Student attendance at UA game surprises Self
At least 1,000 Kansas University students missed a highly competitive, marquee college basketball game Sunday night.
The northwest corner of Allen Fieldhouse – normally packed with enthusiastic KU students – was empty for No. 4-rated KU’s 76-72 overtime victory over Arizona.
The Wildcats entered 3-1 and unranked, yet still boasted one of the country’s top players in Chase Budinger and a budding star in Jerryd Bayless.
And on the revenge front, Arizona defeated the Jayhawks the last time the powers met in 2005 in Maui and also handed KU one of its most bitter losses in school history – in the Sweet 16 of the 1997 NCAA Tournament.
“To be candid, it was disappointing to our players. They pointed to this as THE nonconference game of the season, and there were fewer students than any game since I’ve been here,” fifth-year Jayhawk coach Bill Self said.
He first discussed the student no-shows when asked about it on his Hawk Talk radio show, then expounded in a phone interview after the broadcast. He spoke in a matter-of-fact, not angry tone.
“The students that were there were great, absolutely great. I’m not saying anything bad about our students,” Self said. “A lot of people (schools) wish they’d have as many as we had.
“But the game being Arizona and our players pointing to it as THE nonconference home game of the season … obviously some of the student body didn’t feel the same way.
“It’s the smallest turnout of students for a game since I’ve been here. It was kind of frustrating,” Self continued. “We had more students for the Northern Arizona game when the dorms were closed for Thanksgiving than for Arizona.”
Self wants to make it clear he’s not down on the students, just disappointed they skipped Sunday night’s game.
“They’ll come,” Self said, referring to remaining games, including Wednesday’s 7 p.m. clash against ex-Jayhawk Rex Walters’ Florida Atlantic squad.
“I think a lot had to do with the timing of the game. It tells me Saturday wore out a lot of people. I was tired, and I watched it (Kansas-Missouri football game) on TV. A lot of people started at 10 a.m. (Saturday) and were rolling until 1 or 2 at night. Our players understood there were some reasons for it, but still were disappointed.”
KU isn’t the only school that has had some students skip out on games.
ESPN recently reported that more than half the home games at Duke last season were played before empty seats in the student sections. The fact students now have their IDs swiped electronically – instead of having a season pass – may have cut down on students giving tickets to friends on the nights they don’t want to attend.
“We have great fans. Our students are fantastic. I love our fans,” Self said. “I do hope that future games will be full. We have the best building in America, hands down. When our building is good (full and loud) most people say it’s better than anywhere.”
Injury update: Freshman guard Tyrel Reed, who was injured in the closing seconds of the first half Sunday, suffered a sprained right ankle and is currently listed as day-to-day, Self said Monday.
The injury occurred under the basket as the clock expired in the first half. Reed was caught under senior Darnell Jackson, who elevated to swat a shot just before the buzzer.
“He (Reed) was better today. No way he would have been able to practice today,” said Self, who gave his team the day off. “I don’t know yet what his status will be for Wednesday.”
Sherron Collins, who had surgery Nov. 12 to repair a stress fracture in his right foot, has had his cast removed. He’ll have his foot in a boot this week and gradually will begin cardio workouts, Self said. Collins is expected to return to action in late December.
Rex coming to town: Walters’ Florida Atlantic team will take a 1-5 record into Wednesday’s game at Allen. The Owls, who fell at UMKC, 77-66, on Monday, have played a rugged schedule, also losing to Rhode Island (90-63), Boston College (68-62), South Florida (100-69) and Cleveland State (77-66), while beating Stetson (68-62).
“Rex was so fast, so tough and competitive,” Self said of Walters, a 1993 KU graduate. “I was at Oklahoma State at the time. At OSU, we had Corey Williams, the fastest player in the league. Rex was just as fast.
“He was just a fabulous player. I’m sure it will be thrilling to Rex to bring his team to Allen Fieldhouse where he had so many good memories. I hope we acknowledge him in pre-game introductions to let him know how much we respect what he did at KU.”
KU helps Big 12’s cause: KU’s victory over Arizona not only made the Jayhawks the winner of the round-robin Jayhawk Invitational, but gave the Big 12 a 1-0 record in the Big 12-Pac 10 Hardwood Series.
Other games in the challenge between the two conferences: Thursday: Oregon at Kansas State, Oklahoma at USC; Dec. 1: Washington at Oklahoma State, Missouri at California; Dec. 2: Arizona State at Nebraska, Stanford at Colorado, Texas A&M at Arizona, Texas at UCLA; Dec. 22: Texas Tech v. Stanford.
KU will play USC on Sunday in Los Angeles in a game not considered part of the challenge.
“It was important for our league to win that game,” Self said of the Arizona game. “Since most of the authorities feel it (Pac 10) is the toughest conference in America, it’d be great for our league to show well against them.”
Budinger shines: Self on his radio show applauded the play of Chase Budinger against KU. The 6-foot-7 sophomore burned KU for 27 points off 10-of-23 shooting, including 6 of 12 3-pointers. He had six rebounds, two steals and five turnovers.
“Durant … that’s a different level,” Self said of Texas’ Kevin Durant, who had 32 against KU last year in Allen. “Other than Durant, who has really put on a better performance in the fieldhouse than Budinger did? He’s good.”