LAWRENCE, Kan. – The only assist Tyshawn Taylor could deliver Tuesday night was helpful advice to freshman Naadir Tharpe.
Outside shooter Elijah Johnson was way outside the 3-point line — he spent the whole night on the Kansas bench. Thomas Robinson could only watch fellow big man Jeff Withey log a quiet triple-double with 18 points, 12 rebounds and 10 blocks while starting in his place.
With three of their best players out due to injury and suspension, the No. 13 Jayhawks slogged their way to an 84-55 exhibition win over Pittsburg State.
"I thought we'd play about like we played, which wasn't great," coach Bill Self said. "That's not our team. You play 200 minutes, 100 of the minutes didn't play, more than likely."
Connor Teahan, the team's expected sixth man, hit five 3-pointers and finished with 21 points for Kansas, which is picked to win the Big 12 for the eighth straight season despite losing twins Marcus and Markieff Morris, Josh Selby and a host of other players from a 35-3 team a year ago.
A team that looked markedly different from Tuesday night.
"It was a great experience, it was a lot of fun. It was just an exhibition game, though, so we're just focusing on getting better," Teahan said. "We know there was a lot of flaws there tonight. Just constantly worry about improving, that's it."
Self suspended Taylor, the team's leading returning scorer, and Johnson, its best outside shooter, for Kansas' two exhibition games for violating unspecified team rules during the offseason. They're expected back for the regular-season opener Nov. 11 against Towson.
Robinson, who received votes Tuesday for the AP preseason All-America team, missed the game with a hyperextended left knee. It's unclear when the junior forward will be able to play.
The Jayhawks were already short on depth before losing their top trio.
Their usual stellar recruiting class has been thinned considerably by the NCAA, which ruled that five-star guard Ben McLemore and athletic swingman Jamari Traylor were partial qualifiers.
The two freshmen are not allowed to play this season, but they're expected to begin practicing with the team following the fall semester.
The Jayhawks could have used them against their pesky opponent from southeast Kansas.
Teahan hit three straight 3s to open the game, but Kansas failed to push its lead to double figures until well into the second half. The Jayhawks wound up committing 23 turnovers, shooting 51 percent (19 of 37) from the foul line and barely came out ahead in rebounding margin.
All this against a Division II program that finished 13-13 a year ago.
"We did some good things and we did some not-so-good things," said Withey, who turned his ankle but played the whole way. "We have to work on a lot. The first half was pretty ugly."
Kansas turned the ball over 15 times in the first 20 minutes — Tharpe was responsible for seven of them. The Jayhawks were 3 of 8 from the foul line, managed only six assists and won the rebounding battle by just one over a team whose tallest player stands 6-foot-6.
"I was kind of nervous before the game, to be honest," Self said. "I knew it wouldn't look good. Naadir doesn't know how we're supposed to score on offense and what we do, but he did some good things. Thomas is our anchor, we design stuff so he can get the ball in some areas. It was kind of makeshift, but the second half I thought we did some good things."
Travis Releford finished with 14 points, and Tharpe had 12 while committing nine turnovers in place of Taylor, who several times sat next to him on the bench and offered instructions.
"I don't want to say I was trying to do too much," Tharpe said, "I was just trying to get people involved. That's what I'm used to doing. I definitely settled down in the second half."
Drake Green and Marky Nolan scored nine points apiece for Pittsburg State.
"It was a great opportunity for Pittsburg State, our basketball team, to come and play in this kind of atmosphere," coach Kevin Muff said. "It helps us, it helps our team, it gives these guys an opportunity to play in a great environment and to get better, and we learned some things."