Kansas St.-Kansas Preview

LAWRENCE, Kan. — A weakness in No. 3 Kansas was exposed in the Jayhawks’ Big 12 opener.

Don’t bother scouring through game film. The flaw was identified and thoroughly criticized by coach Bill Self after Kansas (12-1) went on the road and nipped perennial conference doormat TCU.

“We don’t guard. We don’t guard,” Self repeated. “We can look at stats and stats can be misleading and stuff, but we’ll watch this game, when we got stops, they missed. It wasn’t because we created things to make them miss. We don’t guard.”

Whether it is too late in the season to correct that deficiency is unknown. No doubt, however, Self will emphasize defense, beginning with a home game Tuesday against Kansas State (12-1, 1-0 Big 12) in Allen Fieldhouse.

“The thing that we’ve always hung our hat on we’re just not very good at yet,” said Self, “and we’ve got to improve on that.”

Offensively, the Jayhawks click just fine. Despite one of the poorer performances of the season by 6-foot-8 freshman wing Josh Jackson, who played sparingly against TCU because of foul trouble magnified by a technical, the Jayhawks still overcame an early deficit.

Senior point guard Frank Mason, the Jayhawks’ leader in scoring (19.8 ppg.) and assists (5.9), was again instrumental, scoring 22 points and going 9 of 10 from the free throw line. Senior forward Landen Lucas also responded with an emphatic double-double, adding 15 points and 17 rebounds.

Again, though, Self examined both ends of the floor after the man Lucas guarded scored 28 points.

“I think Landen would be the first to tell you, you go on the road and if your mindset’s not to be tough and get stops, you’re very fortunate when you get a ‘W,’ and that was the case for us,” Self said.

The Jayhawks did overachieve at the foul line, making 20 of 25 free throws despite shooting 61 percent on the season.

Kansas State, coincidentally, also shot better than usual from the line in its Big 12 opener, securing a 65-62 home win over Texas by going 9 of 10 inside the final minute and 26 of 33 overall. The Wildcats are making 67.1 percent of their free throws on the season.

“You’ve got to have confidence going to the line and you have to work on it in practice,” explained point guard Kamau Stokes, who had 15 points and six assists, going 4 of 4 from the line in the final minute and 9 of 10 for the game.

The free throw shooting enabled the Wildcats to overcome dreadful shooting (17 of 47) from the field. Kansas State led by 13 inside the 8-minute mark of the second half.

“Instead of being solid in space, trying to move the ball, we were a little antsy trying to make some plays,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. “We’re going to have to be better, especially moving on into the league and when we go to Kansas.”

The Wildcats were led by sophomore forward Dean Wade, who scored 18 points on 7-for-10 shooting. Sophomore guard Barry Brown averages a team-high 12.1 points, though each of the Wildcats’ starters average at least 9.7 points. Their bench is limited, contributing no points in the Texas win.

In launching its bid for a 13th consecutive league championship, a Division I record set by UCLA from 1967-79, Kansas claimed its 26th consecutive win in a league opener by downing TCU. The last time the Jayhawks lost a Big 12 home opener was in 2006, a 59-55 setback against Kansas State.

Weber is the third coach the Wildcats have had since that upset. The fifth-year coach stands 2-9 against Kansas. Self is 27-5 against K-State.