It was the night everyone had been waiting for.
Cheick Diallo was finally going to take the court for No. 4 Kansas, and it was as exciting and entertaining as one could have hoped.
In Kansas’ 84-61 win over Loyola (MD), Diallo overcame some early struggles (obviously nerves) to score 13 points, haul in 6 rebounds, and record three blocks.
KU played a lackluster first half, leading 40-36 at the half, but in the second half, Jamari Traylor came out with energy and helped set the tone for a 27-9 run to start the half and open the game up. During that stretch, Diallo put on a display of an array offensive moves, an extremely high motor, and the enthusiasm of a stud freshman who is quite simply a playmaker.
His first bucket came from a nice behind the back assist from Wayne Selden, Jr., leading to a two-handed flush.
Diallo would later show a smooth baseline jumper from short range, a drop step and baby hook, an ally-oop throw down from a pass by fellow frosh LeGerald Vick, and the highlight of the night, a thunderous breakaway slam on a fast break, with some added flair and eventually earning the No. 3 highlight on ESPN Sportscenter’s Top 10.
All in all, it was a good night for the Jayhawks, who played their first game since returning from a championship at the Maui Invitational, as well as Thanksgiving break.
Self certainly wasn’t pleased with his teams’ effort in the first half, and had particularly harsh words for the play from Perry Ellis, who appeared to have a very off night for KU, but the second half play made Self feel slightly better about his team being able to reign things in when they weren’t playing as well and turn the game into a blowout.
More importantly, Kansas showed just how much depth it has with the addition of Diallo.
To put that into perspective, Landen Lucas wasn’t able to play, and Brannen Greene is still serving a six-game suspension.
Self played 9 players for relatively significant minutes–Vick getting the least of the bench minutes among rotation players–and he still had two players considered important pieces to the roster, sitting.
It’s doubtful Self will go 11 deep unless the game is out of hand or a he feels like he can get more production from his bench on a given night, but the fact that he has as many talented players at his disposal gives the Jayhawks an edge most teams simply don’t have.
Down the road, it will be difficult for a player like Brannen Greene to work himself back into the rotation. His shooting stroke will always serve as a weapon for KU, but defensively, Greene is often a liability.
It should be expected that Diallo will continue to see his minutes increase as the season progresses, which means Lucas and Hunter Mickelson will see fewer and fewer minutes on the floor.
Next up for Kansas is a home game on Saturday, Dec. 5 against Harvard. Tickets for Saturday’s game are available now at Tickets For Less. Don’t miss out on your chance to see Cheick Diallo and No. 4 Kansas take the court inside Allen Fieldhouse. Choose from a variety of great seating options and cheer on your Jayhawks!