When his number was called Saturday, Christian Braun was ready.

Well, as ready as a true freshman could be in a high-stakes top-25 showdown, a point illustrated by an anecdote Bill Self told shortly after the game’s final buzzer.

Braun was thrust into significant minutes in the top-ranked Jayhawks’ contest against No. 18 Villanova at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, the result of a right ankle injury sustained by starting junior guard Marcus Garrett late in the first half. And while KU fell 56-55, the first-year player out of Burlington kept his head above water in his 16-minute stint off the bench.

Again, for the most part.

Braun scored six points on 3-for-5 shooting with two rebounds and a blocked shot, with all of that production coming in 15 second-half minutes. His driving layup through contact gave the Jayhawks a 55-51 with 1:49 remaining, but during a break in the action ahead of Braun’s ensuing free-throw attempt, the 6-foot-6, 205-pounder didn’t exactly project confidence to his head coach.

“I asked him in the timeout, ‘You’re going to make this one, aren’t you?’ And he goes, ‘Y-y-y-yeah,’ ” Self recalled with a laugh in postgame radio comments. “So I knew there was a little bit of hesitation.”

Braun missed the free-throw attempt, and the Jayhawks (9-2) wouldn’t score again.

Still, Self stressed he’s “not discouraged at all” by the outcome, especially given positive signs from Braun and fellow freshman Tristan Enaruna off a KU bench that’s too often been a non-factor across the team’s first 11 contests.

“I thought he competed hard and did a lot of good things,” Self said of Braun, “and that’s the hardest game he’s had to play this year, same with Tristan. That was good that they got some minutes.”

Braun, whose block of Villanova freshman forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl came on the defensive possession preceding the layup that put the Jayhawks up four, is now averaging three points and two rebounds in 11 minutes per game this season. Saturday's game was Braun's first since a 4-point, 7-rebound, 3-assist, 2-block, 1-steal showing in 21 minutes in the Jayhawks' 98-57 victory over Kansas City on Dec. 14.

Enaruna, who blocked a 3-point attempt on the Wildcats’ first possession after Braun’s late layup, finished with 3 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and in 20 minutes and probably should’ve been credited with two rejections — the 6-8, 200-pounder came away with the majority of an opening-period block that was credited to teammate Silvio De Sousa. Enaruna now averages 4.1 points and 3.3 rebounds across 16.9 minutes per game.

“I thought (Braun) was good. I thought he got off to a bad start and I thought he was good (in the second half). I thought Tristan did some good things too,” Self said. “They competed hard. Our bench hadn’t been near as effective as what we’d hoped it would be at this point. That was probably the best game those two guys had played, at least collectively, so I thought they did some good things. I was very encouraged by that.”

Despite flashes of brilliance from Braun and Enaruna, the KU bench remains a quagmire.

All nine points scored by Jayhawk reserves were posted by the freshman duo, with senior guard Isaiah Moss (no points, rebounds or assists in 16 minutes) and the junior forward De Sousa (no points, rebounds or assists in three minutes) once again struggling mightily.

Self, though, chose to take a positive outlook on the situation into the holidays.

“This would be a great game to win obviously for (NCAA Tournament) seeding purposes for both teams, but in the big scheme of things, I think our team benefited from playing this game. I think our team got better today,” Self said. “I think playing without Marcus, who has been our most consistent player, and the two freshmen that had to play down the stretch, I thought they both did a pretty good job.

“There were some things about the game that I thought were positive for us growing up, even though the outcome wasn’t great.”