One of the more intriguing matchups of the Big East-Big 12 Battle will pit No. 9 Kansas, the defending national champion, against inconsistent Seton Hall on Thursday in Lawrence, Kan.
Kansas (7-1) played three games in three days in last week’s Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas. It ran out of gas in Friday’s final, shooting just 32.1 percent in a 64-50 loss to then-No. 22 Tennessee.
There was a quick turnaround before the Jayhawks hosted Texas Southern on Monday, but Jalen Wilson put up 22 points, six assists and five rebounds to lead Kansas to a comfortable 87-55 win.
Starting guard Kevin McCullar Jr. sat out with a pulled groin sustained against Tennessee. Coach Bill Self gave Joseph Yesufu his first-ever start for the Jayhawks and Yesufu responded with 14 points on 4-of-7 shooting, three rebounds and three assists.
“Defensively he should be better, eating people up, causing havoc, but I thought he did fine,” Self said of Yesufu. “He needs to be a guy who can make 2 out of 5 (shots) when he comes in the game … He’s a good shooter. His stroke looked good tonight.”
Freshman MJ Rice added a career-best 19 points in 21 minutes off the bench against Texas Southern.
Self said there was a chance McCullar could practice Wednesday and play Thursday, but the Jayhawks would sit him if necessary. Bobby Pettiford (hamstring) won’t be available until Kansas’ game against Missouri on Dec. 10 at the earliest, Self said.
Seton Hall (4-3) slugged out a 64-60 win over then-No. 7 Texas in last year’s Big East-Big 12 Battle game. That was part of a 9-1 start to the season that saw the Pirates ranked as high as No. 15 in the country.
But they have a new group under first-year coach Shaheen Holloway, and they hit some early growing pains in last week’s ESPN Events Invitational.
Tyrese Samuel banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer to hand Seton Hall a stunning 70-69 win over Memphis in the first game. The Pirates went on to lose their next two games to Oklahoma and Siena by a combined 18 points.
While accepting blame for Sunday’s 60-55 loss to Siena, Holloway simultaneously sent a harsh message to his players in a postgame radio interview.
“Came out flat. No energy. Never been a part of something where guys don’t want to play basketball,” Holloway said. “Saw it this morning in the walk-through. We had nothing.”
Al-Amir Dawes led the Pirates with 15 points and Samuel had 14 along with seven rebounds against Siena. They were outshot 42.9 percent to 32.7 percent by their Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference foes.
Dre Davis, currently the team’s second-leading scorer at 11.4 points per game, is dealing with a knee issue and did not play against Siena. It’s unclear how long he’ll be out.
Kansas is 2-1 all-time against Seton Hall, most recently an 83-79 win in the second round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament.
–Field Level Media