It’s just another way for Bill Self to validate that he is the greatest coach in Kansas basketball history.
Self’s No. 7 Jayhawks beat Siena, 86-65 on Friday night, earning the legendary coach his 207th career win at Allen Fieldhouse. Self now stands alone with 207 career home wins, the most by any basketball coach in KU history.
It’s fitting that the record-breaking win played out similarly to so many other victories Self has coached his team to in that very building. Kansas led most of the way, and when things tightened, a vintage Jayhawk run ended any doubt that Self’s team would triumph.
In what was Kansas’ home opener, the Saints of Siena opened the night by hitting jump shots and playing an extremely active offense. The two teams played even for the first eight minutes, but as the half went on, Kansas pulled ahead behind Carlton Bragg’s best performance of the year. Bragg scored 10 of his career-high 15 points in the first half, ultimately helping the Jayhawks take a 40-30 lead into the locker room.
It had been a frustrating first week of the season for Bragg, who was pegged as a breakout candidate after stepping into the power forward position. He struggled to rebound the ball and stay out of foul trouble in KU’s first two games, but on Friday night, he showcased why NBA scouts speculate this could be his last year in school.
Bragg finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds in 27 minutes, all three figures being career highs. And while Siena isn’t a powerhouse, Bragg was matched up with Brett Bisping, a 6’8″ senior forward who averaged more than 10 rebounds per game last year. Bragg won the battle, holding Bisping to three points on 1-for-6 shooting and just three rebounds.
In the second half, Kansas’ hero from its first two games took over. Frank Mason led the Jayhawks with 18 points, but lackluster play by KU and hot shooting by Saints guard Marquis Wright shrunk the Jayhawks lead down bit by bit. After Josh Jackson fouled Wright on a three-pointer, the senior guard made all three free throws to close the deficit to 63-58 with 7:26 left.
It was all Jayhawks after that, as Kansas immediately ignited an 18-2 run. Lagerald Vick keyed the run, and just like Bragg, Vick set career highs in points (12), rebounds (eight), and minutes (31). He fit right in with Mason and Devonte’ Graham. Suddenly, Kansas’ two-headed monster backcourt looks like a three-headed monster backcourt. It’s remarkable how smooth Vick’s transition has been from bench player to significant contributor this year. He’s having the best games of his career despite having not found his three-point shot yet this year. His high basketball IQ and rebounding ability allows him to compete even when his shot isn’t falling, which is exactly what Self is looking for.
If there’s one thing to be concerned about for Kansas, it’s three-point shooting. The Jayhawks were just 3-for-12 on three-pointers Friday night, dropping their season line to 12-for-54 (22%). Through just three games, Kansas has been outscored by 57 points on threes. This is a team that shot 40% from deep last year, so it will almost certainly turn around, but it’s been a problem in the early going.
Up next: the Jayhawks head to Kansas City for the CBE Hall of Fame Classic. On Monday, Kansas will oppose the University of Alabama-Birmingham in semifinal play.
- Carlton Bragg: 15 points (5/8 FG), 11 rebounds, and 27 minutes. This was the game fans were hoping to see from him. And though it may not seem like it, he put up his numbers against a very quality opposing big man.
- Frank Mason: 18 points (6/13 FG), four rebounds, and three assists in a KU-high 35 minutes. He’s the best player on the team. There’s not a whole lot to learn from here.
- Devonte’ Graham: 13 points (4/7 FG) and nine assists to zero turnovers (!). He was terrific, and it was the first time this year we’ve seen him look healthy enough to play an entire game.
- Josh Jackson: 11 points (5/6 FG), five rebounds, and four turnovers in 21 minutes. It was the exact same story from Jackson that we saw in the Duke game: he can dominate a game for stretches, but he can’t stop fouling, which means these runs are always short-lived. He’ll figure it out soon.
- Landen Lucas: six points, five rebounds, and a career-best five blocks in 21 minutes. Lucas was fantastic defensively. Fans should definitely be happy with his performance.
- Lagerald Vick: 12 points (6/9 FG) and eight rebounds in 32 minutes. His improvement is remarkable. He’s legitimately one of the best players on this team.
- Svi Mykhailiuk: eight points (3/7 FG) in 19 minutes. He’s the only one on the team who has shot the ball well from three so far this year, so his role at this point is pretty important.
- Udoka Azubuike: one point and three boards in seven minutes. I was surprised that he didn’t play more than he did, but when Bragg and Lucas were playing well and KU had four guards all clicking, there was no spot for him.
- Tyler Self hit a two-point jumper late and the building nearly came unglued.
- Kansas shot 57% from the floor – that’s 66% on twos and 25% on threes. Eventually, it’ll even out.
- Marquis Wright is a tremendous player. The senior guard led the Saints with 25 points.
- Kansas out-rebounded the Saints 42-28. After the Indiana game when fans were panicked about the rebounding, nobody would have anticipated KU out-rebounding Duke and Siena by a combined 23 boards.
- 41 straight home wins for Kansas. The streak spans nearly three years.