Canadian Andrew Wiggins scored 16 points in his highly anticipated debut, leading No. 5 Kansas to a sluggish 80-63 victory over Louisiana-Monroe in its season opener Friday night.
Andrew White III and Perry Ellis added 12 points each for the youthful Jayhawks, who won't have a whole lot of time for all their newcomers to work out the kinks. Kansas, which is replacing all five starters from last season, plays No. 4 Duke on Tuesday night in Chicago.
Marvin Williams had 19 points and six rebounds for the Warhawks, who sure didn't look like a team that won just four games last season. They trailed 47-41 early in the second half before the quicker, more physical Jayhawks finally went on a 15-5 run to seize control.
Williams fouled out with 8:16 left in the game, and Louisiana-Monroe struggled the rest of the way as Wiggins and Co. made the final score appear much more comfortable.
The Jayhawks started three freshmen in Wiggins, Selden and Frank Mason, who got the nod at point guard with junior Naadir Tharpe serving a one-game suspension for playing in an unauthorized summer league game. Senior transfer Tarik Black also was in the starting lineup.
That left Perry Ellis as the only holdover from last season in the starting five.
Still, the unknown of all the fresh faces resulted in the same kind of energy inside Allen Fieldhouse that has accompanied just about every other home opener — Kansas has won 42 of them in a row. Students waited in lines hours before the doors opened before rushing to their seats.
All that fervour quickly subsided when it became apparent how far Kansas has to go.
Consecutive dunks by Williams in the first half, the second one after a turnover by Wiggins at the other end, gave the Warhawks a 15-13 lead and forced the Jayhawks to call a timeout.
It briefly served to settle down the young and rattled group on Bill Self's bench.
Making waves of substitutions, Kansas methodically regained the lead, and then pulled away on a jumper by Brannen Greene and a parade of free throws. But it was still just 42-32 at halftime, and Self's jaw was clenched as he followed his team to the locker room.
He wasn't any happier early in the second half, when the Warhawks had closed to within 47-41 and Mason was whistled for a foul on a loose ball. Self stomped up the sideline, his face red in fury, and screamed at the officials while the crowd roared their disapproval.
His impassioned tirade finally woke the Jayhawks from their slumber.
Black scored moments later to kick off a 15-5 spurt that allowed Kansas to seize control. Wiggins, from Brampton, Ont., coasted to the rim for two layups during the run, and White knocked down a 3-pointer off a feed from Connor Frankamp, then converted a conventional three-point player.
Louisiana-Monroe got into foul trouble down the stretch — Tylor Ongwae picked up his fifth with 14:40 to go, and Williams picked up his fifth 6 minutes later.
The Jayhawks took advantage of the Warhawks' lack of depth to put the game away.