Breaking Down KU’s Season Opening Win Over Omaha

The Jayhawks opened their season Monday night without a familiar face on the sideline and some new faces on the court. Bill Self and Kurtis Townsend served the first of their four-game suspensions, leaving Norm Roberts in charge of the team. While that hasn’t played a factor yet, check back in after the Duke game to see if that stands true. As far as on the court, KU is replacing three starters, including consensus All-American Ochai Agbaji. The two remaining starters, Jalen Wilson and Dajuan Harris, were joined by Kevin McCullar, KJ Adams, and freshman Gradey Dick.

All five showed great flashes at one point or another. Dajuan did what he did all of last year, controlled the offense and made life miserable for the opposing point guards. Jalen was a few assists away from a triple-double, finishing with 19 points, 11 rebounds, and seven assists. Adams showed once again that he can guard just about anyone the other team puts on the floor. McCullar had perhaps the best four-minute stretch of anyone, collecting a steal, two rebounds, an assist, and four points to go along with some stellar defense. However, the star of the night was the youngster. Gradey Dick collected 23 points, the most in a Jayhawk debut since Xavier Henry in 2009. He has hit seven of 11 three point attempts between this game and the exhibition against Pittsburg State.

Kansas guard Gradey Dick celebrates a big jam in their season opener against the Omaha Mavericks

The bench also provided some good minutes. Fellow freshman Ernest Udeh collected five points and five assists in his 14 minutes of action. Bobby Pettiford and Joseph Yesufu split the backup guard duties and combined for 15 points on 7-11 shooting. Zach Clemence and Zuby Ejiofor also got a few minutes, both collecting three rebounds.

The 15:56 mark of the first half was the last time the Jayhawks would trail in this one. A well rounded offensive attack and suffocating defense were both simply too much for Omaha to handle. The Hawks shot 52 percent from the floor and 41 percent from deep compared to 39 and 24 percent for the Mavericks. There were a lot of positives in the opener for Kansas, including a 24:9 assist to turnover ratio, eight steals, and only 13 fouls.

However, one thing to note was the frequency of free throw attempts and the inefficiency of the attempts they did get. They shot just 15 free throws and made eight. While that may not mean much against a far inferior opponent, that could be the difference between a win and a loss against better teams. They will need to be more aggressive on offense without an elite scorer like Agbaji in the lineup. Nevertheless, it was an encouraging performance in just about all aspects.

The Jayhawks will stay home to face North Dakota State on Thursday.

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