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What a tale of two halves. Heading into this game I thought focus would be a key for this team and it's obvious that they weren't a focused group during the first 20 minutes. A few thoughts:
* While Kansas fans would love to see Ben McLemore stick around two years, performances like this will make his decision very difficult after this season. While the dunks were impressive (I'm still impressed by the lob play off the baseline out of bounds), the main thing is that he was aggressive in attacking the lane, getting to the line for ten free throw attempts. He also attacked the paint at least five other times off the dribble where he kicked the ball out to perimeter players for open looks or to attack closeouts. The Jayhawks need him to create offense and games like this are going to give him the confidence to continue to do so. Definitely a coming out party for him...
* Travis Releford is really struggling on the offensive end of the floor in both his perimeter shooting and his entry passing into the low post. The only baskets he has scored with any regularity this season are in transition. While I think Jeff Withey is a player that needs others to set him up in order for him to score, I see Releford as being the same way. He needs to use the penetration of his teammates to knock down open shots (he just needs to see the ball go into the hoop right now on a perimeter shot), to beat closeouts, and to score in the mid-range. The more Kansas can get Elijah and McLemore to attack the basket the more effective Releford will be offensively.
* As bad as Elijah was in the first half, and he was terrible, he was that good in the second half. He was aggressive attacking the paint, defended with more of purpose in the 2nd half, and knocked down three 3's. His assist to turnover ratio will need to improve as he needs to finish with more than 3 assists and less than 3 turnovers.
* Withey also got off to a rough start in this game but came back to post some decent numbers (11-10-6 blocks). He was much more active in the last 20 minutes and played with more passion. His pick and roll defense needs to continue to come along and he has to be stronger down low when he posts up.
* Traylor brings great energy to the game. If he can ever develop his skill level he will be a terrific player. He simply gives effort on every play. Perry Ellis struggled again as he just lacks strength. His skill level is off the charts for a young player and he just needs more experience and a breakout game before he settles in.
* I am concerned about the backup point guard situation. While Tharpe did end up with five assists and no turnovers, Chattanooga gave him fits with their pressure at times, especially when they trapped him. This could be a big issue moving forward, especially if Elijah ever gets into foul trouble. Defensively he gave up a couple of 3pt shots where he overhelped and left solid perimeter shooters.
* While the Mocs were unconscious early from beyond the arc, Kansas must do a better job of defending against the 3pt line. Chattanooga knocked down 11-23 from beyond the arc one game after Michigan State connected on 40% of their attempts. This has to improve going forward, especially if Kansas must beat Baylor (Jackson and Heslip on the perimeter) to win the conference.
* An overlooked part of the game comes in what many basketball coaches call "special teams". This involves baseline out of bounds plays, sideline out of bounds plays, the tip, plays coming out of timeouts, and offense off of missed free throws among other things. Kansas scored at least 8 points in the 2nd half on baseline out of bounds plays (the big McLemore lob play and two Elijah 3's). This overlooked part of the game (both offensively and defensively) can win them a couple of close games throughout the season.
* The Kansas high - low game has struggled so far this season but showed some signs of life in the second half. Kansas entered the ball into the low post early and often during the first five minutes. However, as Chris Piper pointed out, the post players aren't sealing high enough and simply aren't strong enough to hold their position. On top of that the post entry passes have been very shaky up to this point. Again, there were signs in the second half that this part of the game could come around and the Jayhawks need to continue to improve in this area going forward.
* Very uninspired pick and roll defense early on. This surprised me, especially with the way they struggled defending the pick and roll in the Michigan State game. Tonight it wasn't just the defenders on the ball struggling but each of the other three players was slow to rotate into the proper help position at times.
* The Jayhawks held the Mocs to a 6-25 performance from the floor in the 2nd half tonight. A much more inspired effort coming out of the locker room after that rough first half. They rebounded the ball very well in the last 24 minutes of the game and were able to collect 8 offensive rebounds on their 15 missed 2nd half shots. Very good, but this is exactly what they should do against a team like Chattanooga.
All in all, while the slow start and lack of focus were very frustrating this wasn't unexpected after a very tough and physical game just two days earlier against Michigan State. A breakout game by McLemore makes this much more tolerable as Kansas fans should be excited about what his future holds.
This post was edited by Matt Cumro 17 months ago
Great breakdown, Matt. Thanks!
Great stuff as always Matt.
National Director of Scouting & Recruiting Analyst
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