KU struggles early in Self's debut
Posted: Friday November 21, 2003 10:44PM; Updated: Saturday November 22, 2003 2:06AM
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) -- Once his players settled down, Bill Self enjoyed the evening.
Self won in his Kansas coaching debut after replacing Roy Williams, and the No. 6 Jayhawks overcame a slow start to beat Chattanooga 90-76 Friday night.
"I was pleased," Self said. "We practiced bad yesterday, so I was really happy that we bounced back and performed better. It was just a fun night."
It was Kansas' first game since 1988 under anyone but Williams, who guided the school to consecutive Final Four appearances before moving to North Carolina in a decision that embittered many fans.
"I think everyone felt a little pressure with it being Coach's first game and our first game without Coach Williams," Wayne Simien said. "We just wanted to get the season started off on the right foot for him."
Keith Langford scored 24 points and Simien had 21 points and eight rebounds for Kansas.
Self, who spent the three previous seasons at Illinois, insisted he felt no added butterflies. But Langford told a different tale.
"He was pumped. He was ready," Langford said. "I think if he could have put a uniform on he probably would have gone out there and played. You could tell he was a little more anxious today."
Self had some anxious moments in the early going as Chattanooga took a 24-14 lead.
The Mocs, who return three starters and seven lettermen from the team that finished 21-9 last year, dominated the first 10 minutes, outscoring and outrebounding their taller hosts from the Big 12.
Ashley Champion's 3-pointer put the Mocs up by 10 and silenced the sellout crowd of 16,300.
But the Jayhawks ended the first half on a 28-6 tear and took a 42-30 halftime lead en route to their 31st straight season-opening win.
"We just started to get in a hurry. We started getting impatient," Mocs forward Alphonso Pugh said. "We should have held the ball and pulled it down and tried to run some clock off."
David Padgett, the 6-foot-11 centerpiece of a highly touted freshman class, was scoreless the first half but scored five of the first 10 points of the second half and wound up with a double-double -- 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Padgett also had five blocked shots, one short of Kansas' freshman record as the Jayhawks led by as many as 20 in the second half.
"I think Padgett solidified himself as a starter," Self said.
Simien, a 6-9 junior who missed most of last year with a separated shoulder, had 13 points in the second half and was 7-for-7 from the foul line.
After Champion's 3-pointer midway through the first half, Jeff Hawkins hit a short jumper, Simien scored inside and Aaron Miles stole the ball at midcourt and drove in for a layup.
"We let them get a couple of easy baskets," Chattanooga coach Jeff Lebo said. "We had a breakdown in our zone and we gave Simien an easy basket. It started them on a run at the end of the half."
Miles, a junior who has started every game of his Kansas career at point guard, had 12 points and eight assists, boosting his career assists total to 504.
Jason Rogan had 22 points and a team-high eight rebounds for the Mocs (0-1) and Champion had 20 points.