By Blake Schuster
A little after midnight on Friday the Jayhawks strolled into the lobby of the Embassy Suites Hotel in Omaha. Fresh off a 65-50 victory over Detroit, they were greeted by family and fans. Back in their rooms they cooled off, ate a little, and passed out. Relishing in victory, preparing for war, they slept.
That’s how it goes when you play the last game of the second round in the NCAA tournament. Minds fried, bodies worn down, no energy to worry, you go to sleep —and it may have been the best thing for Kansas.
“The only celebrating we did was for Thomas [Robinson’s] birthday,” Elijah Johnson said. “There’s not too much to celebrate, that was one game we’ve got to win tomorrow, and then we can rest. No celebrating.”
Unlike the other schools that advanced to the round of 32, the Jayhawks had little time, or strength, to watch SportsCenter or catch-up on the games they missed.
When the team woke up Saturday morning it was right back to the grind. Game film, scouting reports, and word of mouth began floating around —everyone looking for anything to help Kansas get an edge on Purdue when the two teams faceoff Sunday night.
“They run a motion offense,” Kevin Young said, rattling off what he had learned so far. “They have pretty good shooters, and Robbie Hummel is a beast.”
It’s not all the team needs to know, but it’s a large chunk. Hummel, the forward who has battled through two ACL injuries in his college career, averaged 16.3 points and 7.1 rebounds per game this season for the Boilermakers, and if that wasn’t enough he shoots over 80% from the free throw line.
“You just have to try to limit his touches on the ball,” Young said. “Every good player is going to get their shots off. You can’t really stop him from scoring, but you get the ball out his hands as much as you can.”
That will be the goal, but it won’t guarantee a Jayhawk victory. Out of the players who have started the most games for Purdue, Hummel has the worst field goal percentage at 41.1%. Rebounding the ball before Hummel can get to it will be the biggest challenge — he leads Purdue’s the next best rebounder, Lewis Jackson, by four more per game. Simply put, Hummel is the type of player that can be described in one word.
“Stud,” Bill Self said. “He’s a skilled kid that can play big and get your big guy away from the basket. I don’t know who we’ve played like that; he’s bigger but kind of like a Kim English.”
He’s the type of player that can give opponents nightmares. Luckily for the Jayhawks they were probably too tired to dream — the best outcome for Kansas.
“Yesterday was a long day, a late night,” Self said. “I do think our guys got their batteries recharged and had hopefully we’ll be prepared to practice and get ready to play a very good and talented Purdue team.”