FORT MYERS, Fla. — Christian Braun scored 30 points and No. 6 Kansas pulled away from Saint Joseph’s on Friday to win 94-72 in the Rocket Mortgage Fort Myers Tip-Off.
Braun made 10 of 13 shots, hit five 3-pointers and added nine rebounds.
“Christian was terrific,” Kansas coach Bill Self said.
Said Braun: “For sure, it was more about being more aggressive. I didn’t play as well as I wanted to against Gonzaga.”
Ochai Agbaji, whose foul trouble proved costly in a 102-90 loss to No. 1 Gonzaga, added 18 points. Jalen Wilson had 14 for the Jayhawks (1-1).
Jack Forrest had 18 points for Saint Joseph’s (0-2). Ryan Daly and Dahmir Bishop added 14 for the Hawks.
“It’s great to be in this environment,” Saint Joseph’s coach Billy Lange said. “We can learn from this. We came to win but, big picture, our guys learned how to compete at this level.
“We were down like 59-55 with 11 minutes left. We have to keep doing what we were doing.”
Trailing by eight at halftime, the Hawks scored the first 10 points of the second half to go up 46-44. Daly’s layup capped the run. Kansas went on a 21-6 run to put the game away.
Saint Joe’s surprised the Jayhawks by taking a 27-20 lead, but Kansas recovered, then went on an 11-0 burst to go up 39-30 and led 44-36 at halftime.
Kansas made 50% of its shots and had a 51-33 advantage in rebounds. The Hawks stayed in the game by making 13 3-pointers.
Kansas: For the second straight game, the Jayhawks started slowly and needed to rally.
“I think every game we’re going to have slow starts,” Braun said. “That’s how difficult this year is going to be. But we gotta get better. That’s what early games are for. We’re figuring each other out.”
Saint Joseph’s: Based on 70 minutes of competitive basketball against Auburn and Kansas, the Hawks will be in a lot of games this season. The Hawks, who went 6-26 last season, return their top five scorers, including Daly, who averaged 20.6 points per game.
“We’re a young group,” Bishop said. “We’re having some shared experiences. … This is teaching us to take things more seriously.”
With the combination of the foe and 6-foot-10 David McCormack getting injured, Kansas had to play more small ball. It worked: The Jayhawks had a 35-11 edge in fast-break points, 17 assists and held Saint Joseph’s to 35% shooting.
“I thought it was pretty good,” Self said. “We moved the ball well and we learned to drive. I was encouraged we can play small.”
Kansas: The Jayhawks have another top-10 matchup when they play Kentucky on Tuesday in Indianapolis, site of this season’s Final Four.
Saint Joseph’s: The schedule doesn’t get easier – the Hawks play at No. 3 Villanova on Monday.
“Last year was a different chapter. I don’t think about that,” Lange said. “We’re trying to create an identity based on our great history. We’re not going to shy away. We’ll play anyone, anywhere, anytime. That’s how we roll.”