UBS Arena, the new 17,400-seat home of the NHL’s New York Islanders, did indeed resemble an arena built for hockey on Friday night.
“Slick,” KU senior power forward David McCormack said of the surface of the court, which Friday was used for the first time as the Kansas Jayhawks and St. John’s Red Storm played the first-ever college hoops game in the building, which opened in November.
“Slick,” also was the word used to describe the court by KU’s Christian Braun, who scored a career-high 31 points with eight rebounds and four assists and also Ochai Agbaji, who had 23 points and seven rebounds in the Jayhawks’ 95-75 victory. McCormack produced 15 points and tied a career high with 13 boards.
“Wipe your shoes every chance you can,” McCormack said in the interview room after the game..
“Every dead ball wipe your shoes,” added Agbaji.
KU coach Bill Self was asked to give his commentary on the new arena.
“The building … I don’t know enough about it,” Self said. “The bowels of it … when I asked one of the guys running it, he said, ‘We only had 35,000 items on the punch list’ they had to do to complete it.’ That’s 35,000. He wasn’t joking.
“I think it’s going to be terrific, will be terrific. The floor … did you notice how ridiculously slick it was?
“That’s something that’s got (to change). I don’t know if it was a new floor. I’m sure that will be corrected.”
Self indicated that freshman guard Bobby Pettiford (abdominal strain) didn’t feel comfortable on the court because he was slipping. Thus he played just seven minutes, failing to score or dish an assist.
“It’s a great venue, great scoreboard,” Self stated. “One thing I do like. We are from the Midwest. We think our fans can get rowdy. The fans up here can probably be a little more pointed with some personal comments. I actually thought that was funny being around that too,” Self added.
Media in one end zone could hear St. John’s fans yelling “FBI,” at the Jayhawks as they headed to the locker room at halftime. That refers to KU’s and Self’s current infractions case with the NCAA.
Self was asked about big man McCormack busting a slump with his double double. McCormack has been off to a slow start in 2021-22.
“I feel lot more comfortable when David is playing well,” Self said. “When Dave is playing well we can play through a big. When we do that we are so much better. We didn’t do it near enough tonight. We’ve been better with Juan (Harris) in the game in certain situations than maybe even Remy (Martin) from comfort and awareness. Remy did some good things (in scoring 12 points with five assists, five turnovers, one steal) and did some poor things but responded well the last 10 minutes.”
Of McCormack’s rebound totals, Self added: “Teams historically, I’m not saying St. John’s this year, but teams historically that press a lot maybe don’t have the rebound margin that looks a little inflated because they rely on steals more than defensive boards.”
KU outrebounded St. John’s, 47-29.
“Tonight the first half they didn’t press. They pressured but didn’t press,” Self said.
For the game, KU had 13 turnovers to St. John’s 17.
“I think that David, C.B. (eight boards), Jalen (Wilson, nine rebounds), Ochai (seven boards), those four particularly I thought rebounded the ball well. We did a much better job rebounding the ball collectively as a unit than we have in some prior games. We didn’t rebound the ball at all against Dayton (in only loss of year against six victories). We did tonight.”
McCormack said KU’s players and coaches have been supportive all season.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself having high expectations of me. I try to be a perfectionist which not everybody can be,” McCormack said. “I told myself, ‘Let it go. Move on to the next play.’ My teammates had my back. Coaches had my back regardless. I did not put pressure on myself, just let it go,” McCormack said.
KU will next meet UTEP at 7 p.m. Tuesday at T-Mobile Center in Kansas City.
Self’s comment on ‘Turg,’ Manning
Self had one thing to say when asked about former KU guard Mark Turgeon stepping down as Maryland coach on Friday with Danny Manning taking over as interim coach for the rest of the season.
“I fee bad for Turg. Maybe I should be feeling happy for him, too, if it’s what’s best for he and his family,” Self said. “I text ‘D’ (Manning) early in the day. I haven’t talked to Turg in months. When we do (talk) that (job status) hasn’t been something that’s come up.”