No. 2/3 Kansas Torches Towson, 88-58

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LAWRENCE, Kan. — Freshman guard Andrew Wiggins missed just twice all night, leading a balanced and accurate attack No. 2/3 Kansas used to overrun Towson in the opening round of the Battle 4 Atlantis, inside Allen Fieldhouse, 88-58, Friday night.

Wiggins wasn’t the only efficient shooter for Kansas (4-0), which recorded its 66th-consecutive non-conference victory against Towson (3-2) while shooting 60 percent from the field (33-for-55). Fellow Jayhawks Wayne Selden, Jr. (4-for-6) and Andrew White III (4-for-6) also missed just twice, while rookie center Joel Embiid knocked down four of the five shots he took in the win.

The KU offense was led by Wiggins’ 16 points, making him one of four in double-figures on the night. White tied a career-high with his three three-pointers and came in next with 13 points. Selden and sophomore forward Perry Ellis contributed 12 and 10 points, respectively.

Picked to win the Colonial Athletic Conference in 2013-14, Towson was facing its first top-2 ranked opponent since 1990 (vs. No. 1 Oklahoma). Senior forward Jerelle Benimon led the floor with the game’s only double-double (21 points/10 rebounds), but the Tigers were outmatched. After taking a 5-2 lead in the opening moments of the night, Towson succumbed to the Jayhawks’ 47-11 scoring sprint to halftime and never trailed by less than 25 for the remainder of the night.

Towson came out of the gate with speed, cutting to the basket for early attacks, but had trouble getting any of them to fall. Even so, a whistle on junior point guard Naadir Tharpe provided the opportunity for a free throw and a jumper followed to hand Towson a 3-0 lead less than a minute into the game. For his first time as a Jayhawk, it was senior forward Tarik Black that sparked a dominant scoring run. The veteran transfer sandwiched a pair of breakaway dunks around another from Selden to spark a 13-2 Jayhawk rally. Before the first media timeout, KU had righted the ship to take a 13-5 lead.

Kansas never slowed. Less than five minutes remained in the opening half when Embiid brought down a defensive rebound, flipped it out to freshman guard Frank Mason, who immediately fired it off to Wiggins for a transition dunk. In perfectly-executed tempo, the Jayhawks went coast-to-coast in five seconds to extend its lead to 20 points. Making it a habit, Kansas took advantage with its speed. In the first half alone, KU held a staggering 22-2 advantage in fast-break points and laid it on thick in the waning moments of the first half. Tiger forward John Davis drove the lane for a layup with 6:18 still to play. Towson wouldn’t score again in the opening frame.

Thanks to the visitors missing their last 11 attempts heading into the break, the Jayhawks had room to run. KU cranked out 18 unanswered points, seven of which came from Wiggins, to end the first half with a convincing 49-16 lead. While Towson struggled to find the bottom of the net, finishing the first half at 21 percent (6-for-29), Kansas made triple the baskets with three less shots for a season-high 69.2 shooting percentage (18-for-26) for a half.

Black extended the scoring onslaught to 20-0 with a dunk to start the second half, but Towson was more than ready to break the drought and did exactly that. The Tigers came out firing, knocking down nine of their first 13 shots to kick off the second half.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, Kansas did the same.

Through the first 10 minutes of the final frame, both teams were scorching the nets at a 69.2-percent rate. When Towson scored, Kansas scored. Benimon continued attacking the basket, chalking up 13 points in the second half, but the Jayhawks were adamant. With less than 12 minutes yet to play, the Jayhawks strung together five-straight buckets. Included were three-pointers from Selden, Tharpe and White all capped off nicely by an alley-oop dunk to Embiid to shove KU forward, 68-35. Although Towson outscored the home team from that point, 23-20, the tone wouldn’t change as Kansas cruised to the 88-58 win.

Kansas will continue the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament when it travels to Paradise Island, Bahamas, to play Wake Forest on Thursday, Nov. 28 at 2:30 p.m. Kansas will face either Villanova or USC on Nov. 29 and play its third-round game in the Bahamas on Nov. 30. KU will then go on the road to Colorado (Dec. 7) and Florida (Dec. 10). Kansas will play New Mexico on Dec. 14 in the Kansas City Shootout at the Sprint Center and return to Allen Fieldhouse on Dec. 21 against national power Georgetown. The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.

Game Notes
KU STARTERS (Season/Career Starts): Jr. Naadir Tharpe (3/3), Fr. Wayne Selden, Jr. (4/4), Fr. Andrew Wiggins (4/4), So. Perry Ellis (4/7), Sr. Tarik Black (4/64)

SERIES INFO: Kansas leads, 3-0


• Made Kansas 4-0 for the fourth time in the Bill Self era.
• Gave Kansas its 66th-straight win against a non-conference opponent in Allen Fieldhouse.
• Made Kansas 3-0 all-time against Towson.
• Improved Kansas to 702-108 all-time in Allen Fieldhouse, including a 164-8 record with Self as head coach.
• Moved Self’s record to 304-59 at Kansas and 511-164 overall.
• Improved Kansas to 2,105-812 all-time.

