Kansas has the talent to be one of the top offensive teams in the nation, but coach Bill Self wants to make sure his squad takes pride in its defense.
The second-ranked Jayhawks seek a more complete defensive effort while looking to continue their non-conference dominance at Allen Fieldhouse on Friday night against Towson.
Behind star freshman Andrew Wiggins and improved sophomore Perry Ellis, Kansas (3-0) is averaging 86.7 points and shooting 55.7 percent. Ellis had 21 points with seven rebounds and 7-foot freshman reserve Joel Embiid added 16 and 13 boards on Tuesday for the Jayhawks, who shot 56.9 percent and recorded 23 assists in an 86-66 win over Iona.
However, the Gaels shot 44.8 percent and made six 3-pointers through the first 20 minutes to trail by five at the half. It was a bit concerning for Self after his team allowed Duke to shoot 51.7 percent during a 94-83 victory Nov. 12.
Kansas stepped up in the second half, holding Iona to 32.1 percent from the field.
"We didn't come ready to play in the first half at all," Self said. "If you don't play with great energy, it is hard to play good defense. We came out better in the second half. We did some good things."
Kansas' superior athletic advantage eventually showed up behind Ellis and Embiid.
Ellis, who averaged 5.8 points last season, totaled 45 against Duke and Iona following a 12-point effort in an 80-63 win over Louisiana-Monroe on Nov. 8.
"I feel a lot more confident," he said. "Just trusting myself now."
Ellis shares the team lead of 8.0 rebounds per game with Embiid, who grew up playing volleyball in Cameroon and didn't take up basketball until he was 16. He recorded seven rebounds and five assists while playing 20 minutes against the Blue Devils.
"He'll look good some days, he won't look as good some days," Self said. "He's smart. He gets it. He's figuring things out all the time. I'm real pleased with his development."
Though Kansas has won 65 straight non-conference games at home and took its first two meetings with Towson (3-1) by a combined 72 points, Self won't allow his team to take anything for granted Friday. The Tigers beat Temple 75-69 last Thursday during the same week they earned their first-ever vote in the Top 25.
"They are really good," Self said. "They can score. Next to Duke, this will be the best team we have played."
Towson, however, is coming off a 78-44 loss at Villanova on Sunday. It limited the Wildcats to 40.4 percent shooting, but made just 30.9 from the field and committed 24 turnovers.
Senior Jerrelle Benimon averages a team-leading 17.5 points and 11.8 rebounds but was held to 11 and six by Villanova.
Teammate Marcus Damas (10.8 ppg) missed all eight field-goal attempts and went scoreless in that contest. He had 11 points and seven rebounds during Towson's 100-54 loss at Kansas on Nov. 11, 2011.
This will be the highest-ranked opponent Towson has faced since falling to then-No. 2 Purdue 94-58 on Dec. 30, 1986.
Kansas is playing its opening-round contest in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, which it continues Thanksgiving Day against Wake Forest in the Bahamas.
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