Kansas has another cog to rely on for its formidable offense after Jalen Wilson made his season debut at the ESPN Events Invitational in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., following a three-game suspension for a DUI arrest.
Bill Self acknowledges that when the Jayhawks are “on offense and he’s out there, we’re better” because of Wilson’s versatility and ability to drive to the hoop. Yet the Kansas coach grew irritated with his team’s defense during its 71-59 first-round win over North Texas on Thursday.
Resistance on that end of the floor will have to improve, Self said, if the No. 4 Jayhawks to are to live up to their early ranking as they prepare for a Friday semifinal clash against Dayton (2-3), a 76-60 winner over Miami.
“The thing that bothers me the most is we can guard team’s actions OK, we just don’t guard the player very well,” Self said. “Teams that have guys that can go get their own, we can get exposed. We just don’t guard the ball very well.”
Remy Martin netted three quick baskets in the second half to give Kansas (4-0) a comfortable margin, though Self was upset the Jayhawks guarded well “for the first 25 seconds of the shot clock in the first half and in the second half we lost interest.”
They didn’t lose their touch, however, shooting 51 percent.
Ochai Agbaji, who entered the tourney as the nation’s leading scorer with a 26.3-point average, netted 18 points, while Christian Braun chipped in a season-high 16 and Martin posted 15, along with a game-high eight rebounds and four assists.
“Remy’s done a really good job. His attitude has been great, though he hasn’t been all that healthy,” Self said of the Arizona State transfer, who is nursing a strained back he tweaked late in the second half. “He’s a natural scorer and a perfect guy who can make plays and change the momentum of the game.”
With Agbaji off to a hot start and Wilson back on the floor, the Jayhawks’ offense should only get better. That, however, could depend on David McCormack, whose slow start continued with just three points on 1-for-6 shooting and three rebounds.
“We’ve got to get the big fellow going,” Self said. “He’s really, really, really laboring, and we’ve got to get him going or we’ll probably never reach our potential the way he’s playing.”
A pair of true freshmen, DaRon Holmes and Malachi Smith, recorded season highs with 15 and 14 points, respectively, to pace Dayton. Holmes went 5-for-6, while Smith added six rebounds and seven assists while going 6-for-7.
Elijah Weaver recorded four 3-pointers and added 14 points, all in the second half, but also committed six of the Flyers’ 16 turnovers.
“That’s what we need out of him, to play with confidence,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. “He shot the ball well. Sometimes that’s out of your control. I don’t like the six turnovers. I think he’s got to take care of the basketball, but I thought overall he stayed the course, and the most important thing was winning the game.”
–Field Level Media