The Kansas Jayhawks handled the Emporia State Spartans on Wednesday night, making use of their lone exhibition game this season with an 86-60 victory.
After a relatively slow start for the offense the Jayhawks were able to pour it on throughout the first half, going into the break leading 51-25. It was an efficient half for KU, too, with the Jayhawks shooting 61.8% from the field in the opening 20 minutes and 60% from three-point range.
The onslaught continued, albeit at a less dominant pace, following the break. Kansas got 14 players on the floor against Emporia State, 12 of whom scored.
“I think it was a pretty good dress rehearsal in the first half,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “In the second half I don’t think we played near as well.”
It was the senior class that led the way for KU in the win, with guards Ochai Agbaji and Remy Martin, and center David McCormack all scoring over 15 points.
Agbaji paced the Jayhawks with a team-high 17 points, scorching the Hornets from deep with a 5-of-7 performance from beyond the arc, part of a 6-of-12 night shooting overall. McCormack came two rebounds shy of a double-double in the preseason battle, scoring 16 points, including a 6-of-6 effort at the free throw line, plus a game-high eight rebounds.
Martin made his KU debut on Wednesday night and the Arizona State transfer dazzled, going 7-of-10 from the floor for 15 points and leading the team in assists with four, putting together an impressive highlight reel of scoring plays along the way.
Bringing personality to the floor will be one of the persistent themes for Martin this season and it was on Wednesday night as well. Self mentioned it during his halftime interview on ESPN+, and it was a common topic during his postgame press conference.
“He’s got a great personality. I wish he would try a little bit harder defensively,” Self said. “I thought he did some good things, but you should play to beat Michigan State, not to beat Emporia State.”
Martin described his personality and how it ties in to his love of the game, and when it comes out on the court.
“It’s just who I am,” Martin said, later adding: “I just like having fun when the time is right.”
As for the criticisms and motivational tactics by Self, including the aforementioned comment about defense and keeping him out of the starting lineup against Emporia State, Martin said he appreciates the way Self challenges him.
“I think I haven’t been doing my part of the deal,” Martin said. “Coach requires me to bring a lot more on the court and he challenges me every single game.”
Junior guard Christian Braun was KU’s only other player in double figures, scoring 10 points in the win. The only players who didn’t score for KU were senior forward Cam Martin, a transfer from Missouri Southern State, and senior guard Chris Teahan, who started the game.
Emporia State’s scoring effort was led by senior Tray Buchanan, who scored a game-high 19 points on 4-11 shooting from the floor but 11-of-11 on free throws. Other Hornets in double figures included center Mayuom Buom with 14 points and Jumah’Ri Turner, a second-team All-MIAA selection a year ago, with 13.
While Wednesday’s contest won’t count record-wise, it was still an important night for off the court for the KU program with fan attendance unrestricted for the first time since 2020.
“It’s like Christmas came early,” McCormack said. “I was happy not only for myself but also for the new guys.”
Self had discussed the fact that most young players in the program had never experienced a full Allen Fieldhouse crowd during Big 12 Basketball Tip-Off. One of those newcomers, sophomore Joseph Yesefu, embraced the experience.
“It’s a dream come true, I’ve been watching Kansas play since I was a kid,” Yesefu said.
Martin echoed that sentiment, recalling his first time playing at Allen Fieldhouse when he was at Arizona State and discussing what it’s like to now play home games in Lawrence.
“I love this place,” Martin said. “The team itself is really coming together, I love this group of guys. Being on this side of the team is not something I’m taking for granted and I’m very grateful for it.”
With the exhibition and scrimmage portion of the schedule out of the way, the Jayhawks will start the regular season this Tuesday night against the Michigan State Spartans in the Champions Classic. This year’s Champions Classic will take place at Madison Square Garden in New York City. They’ll return to Allen Fieldhouse on Friday, Nov. 12 to face Tarleton State.