KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP)—So how does a team set a school record with 15 blocked shots while getting outrebounded?
Kansas coach Bill Self can’t wait to study film of the 12th-ranked Jayhawks’ 68-58 victory over Toledo on Saturday and find out.
In what will probably be their last game in venerable Kemper Arena, the Jayhawks held a huge size advantage over the plucky Rockets (2-5), whose tallest starter was only 6-foot-6. while Kansas (8-2) had five players 6-8 or taller.
Yet, Toledo managed to push the Jayhawks all game long, finishing with 37-35 rebound advantage.
“Sometimes rebounding stats can be a little misleading,” said Self, studying the stat sheet of a game he called “a dud.” “They got six offensive rebounds that went out of bounds. But if you break it down … our big guys combined for two offensive rebounds, which is absolutely bad.”
There weren’t many offensive rebounds to be had in the first half while the Jayhawks missed only six shots and shot a sizzling 73 percent. But in the second half, having trouble with the Rockets’ zone defense, Kansas missed 20 of its first 26 from the field.
Six-11 Sasha Kaun had four blocks and was 5-for-5 from the field, while 6-6 Brandon Rush broke out of his shooting slump with 19 points and added four blocks.
“It seems kind of strange,” Rush said of the disparity in rebounds to blocks. “They shot a lot of 3s, so there were some long rebounds. They were quicker than us to get to the defensive rebounds. But we contested every shot and we had 15 blocks, so I think we did pretty good defensive-wise.”
Rush, a preseason All-America who was just 7-for-29 from the field in his three previous games, hit four of his first five 3-point attempts.
“My teammates were looking for me,” he said. “I’ve been in a little slump so they were just trying to help me out a lot. They found me, and I started making some 3s. I didn’t do anything different, but it felt good.”
Keonta Howell, coming off a 32-point game against Vanderbilt, had 18 points for Toledo and Justin Ingram had 13.
“Fifteen blocks? That’s got to be a school record,” Toledo coach Stan Joplin said. “That makes their defense so much better when they have guys blocking shots like that. It’s tough to finish over a bunch of trees like that.”
Howell, who came into the game 11th in the country with almost four 3-pointers per game, was 4-for-6 from behind the arc.
“When we ran the offense and thought we executed it pretty good and had an easy shot, somebody would just come out of nowhere and block it,” Howell said. “It was tough to get baskets inside.”
Barring construction delays at the new Sprint Center in downtown Kansas City, this was the Jayhawks’ last game at Kemper, the scene of its victory over Oklahoma in the 1988 NCAA championship game and the longtime home of the Big Eight, later the Big 12, tournaments.
Opposing coaches bitterly referred to Kemper as “Allen Fieldhouse East” because of the pro-Kansas crowd that always jammed the oddly shaped barn-like building where the Jayhawks compiled an 80-24 record.
But while this was probably their last game in a building that holds so many fond memories, the Jayhawks would hate for this to be the game they are remembered for.
“The thing that disappoints me is we just haven’t quite got that nitty-gritty, tough mind-set yet,” Self said. “We’re just good guys out there playing ball. And that will never work.”
The Rockets led by six points early when Ingram hit Toledo’s third 3-pointer, but then Darrell Arthur ignited a 15-0 run for the Jayhawks capped by Russell Robinson’s 3-pointer that made it 29-20.
Toledo’s seven-game road swing to start the season is the longest in the program’s 91-year history. By the time Toledo plays its first home game on Dec. 16, every Division I team but two will have played at home.
“We kind of panicked a little bit down the stretch,” Joplin said. “We had them where we wanted to, and we just didn’t capitalize. When you play against a team like this, it’s very tough.”