• Kansas shot a blistering 69.2 percent in the first half (18-for-26) – although it’s not an uncommon event for the Jayhawks. Dating back to last season, KU has shot 60 percent or better in at least one half in six of its last 10 games.
• The Jayhawks finished the evening with a season-high 60 percent field-goal percentage, its first 60-plus shooting effort in a game since March 13, 2013 (vs. Texas Tech).
• Towson G Marcus Damas hit a three-pointer at the 18:13 mark in the first half, putting the Tigers up 5-2. Kansas went on to finish the half on a 47-11 scoring run.
• Towson’s 16 points in the first half marks the fewest KU has allowed in a half since Kansas State scored the same amount in the first half (3/16/13).
• The Jayhawks more than tripled the Tigers’ first-half point total (49-16), marking the first time a KU opponent has suffered such a deficit since TCU fell behind 38-9 by halftime (2/23/13).
• It helped that Kansas held Towson scoreless for a solid four-minute span en route to the early run (18:13-14:10).
• That four-minute drought seemed minimal to the Tigers considering they didn’t score for the last 6:18 of the first half. Towson missed 11-straight shots and two free throws to close the first half.
• KU held the Tigers to a single-digit for nearly 10 minutes until a layup by F Jerelle Benimon pushed Towson into double-digits (20-11) with 10:02 remaining in the first half.
• Stretching from the end of the first half to the start of the second half, Kansas put together a 20-0 run (6:18-18:50).
• Towson snapped the scoreless streak by hitting nine of its first 13 attempts to start the second half – but Kansas did the same. Through the first 10 minutes of the first half, KU and Towson were shooting 69.2 percent. Oddly enough, both teams were also hitting 55.0 percent (11-for-20) through the second-to-last media timeout.
• Kansas led 49-16 at the break and improved to 3-0 when leading after the game’s first 20 minutes this season.

• Senior F Tarik Black slammed a pair of dunks for his first field goals in Allen Fieldhouse since the season opener against ULM (11/8). He finished the night with six points, and needs just 37 more points to hit 1,000 for his career.
• Sophomore G Andrew White III’s second three-pointer of the night propelled Kansas to double-up the Tigers point total in the first half. He ended the night with 13 points, including three treys – his second multi-three contest of the season and fifth of his career. His three three-pointers tied his career-high.
• Freshman G Andrew Wiggins led the Jayhawks in scoring with 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting, giving him four straight double-digit efforts to begin his career.
• Sophomore F Perry Ellis chipped in 10 points, his fourth-straight game in double figures to start the year, and 11th game with 10 or more of his career.
• Freshman C Joel Embiid went 4-for-5 on Friday and has missed just one shot in his last two games and five all season to take the team field goal percentage lead at 72.2 percent. 
• Embiid also rejected a career-high three blocks, the most by a Jayhawk this season.
• Freshman G Frank Mason led the team with a career-high six assists.

Kansas Head Coach Bill Self
Opening statement:
“We went on a 47-11 run to end the half. We were down 5-2 and then got cranked up pretty good. The guys played with good energy. We were much better defensively, much more active blocking shots. It seems like we had hands everywhere. We didn’t get a lot of steals, but it seemed like we caused some havoc. I thought we really got out and ran better than we have, and Joel (Embiid) made some unbelievable outlet passes to get us going. A lot of guys played well. It was pretty consistently good for the most part, but the second half got pretty sloppy.”

On Andrew Wiggins competing for rebounds:
“He really hasn’t been that aggressive getting rebounds, but he was aggressive tonight. He got four offensive boards. We haven’t done a good job offensively rebounding the ball, and we didn’t do a good job tonight. We had 22 misses and only got seven back. We have to do a better job of that. Our defensive rebounding has been pretty good all year long, for the most part. We did some nice things. It was fun to see what the building can be like when the guys are playing with energy because they did a good job of inspiring the building. I know our guys had the most fun they have probably had all year long, including the Duke game, because they attacked the basket and did a lot of nice things.”

On the key run in the first half to build the lead:
“I thought Andrew White came in and gave us some good minutes. Frank Mason was solid again. Our bench was pretty good. They were probably as good as our starters in the first half. The second half we didn’t play quite as good, and that is kind of the tendency to let up a little bit. The law of averages kind of prevailed. We can still tighten up a lot of things, defensively.”

On KU’s depth being a big factor in the Battle for Atlantis:
“Hopefully, going into Atlantis, depth will be a positive factor for us.”

