Looks like Wayne Simien's poor shooting night against Wake Forest was an aberration brought on by freshman jitters.
Four days after he made only two of seven free-throw attempts in Kansas University's victory over the Demon Deacons, Simien sank seven of eight charities Saturday night in a 79-68 victory over UMKC at Allen Fieldhouse.
The former Leavenworth High standout also made three of four shots from the field and finished with 13 points in 16 minutes in his second collegiate game.
"He's an 18-year-old young man," KU coach Roy Williams said. "In one of the exhibition games he was 9-for-9. He was 2-for-7 the other night. I think sometimes particularly in a younger player you miss the first one, you miss the second one then you start to worry about it even more.
"But I feel like he's going to be a good free-throw shooter. I feel like our team is going to be a good free-throw shooting team. We had a tough second half the other night, and I think it had some carry over from that in the first half tonight."
Fourth-ranked KU's 83-76 victory over No. 23 Wake Forest might have been a bit easier if the Jayhawks hadn't shot 20-of-40 from the foul line.
The Jayhawks (6-1) improved Saturday, sinking 20 in 10 fewer attempts. They were 5-of-11 in the first half against UMKC (5-1), but sank 15 of 19 free throws after halftime.
Give Simien some of the credit.
The freshman, who admitted he had been nervous playing his first game Tuesday against ranked Wake sank seven of eight foul shots after the break on Saturday.
"I just didn't think about it as much," he said. "It felt good to get back on track."
Simien scored nine straight KU points during a 41*2-minute stretch in the second half as Kansas extended its lead from 45-35 to 57-42.
"In one stretch he was getting fouled a lot and going to free-throw line, and I always like that," Williams said.
After KU guard Jeff Boschee sank a three-pointer, Simien made two free throws on consecutive trips down the floor. He later made one of two foul shots and added a pair of field goals in the outburst. He also had two of his eight rebounds and a steal as KU pulled away.
Simien's strong inside play helped the Jayhawks build a 37-30 advantage on the boards.
"He keeps up the intensity of the game," said junior forward Drew Gooden, who had 13 points and 10 rebounds.
All this from a freshman who's not completely recovered from arthroscopic knee surgery that sidelined him for the first five games of the season. The surgery came after the 6-foot-9, 250-pound forward had 33 points and 12 rebounds in KU's two exhibition games.
"I think he's doing well," Williams said of Simien, who posted a double-double against Wake despite his shooting woes with 10 points and 11 rebounds. "I think you'd probably have to ask him (about the knee). I don't think I see him as reckless and as powerful or as explosive as before. Perhaps it's being tentative, or perhaps it's just that these guys are better than the teams we played in exhibition games. But I was pleased with what he did, and I think he's going to be very important to us."
Simien said he's not tentative, but he's not 100 percent healthy yet.
"I'm feeling pretty good," said Simien, who's doing extra work on his quadriceps to strengthen his leg. "Athletically, I don't think I have my complete bounce back, but I'm working on it."
Simien acknowledged that he's still learning KU's system and said veteran post players Gooden, Nick Collison and Jeff Carey are showing him the ropes.
"It's up to him to pick it up," Gooden said. "We can show him better than we can tell him. It's up to him to act like a sponge and soak everything up."