Since Bill Self started coaching Kansas, he’s marveled at how much people care about who starts for a blue blood program.
Such curiosity has not ceased with Self in his 18th season and deliberating between two experienced big men, David McCormack and Mitch Lightfoot, as the No. 6 Jayhawks (12-1, 1-0 Big 12) enter a Saturday matchup against No. 25 Texas Tech (10-3, 0-1) at Lubbock, Texas.
“You guys make a bigger deal out of that than what it is,” Self told the Lawrence Journal-World.
With Lightfoot assuming a starting role for the first time this season in a 74-63 win Tuesday at Oklahoma State, the benching of McCormack seemed to ignite the preseason All-Big 12 pick. McCormack snagged a career-high 15 rebounds and added 17 points in 23 minutes off the bench.
“I’m not a psychologist, but I think I saw a motivated guy,” Self said. “Sometimes the best way to be motivated is not to think and to get mad. And I think he was probably more enthused to play because he was (irritated). I don’t think that’s all bad.”
Lightfoot contributed six points, four blocks and four rebounds in 15 minutes while recognizing something Self prefers to downplay, the significance of a spot in the starting lineup.
“It’s a responsibility and you’ve got to go out there and give it what coach expects out of you, maybe even a little bit more,” Lightfoot said.
The Oklahoma State trip, the Jayhawks’ first true road game of the season, could not be categorized as an offensive masterpiece.
The Jayhawks missed 20 straight shots to close the first half and ended the game on a frigid spell. Kansas will try to improve while attempting to restore the accurate shooting touch of top scorers Ochai Agbaji (20.2 ppg.) and Christian Braun (16.8), who shot worse than 50 perecnt in each of the last two games.
McCormack, who has struggled playing to his size while averaging 9.0 points, 6.1 boards and a 49.4 percent shooting touch, pounded the offensive glass and converted underneath in the Big 12 opener.
“I just feel less pressure going into the Big 12, just in general,” McCormack said. “I don’t know why. It’s the start of a new season and in my mind, it’s time to refresh and just embrace the player that I know I am.”
Texas Tech also struggled offensively in its Big 12 opener, falling 51-47 at Iowa State on Wednesday. The Red Raiders trailed 30-19 at halftime and grabbed their first lead with 2:18 remaining, but then collapsed.
“Something we can build on is our toughness and mental preparation,” said first-year Texas Tech coach Mark Adams, “but something we’ve got to keep working on is an offense that fits these guys.”
Davion Warren has been the leading scorer in the last two games for the Red Raiders, who have played short-handed due to injuries and health protocols. Their balanced attack is led by Terrence Shannon, who averages 14.3 points, but missed the Iowa State game.
–Field Level Media