Kansas University's men's basketball players won't pass for exhibitionists.
Following Monday's 98-79 victory over Pella Windows at Allen Fieldhouse, the Jayhawks were disturbed by their performance in the second of two exhibition games.
"I don't think we matched that intensity in the second half," said KU junior forward Paul Pierce, who scored 21 points. "In order to play the game of basketball, you have to play two halves."
Kansas led 56-34 at halftime and was outscored 45-42 in the final 20 minutes by the AAU team.
Pierce traced the team's lackluster effort to recent practices.
"I think there's a sense of inconsistency in practice," Pierce said. "This is something new to me. In the past we've had veteran ballclubs. I'm not saying the reason we're playing like this is because we're young. It's a talented ballclub and we should be able to get the job done."
The Jayhawks, who open the season for real on Friday at home against Santa Clara, held a brief team meeting after the victory over Pella.
What was discussed?
"I'd like to keep that confidential," Pierce said.
Pierce, who has said he plans to be more of a vocal leader this season, did speak up in the meeting. Though he wouldn't divulge details of the discussion, the gist was obvious.
"You have certain guys playing at a high level of intensity and some guys are slacking off when it's a team game," Pierce said. "Everybody has to be on the same page."
Pierce and senior Raef LaFrentz are KU's two starters back from last year's 34-2 team.
"People can't really expect us to be last year's team," Pierce said. "It's a whole new ballclub. You have different looks and different players.
"As time goes on I think we can get to the level of last year's team. It starts in practice and listening to what coach has to say."
Last year, KU relied on its three senior starters -- Jacque Vaughn, Jerod Haase and Scot Pollard -- for leadership. Pierce and LaFrentz are the top candidates to lead the Jayhawks.
"I have all the confidence in the world that Paul can do it and I can do it," LaFrentz said. "We need to take it upon ourselves and stop attacking from an individual standpoint and take it from a team standpoint."
Against Pella, Pierce was 9-for-17 from the field and 3-for-4 from three-point range.
In KU's two exhibitions, Pierce connected on 14 of 28 shots from the field -- 5-for-12 from three-point range -- and finished with 39 points.
The 6-foot-7 Pierce plans to shoot more from three-point range this season. As a freshman, he shot 30 percent (35 for 115) beyond the arc. Last season, he shot a higher percentage (47 percent) but took fewer shots -- 33 for 71.
"I look at last year's percentage and I shot well," Pierce said. "I just thought I didn't take enough. If one goes down, I'm not going to be hesitant to take the next one."
Pierce may pass more, too. Pierce, who averaged 2.1 assists a game as a sophomore, collected seven assists against Pella.
"I was drawing defenses, trying to get the ball to the open man," Pierce said. "I'm definitely ready to get the season started and see what happens."
-- Steve Rottinghaus's phone message number is 832-7152. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.