No. 4 Kansas Wins Exhibition Opener

Wednesday night marked the beginning of a new season of Kansas Basketball, as the No. 4 Jayhawks opened their 2-game exhibition play against Pittsburg State with an 89-66 win.

Bill Self, for the first time in many years, has a team loaded with experienced players. Perry Ellis, Wayne Selden, Jr., Jamari Traylor, Frank Mason III, and Landen Lucas, have all been in the program for multiple seasons.

When speaking to the media earlier this week, Self spoke about his team potentially practicing poorly of late due to boredom and needing to face someone other than themselves on the hardwood.

Whether it was starting off a little too amped and fired up, or just the rust of having not played in an actual game, the Jayhawks struggled in the early going against a Gorillas team which always comes to Allen Fieldhouse with a nothing-to-lose mentality.

Shooting, in particular, was atrocious for both team throughout the first half. Despite the poor shooting, however, Kansas’ defense wasn’t where it needed to be in terms of intensity, and with 8 minutes to go before the break, KU was clinging to a meager 19-16 lead.

Self, after calling several timeouts and letting his players know about their lackluster play, watched his team go on a spurt over the course of the final three minutes, turning a once close game into a laugher.

Perry Ellis led Kansas with 22 points, and looked to be in great form with his play. While it was a good sign to see KU’s top player performing at a high level, the surprise of the night went to freshman forward Carlton Bragg, who scored 14 points to go along with 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks in 21 minutes of action.

Bragg played so well that Self gave him the nod to start the second half in place of Landen Lucas.

Arkansas transfer Hunter Mickelson also displayed his improvement over the summer by providing Kansas with great energy on both ends of the floor and showing that he knows how to get himself around the ball.

Mickelson, who Self said would likely be considered the obvious most improved player in the eyes of the fans, put in a highlight-reel dunk after a Bragg miss, jumping over the top of a defender and flushing the ball home with one hand.

If one thing is certain, it’s that Bill Self has plenty of depth at his disposal. Prior to halftime, Self had played 11 players in total. While he would like to see his rotation stay around 8-9, knowing you have additional depth beyond that will create plenty of competitiveness in practice and will keep players hungry to earn playing time, particularly on the perimeter where Mason, Devonte Graham, and Wayne Selden, Jr., are likely to the majority of the minutes.

Two players Kansas needs to see major improvement from in order to have the type of success expected this season, are Brannen Greene and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk.

Greene is a deadly outside shooter and can change the course of a game quickly with his ability to knock down shots, and Mykhailiuk, also a sharp-shooter, is projected to eventually be a top 10 draft pick.

If Self can get production out of those two, both of which posses plenty of size and athleticism on the perimeter, Kansas will remain one of the title favorites throughout the year.

Next up for Kansas is a Nov. 10 (Tuesday) exhibition game against Fort Hays State before opening up the regular season versus Northern Colorado on Friday, Nov. 13.

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