Much like Tuesday night's game against Michigan State, the Jayhawks got off to a bit of an ugly start Friday against Tarleton State. Kansas had a sizeable advantage in just about every facet of basketball as a sport, but between early turnovers and a lack of apparent comfort in running offense in the half court, Kansas looked shaky in the early going. Fortunately, they were defending very well, which bought them plenty of time to start scoring.
At the first media timeout it was an ugly 4-4 tie. Kansas did start to (very) slowly build out their lead from there, but had trouble really putting together a strong run and putting a lot of distance between them and their opponent. Halfway through the first half, it was a 21-12 lead for the home team as they kept Tarleton State at arm's length.
The team really seemed to put their foot on the gas for a bit around that time, but it was short lived. After pushing the lead to as many as 13, an 8-0 run by the Texans closed the gap to just 25-21 with 6:30 left in the half. Bill Self called a timeout, and between some adjustments - and likely some tough "motivation" - they went back to slowly building up another lead. By the 2:40 mark it was back up to double digits at 33-22. By the end of the half they would match their previous game-high lead of 13, but TSU kept fighting, and the teams went into the locker room with KU up just 39-31.
At the break, Agbaji had once again been the star, scoring 13 with six boards, and Bobby Pettiford gave the team great minutes off the bench with four points, three rebounds, and a pair of assists. For the second straight game, Remy Martin had a tough first half. Though he had scored seven, it came on 2-7 shooting with a pair of turnovers without any assists.
Kansas went back to work in the second, gradually building the lead back again, this time by as many as 15, but couldn't put together a big run to really put the game out of reach. With 10 minutes remaining, it was still just an arm's-length game with the Jayhawks up 56-45.
From there they put together another push, with a new game high 16 point lead at the under 8 timeout, 63-47, and it felt like they were finally putting the game out of reach for good. After TSU cut it back to 13, the Jayhawks came up with another push to really bury the opposition. The lead reached 20 on two occasions before the final media timeout, where it was 72-54 and the only question remaining was the margin of victory. In the end, the walkons got a little time on the court, and the Jayhawks got themselves an 88-62 victory.
The outcome was never in doubt, but it also felt like this game should have been blown open long before it was. Kansas is still adjusting to the newcomers in the lineup and to life without Marcus Garrett leading the defense, and as a result they still have some things to improve upon. But when your areas needing improvement are on full display and you can still beat up an inferior opponent by 26, that has to be a pretty good sign.
In terms of individual performances, two games is not enough to project what a player is going to be for the whole year, but the early returns on Agbaji's senior year remind me an awful lot of watching the start of Frank Mason's senior year, where it became clear that he had unlocked a whole new level in his game. Agbaji is finding multiple ways to score and seems to have greatly improved his handle, and he followed up Tuesday's 29 point performance by scoring 25 more. He was 11-16 from the field and 3-7 from deep, and added six boards, an assist and a block without ever turning it over. Again, it's early, but he could be headed toward something really special this year.
Remy Martin was a bit better in the 2nd half and finished with 14 points and three assists, but while shooting 3-10 and committing three turnovers. Christian Braun was a statsheet stuffer in this one, second on the team with 15 points while grabbing eight boards and racking up five assists with five blocks. David McCormack also blocked five shots while grabbing eight boards, but was once again lackluster with the ball, scoring just six against a much smaller team (though to be fair, they frequently swarmed him once he got the ball).
Kansas improves to 2-0 on the year, and has nearly a full week off before getting another easy one, a Thursday night home game against Stony Brook, ranked 205th (very similar to Tarleton State) by KenPom.