(AP) – Kansas coach Bill Self expected his team to be much different than the squad that went deep into last season’s NCAA tournament. Though the victories are still coming, the manner in which they’ve been obtained has surprised Self.
The 13th-ranked Jayhawks likely will be tested again Tuesday night when they host Long Beach State, which already has an impressive road win on its resume.
Kansas (5-2) is coming off back-to-back sluggish home performances, committing 17 turnovers in a 77-54 win over Florida Atlantic on Wednesday before overcoming a rough first half to beat South Florida 70-42 on Saturday.
The Jayhawks led by only three at halftime Saturday, but Tyshawn Taylor scored 20 of his 24 points in the second half to help Kansas pull away.
“They’ve taken it to a different level than I ever imagined,” Self said. “We were awful (in the first half). I told our guys before the season that we were going to have to really enjoy winning ugly because we don’t have as many offensive weapons like we’ve had in the past.”
Kansas lost four of its top five scorers from last season’s team that fell to Virgina Commonwealth in the regional final, with Taylor – who averaged 9.3 points in 2010-11 – returning for his senior season.
Self also said the Jayhawks have been struggling with an illness that has struck most of the team – including himself – and could have played a role in the recent less-than-stellar performances.
“We’ve all got the crud. The crud’s going around,” he said. “That’s no excuse. But head colds, guys not practicing. Throwing up. We’ve had several people at the infirmary, including the coach. They haven’t felt great.”
Long Beach State (4-3) won’t have much sympathy, as it prepares to face the first of two straight difficult road tests.
After this contest at Phog Allen Fieldhouse, the 49ers travel to Chapel Hill for a date with No. 4 North Carolina on Saturday.
Long Beach State hasn’t been shy about facing top-notch competition this season, as Kansas will be the third top-10 team it will have played – all on the road.
The 49ers upset then-No. 9 Pittsburgh 86-76 behind 28 points from Casper Ware on Nov. 16, then fell to then-No. 6 Louisville 79-66 on Nov. 28.
Long Beach State also will play at No. 8 Xavier on Dec. 22 before opening its Big West schedule.
The 49ers have spread out their scoring, with Ware leading the team at 17.1 points per game. Larry Anderson (15.1) and T.J. Robinson (13.7) also have contributed solid efforts.
Anderson scored a team-high 16 points while Ware added 13 and Robinson 12 in a 79-43 win over Division II BYU-Hawaii on Friday.
The 49ers picked up arguably the school’s most prominent victory in their last trip to Lawrence, beating then-No. 1 Kansas 64-49 on Jan. 25, 1993. Long Beach State had not beaten another top-10 team until defeating Pittsburgh.
The Jayhawks won the only two prior meetings, 69-52 on Dec. 21, 1970, and 66-60 on Dec. 7, 1991.
Updated December 5, 2011