Kansas rolls past Howard 89-34
12/29/2011 12:00 AM
12/30/2011 6:15 AM
LAWRENCE — First points of the season were scored. Season highs in minutes played were logged.
The night went as scripted for Kansas, which outclassed Howard 89-34 on Thursday.
When the margin crossed 50 with about 10 minutes remaining, reserves started shaking off the cobwebs, and soon Merv Lindsay, Niko Roberts and Christian Garrett entered the game.
The group had combined to appear in five games and had played a total of six minutes.
But they brought home this romp and cracked the stat line.
Lindsay swished a three-pointer for his first bucket of the season and finished with nine points. Roberts and Garrett picked up assists.
Asked how it felt to get in the game at the eight-minute mark, senior guard Jordan Juenemann, for whom minutes are precious, offered a correction.
"I thought it was at 11 minutes," said Juenemann, who finished with five points.
The bench had been a point of frustration for Kansas, partly the result of a demanding schedule that didn't offer much opportunity. The Jayhawks entered the game having played one of the nation's most difficult slates based on Ratings Percentage Index.
No other Big 12 team had more than two players average at least 30 minutes per game. Kansas entered Thursday with four — Thomas Robinson, Tyshawn Taylor, Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford.
All but Taylor got season-low minutes against Howard.
"Our schedule's been so hard that we haven't had a chance to let guys play through mistakes off the bench," coach Bill Self said.
So, it wasn't a stats-padding night for the starters. They weren't going to play long enough. Robinson's nine points and seven rebounds were well below his averages.
But whether Kansas is ready for the rigors of Big 12 play next week, few conclusions could be drawn.
Self didn't like that the Jayhawks were tested on the boards, winning the battle only 38-35. The Bison collected 16 offensive rebounds.
"We just didn't hit anybody," Self said. "We didn't go after the ball. That's something we really have to emphasize before we get into league play.
The 13 turnovers were below the team average but there was a bit too much carelessness.
Still, a largely satisfying night for the Jayhawks, who played terrific defense. The 34 points allowed were the fewest by a Kansas opponent since Alcorn State was held to 31 two years ago. It marked the third lowest total of Self's nine seasons at Lawrence.
"We were using our full court pressure a lot more," guard Conner Teahan said. "We've had it the whole time but we haven't used it much."
The Jayhawks forced 24 turnovers and came up with 11 steals. Jeff Withey who scored the first basket five seconds into the game on a lob slam from Taylor, finished with six blocks.
From a competitive score standpoint, No. 17 KU (9-3) was about where Indiana is. The 13th-ranked Hoosiers beat Howard by 57 last week. Bison coach Kevin Nickelberry learned a couple of lessons from these games.
"I learned, don't go to any more games like Indiana and Kansas," Nickelberry said.
Another revelation: He thought Allen Fieldhouse wouldn't have much atmosphere with the students gone. And indeed, the lopsidedness of the game kept the crowd tempered. The biggest cheer late in the first half came a pair of guests — Saturday Night Live cast member Jason Sudeikis and his date, actress Olivia Wilde — were introduced.
"We just didn't do a good job dealing with the atmosphere," Nickelberry said.
The Jayhawks will play another outmanned opponent Saturday in North Dakota, which should give Self another opportunity to empty his bench.