LAWRENCE, Kan. — Top-ranked Kansas has cruised to a pair of easy wins in a season that hasn't even begun.
At least, not as far as Bill Self is concerned.
After romping past North Carolina Central earlier in the week, the Jayhawks cruise to a 99-61 victory over Manhattan on Friday night. In both of the games, Kansas took a big early lead, shot the ball well and made life miserable for its opponents on defense.
“Now the season starts,” Self said. “We played fairly well getting through them but now we have to really hunker down.”
That's because the Jayhawks (2-0) have No. 16 Kentucky next in the Champions Classic on Tuesday night. Then they head to the Maui Invitational, where a stacked field includes No. 3 Purdue, No. 5 Marquette, No. 9 Tennessee, No. 11 Gonzaga, Syracuse and Tennessee. And soon after returning home, sixth-ranked and defending national champ UConn visits Allen Fieldhouse.
“It'll be a totally different animal than what we've experienced so far,” Self said, “but we'll be very excited about it.”
The Jayhawks got contributions from just about everyone on Friday night. Hunter Dickinson had 18 points and eight rebounds, Kevin McCullar Jr. and Johnny Furphy added 15 points apiece, and KJ Adams Jr. finished with 14 points. Elmarko Jackson added 10 assists and nine points.
“We're super athletic. You look at our roster, you have a lot of guys that can make a lot of different plays," McCullar said. We've got guys that can make high-impact plays and that gives us energy and life when we're playing at home."
Seydou Traore had 16 points to lead Manhattan (1-1), which trailed 17-4 in the opening minutes and 44-19 by halftime.
Unlike their opener, when the Jayhawks were lights-out from beyond the arc against North Carolina Central, they relied on their bruising interior players to beat up the Jaspers on Friday night.
The 6-foot-7 Adams, who played an undersized post most of last season, took advantage of the 7-2 Dickinson eating up space in the paint all night. The attention drawn by the Michigan transfer allowed Adams to get loose for six dunks, including one for the Jayhawks' first points and another on an ally-oop slam late in the first half.
“That's a pretty exciting way to play,” Furphy admitted. “It brings a lot of energy, definitely.”
The Jayhawks' massive size advantage paid off on defense, too. They had nine blocks by the time they hit the locker room, and that contributed to 9-for-33 first-half shooting by the Jaspers that allowed the game to get out of hand.
“It felt good," said Furphy, who scored his 15 points in just 20 minutes of floor time. “I think it's really exciting when we generate our offense from the defensive end. I think that's kind of the best way to play.”
Manhattan has a new coach in John Gallagher and almost an entirely new team, including seven freshmen and eight transfers. The growing pains were evident against the best team the Jaspers will likely face all season.
Kansas dominated across the board, out-rebounding the Jaspers 45-32, outscoring them in the paint 50-20 and shooting 57% percent from the field. If not for 14 turnovers, and some second-half defensive lapses, Self would have had little to critique.
Manhattan: Hosts Division II member Felician on Thursday night.
Kansas: Vs. Wisconsin on Tuesday night in Chicago.