It wasn't always pretty, but the Jayhawks cruised to their first win of the season over North Carolina-Greensboro Friday night in Allen Fieldhouse.
The first half brought to mind all the same adjectives the Duke game elicited: sloppy, ugly, disorganized, uninspired, low-energy, etc. Both teams shot poorly from three despite both getting some good looks at the basket. KU didn't rack up nearly as many turnovers as they did in the first half against Duke, but they showed the same inability to run anything resembling coherent offense.
Despite UNCG not having anyone physically equipped to challenge Udoka Azubuike, Dok barely touched the ball outside of rebounds, and took just three first half shots. Part of this was due to aggressive double teams, but Kansas could never seem to find a way to take advantage of the numbers elsewhere when the defense collapsed on him.
Devon Dotson had his moments and Marcus Garrett hit a pair of threes, but Tristan Enaruna continued to play sped up, and while David McCormack was out there running around a lot, he was rarely making a meaningful contribution. Kansas didn't look appreciably better than their mid-major opponent and led only 36-32 at the break.
The Jayhawks came out with a smaller lineup to start the second half, and Kansas caught a break when Isaiah Miller, who scored 17 in the first half for UNCG, picked up his 3rd foul just over a minute in. Isaiah Moss got his first bucket in a Kansas uniform shortly afterward, and the Jayhawks finally had something cooking. KU jumped out to a 48-34 lead by the 16 minute mark, and the game finally started to look like a top 5 squad playing an overmatched mid-major opponent.
Taking the second big man out of the lineup, even playing a smaller team, seemed to make a huge difference for the offense. There were actual driving lanes to take advantage of, and spreading the floor made it far tougher for UNCG to devote a second man to Azubuike. The ball movement got better, and KU began running something that actually resembled a modern offense.
By the under-8, KU had taken a 64-43 lead, and things were clicking. Dotson was getting buckets on seemingly every drive, Moss had heated up, and Garrett was contributing on both ends while Dok had the space to start making some dominant moves down low.
Unfortunately, KU seemed to get a bit too comfortable and UNCG went on a run to pull within 10. Enaruna then came up big with a three with just over three minutes remaining, and the Spartans were cooked. The Jayhawks came away with a 74-62 victory.
Some quick thoughts on the game:
-KU looked ten times better with the 4-out offense, but that was almost exclusively in the second half, so it may also have been due to other halftime adjustments.
-Dok looks terrified at the free throw line. He finished with ten points, but missed all four free throws, and is totally unplayable in late games scenarios where they're trying to maintain a small lead.
-Dotson looked much more like the player we thought we'd see this year, with 22 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists.
-Kansas took 44% of their shots from three, and hit 38% of them. If they can do that consistently, their offense is going to be fine. However, to do that consistently, they will likely have to ditch the two-big look.
-It's probably just rust, but De Sousa looks... bad. He's playing sped up and fundamentally unsound. Unfortunately, McCormack doesn't look much better, and continues to feel empowered to shoot long twos.
In the end, Kansas got the win with no drama down the stretch, so as bad as the first half was, the result was more or less what we expected. KU now gets a full week off before playing arguably the worst team on their schedule, Monmouth, in Lawrence next Friday at 7pm Jayhawk time.