On if he is looking forward to the trip to the Bahamas:
“Yes, I am looking forward to it. Teams don’t become teams until they take a trip, or do something together. We aren’t a team yet; no team in America is a team, yet. Hopefully, this will be a time when we can grow together and go have some fun, but make it a business trip and go down there and play well. I was looking at the most recent Sports Illustrated cover with Wayne (Selden) on the cover. Iowa is projected to be an eight seed; Villanova is projected to be a seven seed. Xavier and Tennessee are projected to be in the (NCAA Tournament) field. This is going to be a really competitive tournament, and our guys need to lace them up and have some fun. Hopefully, we can have some fun because we are winning basketball games.”

Kansas senior center Tarik Black
To not be in foul trouble early on:
“It felt great. That’s why as a basketball player I don’t plan on coming out there and sitting on the side line. I was able to get on the court and do what I needed to do.”

On his opening dunk:
“It got everything going. I feel that’s what sparked everything because on the next play Wayne (Selden) came down and had the two-handed dunk. It got the energy flowing and gave us the fun we want to have this year.”

On the team starting to come in sync:
“Instinct is kind of habit. You have to play with one another to get your habits to begin to align with one another. As you saw tonight with a team like ours, with how much talent that we have, if we come out playing the way we did tonight and play with that energy, we can be really good.”

Kansas freshman forward Andrew Wiggins
On team’s effort tonight:
“We came to play tonight. We came out of the gate very intense and used our athletic ability to our advantage. We ran the floor, threw lobs, and played hard.”

On his performance tonight:
“It all came in the flow of the game. I didn’t rush anything. I’m being around my team so we can play with great chemistry and within the flow of the game.”

On his ability:
“I need to run the floor hard every time I’m out there, from baseline to baseline. I need to look to push the ball more and be even more assertive than I already am. I think today was better than my other games but I can still be better.”

Kansas freshman center Joel Embiid
On his ability:
“I just need to get on the block and I will be able to score the ball more.”

On pushing the ball tonight:
“Every time the other team shot it they would have four or five guys crash the boards. So if I had the ball I would just throw the ball down the court because I knew my teammates were getting out running.”

On his improvement at blocking
“Coach Self has been helping me with my timing. They have been showing me what to work on along with showing me film of how Jeff Withey did it. They tell me to stay on the ground and not to go for it on shot fakes.”

Towson Head Coach Pat Skerry
Opening Statement:
“I think it’s suffice to say they’re [Kansas] pretty good. You’ve got a special team here, they can beat you in a lot of different ways, they’re obviously very well coached, they’re deep, they’re athletic. Unfortunately for us they were locked in tonight. Coach Self had them ready to play, we were hoping they thought the game was going to start a couple hours later, it obviously didn’t. Then they handed it to us early, we did some uncharacteristic things, but they had a lot to do with that. If there’s a better team in the country I’d like to find who they are, but I don’t want to play them.”

On the game to try to slow down Kansas:
“Transition defense was our big key then obviously not turning the ball over. Usually we can rebound it decently, but we had to get two guys back, normally we send four to the glass, but we had to get two guys back because they do such an unbelievable job of pulling it off the backboard and running it right down your throat. You’d like to have about seven guys to get back defensively.”

On Kansas’ transition game:
They’re unbelievably talented, they’ve got length and their first three steps out of the gate are ridiculous. They beat you in a lot of different ways and I think to their credit they have exceptional ball movement right now.”

On trying to keep Kansas out of transition:
“Their transition attack is special. I think to beat them you have to be able to play a whole bunch of different defenses and maybe hold the ball and make three’s at the end of the clock. We worried about that coming in, we obviously were a level down trying to guard and rebound and be physical with them and the problem with these guys is they do all of these things, but they do them better so it’s a tough match up. To beat them you’d have to force them to make long jump shots and then make a bundle of three’s yourself as you use possession.”

Towson senior forward Jerrelle Benimon
On the pace of the game:
“In the first half we shot a lot of long shots and a bunch of long rebounds came off. Basically, their game plan was to get out early so there were a bunch of long shots bouncing out and they were already out getting easy layups and dunks. I felt like when they were getting out they were at their best. When we settled down and we got a bucket we were able to settle down in the half-court defense. We were kind of just holding our own.”

On Towson’s game plan:
“In the first half we got some pretty good shots. The game plan was to get in the half-court defense more and then try to push it. We weren’t making shots so we couldn’t really keep them out of transition.”

On Kansas:
“They have good depth; they play a bunch of players. I didn’t realize they played that many players. I haven’t really watched them yet that many times this season. They’ve got some good length up front. The freshman kid (Joel Embiid) blocked shots really well. He runs pretty good too. All of them run so they just get up and down.”

On Andrew Wiggins:
“He’s really athletic. He’s obviously a really good player. He’s good on defense. He rebounds the ball. I feel he is just at his best when he’s getting out and running.”