The fifth game of Kansas' five-game homestand turned out to be a real stinker.
"The only positive thing that happened tonight is we won," KU senior Eric Chenowith said after the Jayhawks' lackluster 80-61 nonconference men's basketball victory over Illinois State on Thursday night at Allen Fieldhouse.
It completed a stretch of games all victories against inferior opponents North Dakota, Boise State, Washburn, Middle Tennessee State and ISU.
"That's pretty ugly. It's very frustrating right now," KU coach Roy Williams said after watching the Jayhawks build a 33-25 lead in the first half despite being outrebounded 26-21.
"We had five games in a row where we knew we were better than the other team. I guess it's human nature to find it hard to maintain the focus. We didn't do it tonight to say the least.
"We've got practice tomorrow and I told the kids at halftime it could be a track practice."
For what it's worth, the Jayhawks (7-0) believe they deserve to be punished with extra running after their uninspired victory over the Redbirds (1-1).
"That's the worst I've seen us play, even at practice. That was bad," sophomore guard Kirk Hinrich said after dishing eight assists six the second half. "I have never seen coach that mad."
A miffed Williams pulled starters Hinrich, Drew Gooden (17 points), Eric Chenowith (11 points), Kenny Gregory (11 points despite playing on a sore foot) and Jeff Boschee at the first TV time out, KU down, 7-6.
Williams inserted walk-on Lewis Harrison, Mario Kinsey, Jeff Carey, Luke Axtell and Nick Collison. That group walk-on Brett Ballard came in for Kinsey after a couple minutes outscored Illinois State, 7-1, the next 4 1/2 minutes.
"We didn't have the attention. We were not focused on what we were supposed to do," Williams said.
"We had a set play during a time out and didn't execute it right. We made three defensive errors in a row. A guy gets the ball at the top of the key and drives all the way to the basket and lays it up against us.
"Nobody comes to help. Nobody takes a charge. It's like we weren't out there. So I took those guys out and put in five new ones. They played well defensively, just didn't make enough baskets on the other end."
The starters returned with 11:23 left in the half and continued to struggle.
KU had nine of its season-low 14 turnovers while hitting just 40 percent of its shots the first half. KU led by eight because Illinois State missed 17 of its first 21 shots and hit 25.8 percent the first half.
"We came out and took it for granted tonight," Gooden said. "Coach was very mad. He took out the starters early. He said, 'You guys are not doing what you are supposed to. If you don't start doing what you are supposed to, you will not play the rest of the game.'''
Halftime was no picnic for the Jayhawks.
"Coach really blasted us at halftime, rightfully so," said junior forward Carey, who had four points off the bench the first half. "He had a lot of things to say. It was not uncalled for."
"Coach really got on us," Gooden noted. "He said we had to pick up the intensity. We were too sluggish. He said we were not playing Kansas basketball."
The Jayhawks responded.
KU hit eight of its first nine shots in the second half and put the game away with a 16-5 run.
Chenowith had seven points and Boschee hit a three in the half-opening burst.
"We were horrible the first half. Halftime was a wake-up call. We responded to the way coach got after us," Hinrich said.
Williams said he liked soph Collison's hustle the second half. He scored nine points and had nine rebounds after scoring zero points with four boards the first half.
"I love Nick Collison's effort in the second half. On two occasions he dove on the floor, ended up getting the possession and we scored," Williams said.
"Early in the second half we got the ball to Drew and Eric inside. That helped us and Kirk's passing helped us," Williams added. "Congratulate Illinois State. They did some things to hurt us. They outhustled us and played a lot better than we did the first half."
The Jayhawks will travel to Wake Forest next Thursday for a 6:05 p.m. tip.
"We have to play a lot better than this come next Thursday or it'll be a long night," Williams said.