Before Sunday’s matchup with AMV France, the final test in Kansas’ four-game European trip, KU coach Bill Self had already decided that he was going to rest seniors Jeff Withey, Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford.
The Jayhawks have a deep and mostly unproven roster, and Self wanted to give some of those young players an opportunity to play major minutes. From a development standpoint, the move made sense. But for one day, the young Jayhawks took some lumps in a 79-60 loss at Stade Pierre de Coubertin in Paris.
“I told them before the game,” Self said of the freshmen. “I said, you guys have been sitting on the bench saying, ‘If he’d just give me a chance, I’ll show him what I can do.’ Well they had a chance to show us tonight, and the end result wasn’t very pretty.”
Without freshman guard Ben McLemore, who sat another game because of a nagging hip injury, KU spent the day missing four starters. And AMW, which handed Kansas the first loss of the trip in a 74-73 victory on Saturday, added an NBA-caliber talent in the form of Kevin Seraphin, a former first-round pick of the Chicago Bulls in 2010.
The result? Not only was KU playing with a freshman-dominated lineup with zero college experience, but its opponent — a team of French pros — had the talent to fight back after KU took a 34-31 lead into halftime.
Freshman forward Perry Ellis finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds, and freshman guard Andrew White continued his solid trip with 16 points. But the Jayhawks continued their trend on the trip of shaky decision-making, committing 26 turnovers.
“First half, we were playing real tough,” Ellis said. “We were playing real hard, and we competed. Second half, we kind of fell off defensively.”
For Self, the result was mostly expected. It’s August, he said, and few college teams look any good in August. Self had also made the choice before the trip that the Jayhawks would spend their off-court time sightseeing and enjoying themselves. The trip, he said, would be about enjoying the experience. But on Sunday, after the Jayhawks completed a 2-2 trip, including two victories over the Swiss national team, the latest performance was still a little frustrating, especially when coupled with Saturday’s loss.
“If anything, it tells us how hard we need to work,” Self said. “Because we’re not very good right now. I’m not sure anybody’s any good in early August, but we’re certainly not.
“And our veterans really need to step up because there’s no reason why we should have lost back-to-back games. (Sunday’s) a little bit expected based on the personnel, but (Saturday) night was inexcusable.”