Kansas certainly did not plan on giving fewer minutes to a preseason All-Big 12 pick at the beginning of Big 12 play.
For that matter, David McCormack still could be an integral contributor for the No. 6 Jayhawks (11-1) as they head into Tuesday night’s matchup against Oklahoma State (7-4) at Stillwater, Okla.
The game will be the conference opener for both teams.
McCormack was disappointing throughout non-conference play and in the Jayhawks’ most recent tuneup, a 76-67 victory Saturday over George Mason, where he gave way to backup Mitch Lightfoot.
Lightfoot, looking much more agile and confident in the post, tied a career best with 14 points while going 7-for-7 from the field.
“I’m not hunting shots. I’m just trying to find stuff within the rhythm of the offense,” Lightfoot said. “If you take out the post in any offense, it makes it stale. I just go out there and give them what they need out of that post position. (Against George Mason,) it was scoring, and I was glad I was able to convert on those jump hooks.”
What Lightfoot also provides is experience as a sixth-year senior, and he was joined by another veteran, Jalen Coleman-Lands, who came to Kansas this season as his fourth Division I stop.
Coleman-Lands went 7-for-9 against George Mason and netted a team-high 20 points as the Jayhawks relied on the deep quality of their bench.
“That’s pretty impressive, 14-for-16 from those two,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “It’s actually very encouraging moving forward.”
The performances might not prompt Self to alter his starting lineup, but he has no reason to be fearful about counting on his reserves. Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun each had off nights but remain one of the top scoring tandems in college basketball, averaging 20.6 and 17.0 points a game, respectively.
The Jayhawks rank among the national leaders with an 85.2-point scoring average.
Kansas will look for starter Remy Martin (knee injury) to return against Oklahoma State, which will present the Jayhawks their first true road game of the season.
The Cowboys also will be playing their Big 12 opener after COVID-19 concerns within their program led to Saturday’s postponement of a game against Texas Tech. Oklahoma State has not played since a 72-61 loss to then-No. 14 Houston on Dec. 18.
Avery Anderson III and Bryce Williams average 12.5 and 12.0 points, respectively, as the only double-digit scorers for the Cowboys, who enter Big 12 play with the league’s lowest scoring margin (8.5).
Oklahoma State got banned from the NCAA Tournament after its appeal of a ruling stemming from an FBI bribery investigation did not get overturned.
“It’s a classic case of the punishment not fitting the crime,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton said. “So what do we have to prove now? We can go out and prove we’re one of the best teams in the country.”
That could require significant improvement after the most high-profile win in non-conference play came against North Carolina State to capture the Basketball Hall of Fame Showcase on Nov. 17.
–Field Level Media