LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) – Top prospect Andrew Wiggins scored 16 points in his Allen Fieldhouse debut, leading Kansas to a 97-57 rout of Pittsburg State in its exhibition opener Tuesday night.
Wiggins, who many believe will be the No. 1 pick in next year’s NBA draft, got off to an inauspicious start for the Jayhawks when he traveled the first time he touched the ball. Wiggins appeared jittery playing in front of a raucous crowd and struggled to get into rhythm.
Then again, new rules against hand-checking led to a plethora of fouls, and nobody got into much of a rhythm. The teams combined for 50 fouls and 61 free throws.
Wiggins wasn’t without highlights. He made a strong move along the baseline to score his first basket of the game, and then caught an alley-oop pass from Jamari Traylor and slammed it down over the Gorillas’ Trevor Gregory as the crowd roared.
Wiggins returned the favor later in the game, throwing up a pass that 7-footer Joel Embiid – another of the Jayhawks’ talented freshmen – threw down over a defender.
Perry Ellis had 16 points and eight rebounds, Andrew White III added 12 points and freshman Brannen Greene finished with 10 for the Jayhawks, who were chosen as co-favorites with Oklahoma State to win the Big 12 for an unprecedented 10th straight season.
Devon Branch had 25 points for Pittsburg State and Alex Williams added 15.
The Gorillas, a strong Division II program, hung around most of the first half. Josiah Gustafson’s 3-pointer just past the midway point got them within 21-20, and at one point Kansas coach Bill Self irritatingly called a timeout to lay into his defense.
Whatever he said in the huddle must have worked.
The Jayhawks went on a 12-2 run over the next few minutes, seizing control of the game. The production came from just about everyone in their young but talented lineup, including Wiggins, who started it with a basket and ended it with his rim-rattling dunk.
Kansas led 50-32 at halftime, and stretched the lead to 60-36 in the opening minutes of the second half, allowing Self to start tinkering with lineups the rest of the way.
He won’t have much time to play around with them.
The Jayhawks play Fort Hays State in their final exhibition game next Tuesday, and then open the season against Louisiana Monroe on Nov. 8. But the patsies end in a hurry – after that, the Jayhawks face Duke as part of the Champions Classic in Chicago, and then embark on the rest of a loaded non-conference slate that includes games at Florida and against Georgetown.
All before the start of a rugged Big 12 slate.