3 takeaways from Kansas men’s basketball’s 88-59 victory against Stony Brook

Jordan Guskey
Topeka Capital-Journal

LAWRENCE — Kansas men’s basketball improved to 3-0 this season Thursday with an 88-59 victory at home against Stony Brook.

The win pushed the No. 3 Jayhawks to 2-0 at Allen Fieldhouse, with the star once again being senior guard Ochai Agbaji. Kansas may have only led by six points at halftime, but in the second half it shot much better from behind the arc and defended the Seawolves’ three-point shooting more effectively to win by 29 points. And the Jayhawks came away with such a commanding victory without either senior forward David McCormack or super-senior guard Remy Martin playing at least 20 minutes.

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“This preseason, when we’re playing teams like this, they’re coming in here with a lot of energy,” said Agbaji, asked about how much fun he’s having with the team right now. “So, it’s just good practice for us. But it’s a lot of fun and I love my team. They’re coming along. All the new guys, newcomers, are coming along. But that’s all we can ask for them. But I’m having fun with them.”

Here are three takeaways from Kansas’ win:

Ochai Agbaji stars again

Kansas senior guard Ochai Agbaji (30) reacts to his shot going in against Stony Brook during the second half of Thursday's game inside Allen Fieldhouse.

As freshman forward Zach Clemence talked about Agbaji postgame, Clemence referred to him as a leader on the team who can do it all and will keep getting better. Redshirt sophomore guard Dajuan Harris Jr. thinks if Agbaji continues to play at this level the Jayhawks can be really good, and considers it his job to get Agbaji open looks. Kansas head coach Bill Self thinks Agbaji is letting everything come within the flow of the game, and that Agbaji’s performance against Michigan State in the opener did wonders for Agbaji’s confidence.

Agbaji finished the game with 25 points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals and two turnovers in about 30 minutes of action. It’s his third-straight game scoring at least 25 points to start the season. Not even Self thought Agbaji would be ranking so high among scorers in the country at this point in the season.

“He looks like a pro out there to me,” Self said. “He looks really good.”

Agbaji finished the night short of reaching 1,000 career points, and will head to the team’s tournament in Florida later this month with 999. Self had put Agbaji back in the game late for the purpose of getting to that milestone at home, having been told where things stood with it, but it didn’t materialize and Agbaji was soon taken back out.

Agbaji said he came into the season focusing on consistently being assertive, not how many points he may score. Self did point out that Agbaji has only taken two free throws combined the past two games, and that could be an area of emphasis moving forward.

3-point shooting plays a key role

Kansas freshman forward Zach Clemence (21) reacts after sinking a three-pointer during the second half of Thursday's game against Stony Brook inside Allen Fieldhouse.

Stony Brook (0-2) was able to keep it close with Kansas in the first half, in part, because of its ability to hit shots from behind the arc and the Jayhawks’ inability to do so. The Seawolves were 6-for-13 while the Jayhawks were 2-for-10. But in the second half Stony Brook was only 3-for-12 on 3s and Kansas was 8-for-18, and the Jayhawks pulled away.

Harris thought they guarded more effectively in the second half than they did in the first. Self expressed a similar sentiment, and added that they allowed the Seawolves guards to walk into too many shots overall. Kansas, Self said, did well guarding Stony Brook’s offensive actions but not Stony Brook’s players.

“I think of the six 3s they made, I think five of them were off the bounce,” said Self, referring to what upset him about the first half specifically. “So, that’s what disappointed me the most.”

Overall, Kansas shot 35-for-70 (50 percent) from the field and 10-for-28 (35.7 percent) on 3s. Stony Brook shot 21-for-56 (37.5 percent) from the field and 9-for-25 (36 percent) on 3s. Tykei Greene led the Seawolves in scoring with 11 points. McCormack had 12 points, Clemence 11 and junior guard Christian Braun 11, as they finished in double figures scoring alongside Agbaji.

Remy Martin tweaked his back

Kansas senior guard Remy Martin (11) dribbles down court during the first half of Thursday's game against Stony Brook inside Allen Fieldhouse.

Martin only played about 18 minutes, with the majority of that coming in the first half, and finished without any points on two missed shots from the field. He did have four rebounds and two assists, but overall wasn’t very effective. And based on what Self revealed postgame, it’s clear why.

Self said that Martin tweaked his back in the last week and then tweaked it again against Stony Brook. It’s why, at times, Martin wasn’t moving around very well. It had forced him to miss a couple practices in the lead-up to the game against the Seawolves, although he had been full-go for a couple practices, too.

Self did dispel any notion that Martin’s status for the tournament in Florida might be in question.

“He’ll be fine,” Self said.

Other guards stepped up in Martin’s stead, with Self thinking sophomore guard Joseph Yesufu played his best game to date. Yesufu finished with five points and three rebounds in about 16 minutes of action. Kansas finished with 18 points off of 14 Stony Brook turnovers, while the Seawolves had seven points off of seven Jayhawks turnovers.

Jordan Guskey covers University of Kansas Athletics at The Topeka Capital-Journal. Contact him at jmguskey@gannett.com or on Twitter at @JordanGuskey.