LAWRENCE — Bill Self knew little about Craig Doty entering Thursday’s exhibition at Allen Fieldhouse, the latter a first-year head coach at in-state Division II program Emporia State.
Doty, though, did enough in his team’s eventual 93-55 defeat to catch the longtime Kansas coach’s eye — and, from the sound of things, earn his respect.
“Honestly, I don’t know Coach at all. We didn’t have anything on them or anything like that,” Self said. “I think that they’re very well coached and I think they play very hard and I think they shoot it good enough and have enough guys that can shoot it. I think hopefully they’ll have a really good year and be competitive. It’s hard when you take over a job in April and have to replace a roster and all those things, but it’s obvious he can coach.”
Coming from the mouth of a Hall of Famer, that's a more-than-noteworthy endorsement.
Doty, a three-time national champion across previous stops Graceland University (NAIA) and Rock Valley College (NJCAA Division III), not only made his ESU debut but for the first time stepped foot inside what he labeled “the Mecca of college basketball” in Allen Fieldhouse. Despite the lopsided outcome, Doty indicated ESU accomplished its objective against the No. 1-ranked Jayhawks.
“I think overall our goal was to get 1 percent better today, and if we hang our hats on anything, we’re going to look at the fact that we turned KU over 22 times compared to our 14 turnovers,” Doty said. “That’s a really good stat for us.”
The Hornets’ best work came against junior center Udoka Azubuike, who was smothered and frustrated to a two-point, six-turnover performance in 17 minutes. Azubuike had just one field goal attempt in the contest, a second-half dunk.
“It’s a game where (KU) can get something out of it,” Doty said. “Our post-to-post doubles worked incredibly well tonight. I think that’s where the turnovers came.”
Self later lamented he’d never seen a more ineffective performance from Azubuike, who had a 4-inch height advantage on ESU’s tallest player.
“We had 16 offensive rebounds against a frontline that’s substantially bigger than us,” Doty said. “We’re just not going to get out-rebounded 59-31 and win many games, and a lot of that points toward the 27.8 percent from the field that we shot.”
Indeed, shooting was a point of struggle for the Hornets, who were 2 for 22 from the field to start the contest. Senior forward Hassan Thomas led all ESU players with 17 points on a 5-for-15 shooting effort, while senior guard Sawyer Glick had 14 points and a game-high four 3-point makes, though the latter came on 15 attempts.
Did nerves play a role in ESU’s poor shooting start? “Absolutely,” Doty observed.
“We couldn’t run any offense because we couldn’t get a catch, and I can’t emulate that in practice. There’s no possible way we can emulate that,” Doty said. “All of a sudden it’s real life. ... For us, it’s just we need to be able to execute our offense, and the fact that we need to work the leg whip, get catches and run our action so we can be effective on that end, and that’s on me. I take responsibility for that.”
ESU opens its regular season with a 6 p.m. Nov. 9 contest against Southwest Minnesota State in Marshall, Minn.
“We got the job in late April. We like the guys we have. We think we’re going to be able to compete at the MIAA level,” Doty said. “We think we got something out of this (exhibition), and we hope KU got something out of this as well, even if it’s just something small.”