeter and that’s pretty big. So then look at them, they dwarfed us. So it’s an impressive level of talent and they’ll continue to get better and better and hopefully we gave them what they needed tonight, and they’ll learn from it just like we’ll learn from it.”
On how he game-planned for Andrew Wiggins:
“We wanted to make him a jump shooter. Not let him get to the basket, get that right-handed or reverse left-handed spin in the middle and go up and hammer one. He had a couple of the moves and never got a dunk out of them. You make him a jump-shooter and hopefully we can contest them and all they do is make a pass to another guy and you’ve got to contest that. They really hurt us inside, which I knew that’d be a little bit of the case. But I thought for the first half we were good in the paint. We had a couple younger guys go in there and battle. It was good for us. It was a really good experience.”

Pittsburg State sophomore guard Jake Bullard  
On the depth of Kansas and how it affected the game:
“They have a lot of depth and they bring a lot of guys in and out. We aren’t as deep as we were last year but we are still pretty deep; but it was tough playing against a fresh guy every four minutes.”
Pittsburg State junior guard Devon Branch
On how it felt to play against Andrew Wiggins with all the hype that surrounds him:
 “It was a great experience. It was what we needed for our team. I’m proud we never backed down. Coach told us that we were going to have to make them respect us and that they were coming in mighty high, thinking that they were going to roll over us, but we did a pretty good job of handling the pressure.”