Game day breakdown: No. 3 KU basketball vs. Oakland
No. 3 Kansas Jayhawks (4-0) vs. Oakland Golden Grizzlies (2-2)
Time: 7 p.m. | Location: Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence, Kansas
TV: Jayhawk TV/ESPN3/KMCI-TV | Radio: IMG Jayhawk Radio Network
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Keys for Kansas
1. Easy on the tryptophan
With Thanksgiving hitting a day before their latest game, it’s important the Jayhawks remembered they weren’t as free to indulge in the turkey day pastime of stuffing one’s face and lounging on the couch for three days.
While Andrea Hudy and company no doubt took care of KU’s nutritional needs this holiday season, the bigger concern for Kansas will be playing like they’re not feeling the effects of the fabled amino acid found in turkeys that is responsible for so many post-feast naps.
This team seems locked in and looked as sharp as it has all season in Tuesday’s victory over Texas Southern. So keeping that edge and urgency against yet another team from a smaller conference will be important for the Jayhawks in their quest to cruise to 5-0.
The team was scheduled to eat its Thanksgiving meal together at McCarthy Hall after a light practice Thursday morning.
2. More than just 3-pointers
After hitting a school-record 19 3-pointers in their most recent outing, it would be easy for the Jayhawks to hit the Allen Fieldhouse floor for this one hoping to pick up where they left off.
And they might.
But that should not be the only goal for this guard-heavy roster, which continues to make strides toward making sophomore center Udoka Azubuike a more prominent part of the offensive game plan.
Even during Tuesday’s blowout, the Jayhawks still made it a point to look inside to Azubuike, who, according to KU coach Bill Self, could help his guards and his own cause in one key area.
“I didn’t think Dok played great by any stretch,” Self said of the big fella’s 20-point, nine-rebound night. “But we did a better job of throwing him the ball. He’s got to get where he can make some free throws. But it’s a little misleading. Of his 12 shots, how many of those were catch it in the post and make a move? Maybe three? Four?”
3. Foul trouble, as always
A bad whistle from officials has not hurt Kansas so far this season, and the Jayhawks deserve a lot of credit for that.
7-foot center Udoka Azubuike, as much as anyone, deserves the most praise for avoiding silly fouls and allowing Self to use him when and how he needs to.
But that does not mean that the Jayhawks can ease up and cruise into a game without emphasizing the importance of staying out of foul trouble.
Self referenced that following Tuesday night’s rout of Texas Southern and said avoiding careless fouls would be an ongoing point of emphasis for the team, at least until January and likely throughout the season.
“When you go into a game, well, what’s the key to the game? Getting everybody to halftime with two or less,” Self said. “That shouldn’t be your game plan going into a game, but it’s kind of like that right now.”
That does not, however, mean that Self wants his team to ease up. In fact, during Tuesday’s victory, after Lagerald Vick picked up his second foul right in front of the KU bench, Self immediately looked at Vick and said, “That’s OK. That’s OK.”
The reason? Self had been telling his team to get up and pressure throughout the game, and Vick got the message.
So Kansas will continue to play with that mentality, while keeping in mind the need to avoid sloppy fouls away from the basket or at the wrong end of the floor.
KU forward Mitch Lightfoot vs. Bill Self
While Lightfoot is still relatively young and inexperienced, Self has not held back on raising the bar of expectations for the sophomore forward.
Though always willing to mix it up and scrap for whatever Kansas needs him to do, Lightfoot’s time on the court so far this season has not been quite as productive as most, including him, would like.
In four games, the 6-foot-8 sophomore has snagged just 11 rebounds for an average of 2.8 per game. While two of those games featured Lightfoot playing just six and seven minutes, the second of KU’s two true big men playing thus far logged 23 minutes on Tuesday night and managed three rebounds, much to the disappointment of Self.
“(It’s) one thing to battle, but you also have to produce, too,” Self said of Lightfoot’s latest outing. “To play that many minutes and only get three rebounds against a small team, that’s not good enough. He’s got to do better in that area.”
Lightfoot’s an intelligent player, so there’s no doubt he’ll take the challenge from his coach head on, against a team who Self said is “always good” and would “have some firepower.”
It’s never too early to start preparing for important stretches of the season, and the Jayhawks appear to be right in the middle of one of those times.
With two home games remaining — tonight vs. Oakland and Tuesday vs. Toledo — before heading to Miami to face Syracuse, KU coach Bill Self said KU’s next two contests could be as important as any they’ll have all season.
“The next two games for us, at home, are key,” Self said. “We need to play well against Oakland and Toledo before we go on the road to face Syracuse.”
While the Syracuse matchup will not be a true road game, it will be just the second trip in the careers of nearly half of KU’s roster. And that always brings a much different vibe and routine than playing at Allen Fieldhouse.
One of the key intangibles this team has going for it is the fact that a thin bench makes it much easier for everyone to be on the same page. Roles are clearly defined, guys know how many minutes they’ll play and often when those minutes will come, and the entire group seems to be surging toward the same goals week after week, night after night and possession after possession.
No. 3 Kansas
G – Devonte’ Graham, 6-2, 185, Sr.
G – Malik Newman, 6-3, 190, Soph.
G – Svi Mykhailiuk, 6-8, 205, Sr.
G – Lagerald Vick, 6-5, 175, Jr.
C – Udoka Azubuike, 7-0, 280, Soph.
G – Brailen Neely, 5-9, 154, Soph.
G – Kendrick Nunn, 6-3, 184, Sr.
G – Martez Walker, 6-6, 185, Sr.
G – James Beck, 6-8, 210, Fr.
F – Isaiah Brock, 6-8, 191, Soph.