After a pair of lopsided outcomes, the real Kansas team is a bit hard to identify. Is it the one that got stomped in historic fashion by Texas, the one that trounced TCU, or something in between?
More evidence will materialize on Saturday afternoon when the No. 6 Jayhawks (9-2, 3-1 Big 12) host conference rival Oklahoma (6-3, 2-2) in Lawrence, Kansas.
Kansas didn’t let a 25-point setback against Texas, the worst defeat for the program since 1989, derail its season. The Jayhawks bounced back three days later to overwhelm TCU by 29 points and again establish themselves in a Big 12 race that features No. 2 Baylor and No. 4 Texas as the conference co-leaders.
“It was just a reminder of what we can do,” forward David McCormack said of the win at TCU, which he fueled with a season-high 20 points after the Jayhawks had a 17-game, Big 12 win streak snapped by the Longhorns.
Kansas looked crisp in its offensive execution while getting more looks for McCormack inside.
“Our half-court offense was as good as we’ve looked all year long,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “I thought we scored off of our actions. Guys ran offense to score as opposed to just running offense.”
Kansas played without defensive stopper Marcus Garrett, who is expected to return Saturday after suffering a head injury in the Texas defeat. His absence enabled Self to play backups Dajuan Harris and Tristan Enaruna, who responded with career bests of seven assists and 12 points, respectively, against the Horned Frogs.
“We don’t want to play without Marcus again but the reality of it is, not all is lost if (we) have to,” Self said.
Just 11 games into his freshman season, Harris showed a natural ability to run the floor. McCormack, who had struggled with his shooting touch all season, hit 7 of 9 shots and benefited greatly from the ball movement Harris commanded during his 28-minute stint.
“Dajuan played to his natural ability,” McCormack said. “He played well. He’s a great point guard, great vision, great passer. He definitely stepped up to the plate.”
Perhaps enough for Self to include Harris more in the rotation, especially since none of the regular guards, including Garrett, are as naturally gifted commanding the attack.
Offensive execution eluded Oklahoma in a 76-61 loss at No. 2 Baylor on Wednesday. Coming off a 29-point performance in an upset of West Virginia, Umoja Gibson failed to hit a shot. Austin Reaves exceeded his team-high average (15.9) with a 19-point performance despite missing 7 of 9 attempts from 3-point range.
Brady Manek went scoreless in the first half at Baylor before a 10-point second half marked his best output in three games.
“If you’re not moving the ball, if you’re not cutting sharp, they can make you stand,” Sooners coach Lon Kruger said.
The 3-point arc could emerge as a concern against the Jayhawks considering Oklahoma allows Big 12 opponents to shoot 42.2 percent, the worst mark in the conference. Kansas ranks second in the Big 12 with 37.5 percent clip from deep in all games.
–Field Level Media