Off to a 6-0 start in Big 12 Conference play for the third straight season and sixth time in the 11-year Bill Self era, Kansas University’s basketball team now moves on to the next portion of the 18-game schedule.
“Our next three games are what we are focusing on,” Self said of Wednesday’s 8 p.m. home game against Iowa State, followed by Saturday’s 3 p.m. contest at Texas and Tuesday’s 6 p.m. battle at Baylor.
“We try to take ‘em one at a time. We (also) break them up into short segments. We’re breaking our next one into a three-game situation because we play three teams — Baylor has been in the top 10, Texas will be ranked (25th) this week and Iowa State has been in the top 10, and two of the games are away from home. That’s a tough stretch,” Self added.
Wednesday’s game matches No. 6 KU (15-4, 6-0) vs. No. 16 Iowa State (15-3, 3-3). KU beat the Cyclones, 77-70, on Jan. 13 in Ames, Iowa.
Black practices: KU senior reserve power forward Tarik Black continues to recover from an ankle sprain he suffered against Baylor on Jan. 20.
“He is doing OK. He practiced today, which was probably 50 percent,” Self said Monday on his weekly “Hawk Talk” radio show. “He did try to go up and down (with contact). It’s the first time he’s done anything since that (BU) game. We didn’t think it would be as slow as it has been for him coming back. It was a pretty bad sprain.
“Sometimes I take for granted he will be back immediately because he’s such a tough kid. He was probably going to play some in the TCU game (Saturday’s 91-69 victory in Fort Worth, Texas), but he got it bumped, got it hit, at shootaround. You could tell right there that set him back. There was no reason to play him in the game. I do hope he’s able to go Wednesday. He’s important. We need to have an agile five-man that can switch ball screens when we have to.”
Embiid’s knee OK: KU freshman forward Joel Embiid, who appeared to bump knees with a TCU player Saturday, actually suffered a “slight (knee) sprain,” Self said Monday.
“He did sprain his knee, but certainly not enough that would keep him from practicing today,” Self said of Embiid, who practiced. “He should be fine. I watched it on tape. I didn’t know it looked bad. It did look bad if you watched it. Basically we were fortunate we got out of that with it only being a slight sprain.”
More on Lucas: KU freshman center Landen Lucas scored a career-high seven points and tied a career high with five boards against TCU.
“We’re excited to get Tarik back. At the same time I have total confidence Landen can step in and do the job. He did it very well,” Self said. “The thing I like is he got down on the floor. The first play there’s a loose ball ... he dives for it, gets a jump ball. That may not seem like much. Those plays are contagious. Personally, I thought that was about the best play of the game.”
Wiggins honored: KU freshman Andrew Wiggins on Monday was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Week for the second time this season. Wiggins averaged 22.0 points and 6.0 rebounds while shooting 55.0 percent in wins over Baylor and TCU. He hit 19-of-22 (.864) free throws and leads all Big 12 freshmen in scoring at 15.8 points per game. Six Jayhawks have earned Big 12 player or newcomer accolades this season. Black, Embiid, Wayne Selden and Wiggins have earned newcomer honors. KU had three newcomer of the week picks in 2005-06 (Brandon Rush, Mario Chalmers and Julian Wright).