KU’s men’s basketball team went through an easy practice, open to the public, at the Scottrade Center in downtown St. Louis Thursday afternoon, in preparation for Friday’s NCAA-tournament opener against Eastern Kentucky.
The Jayhawks (24-9) will be playing their fifth game without injured superstar freshman center Joel Embiid, but foremost on their mind was moving past their most recent game, a 94-83 loss to Iowa State in the Big 12 Tournament’s semifinal. The Cyclones’ 94 points were the most scored against any of coach Bill Self’s KU teams in a regulation game.
“A loss isn’t all bad if you learn from it,” said senior forward Tarik Black, “and that’s what we did. We’d rather learn our lesson earlier than later.”
Eastern Kentucky (24-9) is one of the country’s best 3-point shooting teams, forcing the Jayhawks to find the defense that’s been missing since Embiid’s departure.
“It does change,” Self said of his defense without Embiid guarding the rim, “because we can make mistakes before and mistakes can be wiped away. And now mistakes turn into layups. … In the games in which we lost, teams shot a lot of easy baskets, in large part because we made a lot of the mistakes we have been making but he wasn’t there to clean them up. So we have to be much sounder out on the perimeter.”
Self said that should KU advance from St. Louis to Memphis, he hopes Embiid, who has a back injury, will be able to practice next week and perhaps be ready to join the Jayhawks in the Sweet 16 next Thursday in Memphis.
The KU Alumni Association’s pregame rally is set for Friday at America’s Center Convention Center, adjacent to the Edward Jones Dome, about 1 mile from the Scottrade Center. Doors open at 9:30 a.m. for Alumni Association and Williams Education Fund members, and open admittance for the general public begins at 10. The pep band, cheerleaders and mascots are expected to arrive at 11:45. The event will remain open as a TV watch party site for those without tickets to the game.
The is no cost to attend, and concession stands and cash bars will be available, as will a stand to purchase crimson-and-blue gear from the KU Store.
For more information, visit kualumni.org/hawksandhoops or call 800.584.2957.
Watch a slideshow of photos from KU’s open practice below, or click here to view the pictures on Flickr.
All photos by Steve Puppe.