Season opener offensive jitters were not a factor for Kansas in the Jayhawks' 102-90 loss to Gonzaga in the Rocket Mortgage Fort Myers Tip-Off Thursday.
It was the exact opposite, as Kansas could not stop Gonzaga’s offense and the Bulldogs finished the game shooting a whopping 65% from the field. Five Gonzaga players finished in double figures, with three — sophomore forward Drew Timme, freshman point guard Jalen Suggs and senior forward Corey Kispert — scoring over 20 points.
Worst 2P% allowed by a Bill Self-led Kansas team. pic.twitter.com/UehL5v2Ueg— Ken Pomeroy (@kenpomeroy) November 26, 2020
“Us not being able to guard them, I don’t think was a huge surprise,” Kansas coach Bill Self said after the game. “Defensively we were never really connected today. We got discombobulated and could never really get it back.”
The loss of rim protector Udoka Azubuike to the NBA was apparent for Kansas Thursday. Junior forward David McCormack failed to alter shots inside, and the Kansas defense allowed Gonzaga 62 points in the paint. Timme and Corey Kispert — Gonzaga’s two big men — also combined for 58 points.
Via @ESPNStatsInfo: Gonzaga finished with 62 points in the paint. Kansas had not allowed more than 46 points in the paint in a game in the last 15 seasons.— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) November 26, 2020
“[McCormack] struggled today,” Self said. “David’s got to be a better ball screen defender and certainly he’s got to be a better lane and rim protector. He just didn’t have one of his better games [Thursday].”
Kansas also had no answer for Suggs, who finished with 24 points and eight assists. Senior guard Marcus Garrett spent most of the game guarding Suggs, but could not disrupt his offensive rhythm.
Suggs started off the game with a resounding alley-oop dunk. He was given a technical after hanging on the rim, but it set the tone early for Gonzaga.
“I know I can’t do that anymore, but I mean that’s just the emotion I play with and passion I carry on the court,” Suggs said. “That play really fired me up, fired the team up and I think from then on we just started rolling.”
Despite the defensive struggles, Kansas fared well on the offensive end, shooting 53% from the field and 44% from three-point range. Garrett led Kansas with 22 points, followed by junior guard Ochai Agbaji with 17 and freshman guard Bryce Thompson with 12 points off the bench. Again, the Jayhawks scored 90 points Thursday, normally more than enough to win plenty of games at the college level.
“I can’t remember the last time we scored 90 points and we didn’t win the game,” Self said.
Gonzaga’s use of ball screens was a crucial part in the team's efficient offensive performance. At times, Kansas looked lost with its switching, resulting in easy looks for Gonzaga.
“We've got multiple guys we can put in ball screens now,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said after the game. “We have many people we trust in those ball screens and they all shoot it well. It gives us a lot of options.”
Kansas also failed to keep Gonzaga from scoring easy baskets in transition. The Bulldogs finished with 28 fast break points and 20 points off Kansas turnovers.
“We’re not going to beat anybody unless we guard better,” Self said. “If you’re going to figure out how good you are defensively, you might as well face the best offensive team in the country, and that’s what we did today.”
Kansas will look to right the ship against St. Joseph’s for game two of the Fort Myers Tip-Off on Friday. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m.