Kansas University's basketball players have the day off today.
"Coach said, 'If you are smart you'll get a ball and find a basket and shoot some free throws,''' KU junior Drew Gooden said after the No. 4-ranked Jayhawks hit just 20 of 40 free throws in an 83-76 victory over No. 23-Wake Forest on Tuesday night at unseasonably steamy Allen Fieldhouse.
"Free throws if we shoot 75 percent we score 100 points. That's our goal, 100 points."
The Jayhawks played rugged defense Wake Forest hit 41.4 percent of its shots and committed 17 turnovers and were fierce on the backboards in outrebounding the Demon Deacons, 46-35.
But the free throws KU made 13 of 30 the second half after canning seven of 10 the first half and some sloppy play on offense (19 turnovers against 18 assists) prevented the kind of payback the Jayhawks wanted to paste on Wake.
The Demon Deacons, remember, beat KU by 31 last year in Winston-Salem, N.C.
"No, it's not good enough (payback)," Gooden said, "but it's a 'W,' and I'll take a 'W' over a loss any day."
So will KU coach Roy Williams, who made a point of congratulating the crowd for a loud performance "They were sensational from the get-go. We can't have a better crowd than that." while lamenting the poor free throwing.
"You make the suckers or you miss 'em. It was a terrible exhibition," Williams said.
On Saturday, KU hit 20 of 25 in a victory at Arizona.
"I'm going recruiting tomorrow. I told the players if they were smart they'd have their butts in the gym shooting free throws," Williams said. "At Arizona we made 20 of 23 the second half. It's the reason I've got all this gray hair."
Freshman Wayne Simien grabbed 11 rebounds and scored 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting in his return from left knee surgery. He missed five of seven free throws, however.
Also, Nick Collison, who had 16 points and 11 boards, was 2-of-6 from the line. Gooden hit three of four free throws en route to 11 points. Others over 50 percent were Aaron Miles (five of eight, 11 points) and Jeff Boschee (four of six, 15 points).
"Nobody did a good job (of free throwing)," Williams said. "We did rebound the heck out of the ball tonight. For the most part we were all over the boards. We were playing against some men on the boards and did a good job.
"We also were good defensively. Kirk Hinrich I told him in the locker room it may have been one of his worst games offensively (eight turnovers, six assists, 13 points) but defensively ... he'll grade out fantastic on the defensive end."
Of Simien's gritty return, Williams noted: "I feel really good what he was able to do. It's not the kind of game you want a youngster coming back from an injury. It's against a very talented team, a tough team. He did bounce back except at the free throw line. He gives you a presence in there and will only get better and better."
As far as particulars of the game, KU closed the first half on an 11-4 run and led, 41-30, at halftime. Boschee opened the spurt with a three, immediately after a an 11-2 Steve Lepore-led Wake run had sliced KU's 28-15 lead to four points.
Also, Gooden hit a pair of free throws, Collison scored on a slam off a pass from Miles, Simien scored off a feed from Hinrich and Boschee hit two free throws.
KU outrebounded Wake, 23-12, the first half and forced 12 turnovers. Collison led the way with 10 points, while Gooden had nine and Boschee eight.
Simien, coming off his knee injury, had six rebounds and six points in eight minutes.
In the second half, Wake stayed close throughout, KU using two points from freshmen Simien and Keith Langford to boost a 67-61 lead to 10 points at 3:26.
KU led 72-65 at 2:41, pulling away on a 5-0 spurt. Hinrich hit a basket, Collison a free throw and Hinrich, who'd earlier taken a knee to the thigh, went high enough for a dunk to give KU a 77-65 lead at 1:41.
Still Wake, which was led by Antwan Scott's 13 points, avoided a blowout in falling to 5-2 on the season. KU, which next meets UMKC at 7:05 p.m. Saturday, is 5-1.
"We had a lot of intensity," Collison said. "We were fired up and wanted to jump on them early. We rebounded and defended well, but didn't play smart and didn't play great on offense."