LAWRENCE, Kan.–It is hallowed ground in college basketball. Tennessee State came to Allen Fieldhouse unfazed, yet unprepared for what awaited them. Being prepared had little to do with ‘Xs-and-Os.’ How can you really adequately prepare for an environment like this?
The Tigers scored the first basket representing 20 seconds with the lead; the #3 Kansas Jayhawks took it from there with a 92-56 season opening victory Friday night in front of the 259th consecutive sell-out crowd of 16,300. In our part of the world it is football moving the needle. Here it is hoops, and the pageantry of opening night is unlike anything anyone from Nashville had ever experienced. The Jayhawks are pretty good, too.
“There’s nothing like this,” Coach Dana Ford said. “We were here yesterday to practice and I told my wife, who made the trip, after leaving practice yesterday I fell in love with basketball again. Nothing can compare to this right here.”
No, it cannot.
Programs such as TSU’s have to play games like this to make ends meet. But it definitely served as a basketball coming of age. The lumps you may take on nights like these, must translate into lessons you carry against teams you can and should beat. For TSU that will be plenty of teams. I asked Coach Ford following the game just what he looks to gain from an experience unlike any other?
“I’ve been preaching to my team that they are not aggressive enough. The last couple of years, we’ve had veteran teams that have been aggressive, offensively and defensively. This is by far the most aggressive team that I have coached against and so hopefully they can get a taste of how good you can be when you get downhill and play aggressive against your like opponents.”
After Darreon Reddick’s layup 20 seconds in gave the Big Blue a 2-0 lead, Kansas scored the next 14 starting with back-to-back ‘3s’ from Lagerald Vick and preseason Big XII Player of the Year Devonte’ Graham. Kansas next plays Kentucky in the Champions Classic, and the truth of the matter is Kentucky would have had little more for them in that first half. KU shot 70% from the floor en route to a 56-27 advantage at the break, that despite nine turnovers, they would finish with 20. Hall of Fame Kansas Coach Bill Self’s assessment of the game seemed to echo Ford’s.
“I thought we tried to guard the first half, and I thought we really shared the ball in the first half. I didn’t think we shared the ball at all in the second half. I thought we played downhill and played fast in the first half,” Self said.
Reddick led the Tigers with 20 points with Delano Spencer the only other in double-figures with 14. Vick led KU with 23 pacing six in double-figures. Kansas shot 60% for the game and outrebounded the Tigers 45-23.