Preview: Kansas hopes to stop the bleeding against New Mexico
After a stretch of uneven performances, Andrew Wiggins is starting to look like the can’t-miss prospect he was touted as going into college.
For Kansas to turn things around, though, the freshman phenom will need some help.
The 13th-ranked Jayhawks look for just their second win in five games Saturday night, when they’ll face New Mexico in Kansas City in the schools’ first meeting in more than 49 years.
Wiggins, one of the most hyped freshmen in recent memory, averaged 14.3 points through his first seven games but was largely inconsistent. He scored 22 points and shot 60.0 percent against Duke on Nov. 12, but turned in a six-point, 2-for-9 shooting performance versus UTEP on Nov. 30.
The 6-foot-8, 200-pound guard appears to have found a groove over his last two games, totaling 48 points while going 14 of 26 from the field, including 5 of 12 from 3-point range.
Kansas (6-3) lost both times, however, 75-72 at Colorado on Dec. 7 and 67-61 at No. 19 Florida on Monday.
Wiggins recorded season highs of 26 points and 11 rebounds against the Gators, his first double-double.
“What Andrew did, he competed,” Self said. “He scored points, but he got rebounds and we’ve been on (him) about that. He made shots. I’m glad he made them and all that, but that’s not what I’m glad he did. I thought he was more aggressive and competed more.”
None of Wiggins’ teammates scored more than nine points Monday. The Jayhawks were overwhelmed early, falling victim to a 21-0 run in the first half and trailing by 15 at halftime. Kansas’ 16 turnovers in the first 20 minutes matched its previous season high for a game.
“That was not a good team playing there at all, and when things started to go bad, we didn’t do anything to stop it,” Self said. “That was frustrating.”
The Jayhawks finished with 24 turnovers, four from Wiggins, though he played a team-high 37 minutes — seven more than any other Kansas player. Fellow freshman starting guards Wayne Selden Jr. and Frank Mason totaled nine turnovers in a combined 39 minutes.
“We’ve got to get everyone playing together,” Self said. “I can’t blame it all on youth. … A lot of it may be youth, but I think we can still play better individually.”
Kansas should be able to take better care of the ball against a New Mexico squad forcing only 11.0 turnovers per game. However, the Lobos (7-1) have won their last three regular-season games on neutral floors against ranked non-conference opponents.
They are coming off a 63-54 home win over Cincinnati on Dec. 7, their fourth straight victory.
“I thought our guys did the game plan exactly the way we should,” coach Craig Neal said. “I thought we did a great job on just keep pushing forward with our tempo.”
Cameron Bairstow and Alex Kirk remain a potent frontcourt duo, averaging 38.4 points and 17.5 rebounds. Bairstow had 24 and 13 against the Bearcats while the 7-foot Kirk scored 15 on 7-of-11 shooting.
These teams haven’t met since a 59-40 Kansas home win in Lawrence on Dec. 3, 1964. New Mexico won the first-ever matchup a season earlier at home.