Kansas basketball’s bench players have failed to provide much of a spark offensively in six of eight games this season.
“When you look at it right now,” KU coach Bill Self said Wednesday, “the only production we’ve gotten from our bench at all so far would be Joe (Yesufu, combo guard) in two games. There’s been nothing else. No bigs. ... Bobby (Pettiford, backup point guard) early in the season in a game or two, but most of his scoring was in tight.
“We need to have somebody who is capable of making some shots. Those two give us the best chance off the bench,” Self added.
KU (7-1) has had no more than two bench players score any points in each of the last six games heading into Thursday’s Big 12/Big East Battle against Seton Hall (8 p.m., Allen Fieldhouse), who is 4-3 on the year.
Non-starters MJ Rice had 19 points and Zuby Ejiofor added two in Monday night’s 87-55 victory over Texas Southern. In three games at the Battle 4 Atlantis, KU totaled 22 bench points ... combined.
Yesufu had 14 of the 22 versus Tennessee, while the only other bench points in the entire tourney were two from Rice vs. Tennessee, two from Pettiford vs. Wisconsin and two from Pettiford and Ernest Udeh against North Carolina State.
KU had four bench points total against both Duke and Southern Utah. The Jayhawks did record 34 bench points from six players in the second game of the season versus North Dakota State and 22 bench points in the opener vs. Omaha.
Self is hoping Rice, a 6-5 freshman and former McDonald’s All American, can build off his 19-point outing on Thursday night.
“He’s shown flashes,” Self said. “I think he’s going to be a nice player, a good player this year. When he’s thinking, he’s not as effective; when he’s playing he’s darn good. We’ve got to get him to the point where he’s just playing and doing the simple things we want him to do while he’s playing. If he does that I’ll get confidence in him and he’ll get confidence in himself. He can be an impact guy.
“Even if he’s not a starter he’s a guy can give you eight to 10 points a game off the bench. That’s pretty good production from a bench guy.”
Yesufu, who is primarily a player who comes off the bench, actually scored 14 points as a starter on Monday versus Texas Southern. He was filling in for guard Kevin McCullar, who is questionable for Thursday’s game (groin strain).
Pettiford — he was hurt early in the Battle 4 Atlantis title game loss to Tennessee — missed the Texas Southern game (hamstring strain) and will not play versus Seton Hall. He could return to his backup point guard role against Missouri a week from Saturday.
With Pettiford out, Dajuan Harris is KU’s only true point guard option for the Seton Hall game. Yesufu has been an off guard this season, as has McCullar.
“Kevin is an option (at backup point) if he plays. If he doesn’t play (because of injury) he is not an option,” Self said. “It could be Joe. That’s not what Joe has done. We have not practiced him there at all. Maybe ‘J-Will’ will bring it up,” he added of forward Jalen Wilson.
“It could be a makeshift lineup for the most part. ... People say, ‘Get somebody ready (to be backup point).’ We have exactly 90 minutes to get ready. Ninety minutes of practice is all we’ve had since we got back from the Bahamas to get ready for this.”
The bottom line, Self said: “We need Bobby to be in the game if Juan is not In the game.”
Without Harris, Self continued, Kansas “won’t run plays. I hate to give away our scout (report) but if you don’t have guys that know the plays from positions they’ve never practiced, we probably will just play. ‘Just play’ has been a better offense for us this year than it has been actually running sets.”
KU will have time for injured players to heal following Thursday’s game. The next game will be a week from Saturday at Mizzou.
“We only have four more opportunities nonconference before conference play begins,” Self said. “This is a big stretch for us — for all teams in our league but certainly for us.”
After the Seton Hall and MU game, KU will play Indiana on Dec. 17 and Harvard on Dec. 22 at Allen Fieldhouse, then start conference play against Oklahoma State on Dec. 31.
Seton Hall recently placed fourth at the ESPN Events Invitational, defeating Memphis (70-69) before falling to Oklahoma (77-64) and Siena (60-55). This will be Seton Hall’s first true road game this season.
Seton Hall is coached by Shaheen Holloway, who is in his first season at his alma mater and 68-57 in his fifth season coaching overall. Holloway graduated from Seton Hall in 2000.
Senior guard Al-Amir Dawes leads Seton Hall in scoring at 11.9 points per game. He has made a team-best 17 three-pointers. Junior wing Dre Davis averages 11.4 points and 3.8 rebounds. He has not played the last two contests because of injury. Senior forward Tyrese Samuel averages 6.6 rebounds per game.