Recently, Kansas head coach Bill Self has talked a lot about energy.
Namely, that his team needed more of it. A lot more of it. Because with it, Self thinks his team is capable of beating anyone.
But without it, well…
"I think we get real average, real fast when we don't (play with energy," he said Wednesday, during his weekly press conference.
If Thursday's penultimate non-conference game is any indication, it appears as if the message may have been successfully delivered, as the Jayhawks crushed the Bison of Howard University, 89-34.
"I really didn't know what to expect, but I thought we played with more energy for sure," Self said. "I thought we did a decent job. They missed shots and didn't attack the basket real hard inside, so I don't know how well we defended, but I think we defended better than what we had been."
"I thought we did some good things," he added. "Other than defensive rebounding, I thought we were pretty good tonight."
Kansas opened the game with a bang, when center Jeff Withey won the opening tip and sprinted down the floor to receive a lob from point guard Tyshawn Taylor. The big seven-footer threw it down despite being fouled, then converted the traditional three-point play.
The game clock read 19:55. Withey was amped, Allen Fieldhouse was rocking and the game was, for all intents and purposes, over.
The Jayhawks raced out to a 10-2 lead on the strength of Withey's "and-1," a driving layup by Elijah Johnson, a short jumper by Thomas Robinson and a three-pointer by Travis Releford.
That opening salvo was a microcosm of how the night went for Self's squad. Kansas spread the ball around, assisting on 23 of their 33 successful field goal attempts, and just three players scored in double figures. Conner Teahan - who was 3-of-5 from deep - and Tyshawn Taylor - who himself was 3-of-4 from beyond the arc - both tallied 13, while Withey pumped in 10. Eleven of the 13 Jayhawks who saw action scored at least one bucket.
At halftime, the score was 42-13, and Kansas kept up the intensity in the second half. That ability to maintain such a high level of productivity, regardless of the competition, bodes well for the Jayhawks, as the final 20 minutes saw deep bench get significant minutes on the court.
With depth a constant concern for this team, and Self wanting more from his backups, their play was refreshing. Freshman point guard Naadir Tharpe dished out five assists, and junior forward Kevin Young scored seven points and grabbed six rebounds in just 18 minutes.
"I thought they did fine," Self said, of his bench. "That's a good game for them to get a lot of minutes. I thought Naadir did some good things and made some really nice passes, and Kevin did some good things. Justin (Wesley) didn't play as much in the teeth of the game, but I thought they all did some good things."
On an off-the-court note, Kansas City native, "Saturday Night Live" cast member and well-known Kansas fan Jason Sudeikis was behind the Jayhawks bench tonight, along with girlfriend Olivia Wilde - known to most as Dr. Remy "Thirteen" Hadley on the popular Fox drama "House."
The two were sporting Kansas gear, and drew a massive cheer from the sold out Fieldhouse crowd during a timeout.
"I like Jason okay, but I was really looking forward to meeting her and they left early," Self said during the post-game presser, a broad grin on his face.
Kansas next takes to the court Saturday at 3 p.m., as North Dakota comes to town for the final non-conference game of the season.