LAWRENCE — Andrew Wiggins got the ball on the wing, made a nifty spin move and then let go with a soft floater from about 10 feet that swished through the net in Allen Fieldhouse.
His career wasn’t even a minute old and Wiggins was already leaving his mark on Kansas.
While he disappeared at times, the highly touted freshman dazzled at others, finishing with 16 points in leading the fifth-ranked Jayhawks to an 80-63 victory over Louisiana-Monroe on Friday night.
“He did some good things,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “I think he can be more aggressive, but I think all the guys can be more aggressive.”
Aggressive may not have been such a good thing on this night, though. New rules designed to clamp down on hand-checking resulted in 58 fouls and a slew of free throws.
It also resulted in a herky-jerky affair for both sides.
“I’m telling them not to freak out. That’s what I’m telling them,” Warhawks coach Keith Richard said. “The players have to adjust and not lose their minds. It’s not going away, and so it’s difficult. It sure is. And there were some bad calls tonight, pitiful, but both ways.”
Andrew White III and Perry Ellis finished 12 points each for the youthful Jayhawks, who won’t have a whole lot of time for all their freshmen to work out the kinks. Kansas, which is replacing all five starters from last season, plays No. 4 Duke on Tuesday night in Chicago.
“It’s going to be a pretty good matchup, two high-profile teams,” White said, “but we’re not paying too much attention to the hype that’s out there.”
Marvin Williams had 19 points and six rebounds to lead 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.
“Obviously we want to come out and win bigger than we did, and finish the game off stronger, but we’re still fresh,” senior transfer Tarik Black said. “We’re still learning each other.”
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. Black also was in the starting lineup after arriving from Memphis.
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 fervor 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.
“I definitely felt like we were in the game,” Williams said.
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.
Asked whether he was surprised that he didn’t get called for a technical foul, Self replied: “I would say that would be an accurate observation. Yeah, probably so.”
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 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.
“It’s an entire team of young’uns, and it’s going to be frustrating from time to time,” Self said, “but hopefully it will be very rewarding at the end.”
No. 5 Kansas 80, Louisiana-Monroe 63
Williams 8-13 3-5 19, Olatayo 5-10 1-2 11, Coppola 2-5 5-7 10, James 2-8 1-3 5, Ongwae 1-4 2-2 4, Grieves 2-2 0-0 6, McCray 1-2 3-4 5, Brown 0-1 2-2 2, Sims 0-2 1-4 1, Harvey 0-0 0-0 0, Amajoyi 0-0 0-0 0, Koszuta 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 21-49 18-29 63.
Wiggins 5-9 4-6 16, Ellis 3-5 6-8 12, Selden, Jr. 3-7 1-6 8, Black 3-3 2-5 8, Mason 0-2 3-4 3, White III 4-6 1-1 12, Embiid 1-2 7-10 9, Frankamp 2-6 0-0 5, Traylor 1-2 3-3 5, Greene 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 23-43 27-43 80.
Halftime—Kansas 42-32. Three-point goals—Louisiana-Monroe 3-10 (Grieves 2-2, Coppola 1-3, Koszuta 0-1, Olatayo 0-2, Ongwae 0-2), Kansas 7-18 (White III 3-5, Wiggins 2-4, Frankamp 1-4, Selden, Jr. 1-4, Mason 0-1). Fouled out—Ongwae, Williams. Rebounds—Louisiana-Monroe 27 (Williams 6), Kansas 36 (Ellis 8). Assists—Louisiana-Monroe 13 (James 4), Kansas 17 (Mason 5). Total fouls—Louisiana-Monroe 31, Kansas 27.