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Another workmanlike performance by the Jayhawks today in smothering the Sooners 67-54. A few thoughts:
* It was good to see Kansas look inside to Withey early and often. While Withey didn't have a big 2nd half he helped the Jayhawks get out to a good early start and set the tone for the game with his work on the glass and the defensive end of the floor. Withey still struggles to establish post position on smaller defenders with more lower body strength and he needed to knock down more of his free throw attempts. Otherwise, an outstanding game for Withey.
* While McLemore was incredibly efficient, scoring 18 points on only 10 shot attempts today, I still think he needs to be more aggressive in looking for his offense if this team has a chance to get to the Final Four and cut down the nets. He has to realize that he can't be just "another guy" out there...he needs to be able to step his game up and play like an All-American, which he's very capable of doing. His defense was solid today and, as usual, he did a great job on the glass.
* Releford didn't knock down shots at the rate he usually does (4-10 from the floor, including a couple of missed opportunities in transition, which is very unusual) but his defense was again outstanding, as he held Pledger down. After chasing McGruder around on Tuesday night and Pledger today, no one needs Tuesday off more than Releford at this point. Despite chasing people through screens all day, he was still able to come up with 5 rebounds and 5 assists today.
* The power forward play for the Jayhawks was solid and I'm a little bit surprised that Ellis didn't get a few more minutes today. I thought he was effective with his 14 minutes today in knocking down a perimeter shot, grabbing five rebounds, and even finishing with a couple of assists on a kickout off the dribble and a dish to Releford in the lane. It was also nice to see Young knock down a 17ft jumper and attack off the dribble after the Sooner defender backed off once he caught it near the top of the key. His defense and level of activity were very good, grabbing five rebounds and picking up 3 steals. Traylor gave some solid minutes today but continues to struggle to defend the pick and roll and he doesn't quite understand how to post up yet. The more action he gets, the better he will be going forward.
* As encouraged as I was about the play at power forward, I'm equally discouraged about our play at point guard. Tharpe and Elijah combined to go 4-13 from the floor and had 6 assists and 6 turnovers. Their ball handling and decision making against the pressure of the Sooner guards was below average. Tharpe actually struggled so much in the 1st half that the staff had to use Rio Adams at the point. On a positive note, it was good to see Elijah knock down a couple of 3's in the second half. He had been struggling, connecting on only 6 of his 22 long range attempts in the previous six games.
* A great defensive effort today by the Jayhawks as they held Oklahoma to a 35.6% effort from the floor (25% from beyond the arc), collected 8 steals, and blocked 6 shots. However, I was disappointed with the Oklahoma game plan. Their attempt to force feed Osby on pick and pops and clearouts to attack Withey, wasn't bad but they never really got into a flow offensively. Everything seemed to come off 1 on 1 basketball and their ball movement was below average. Had they mixed feeding Osby (who got clearly frustrated by Withey down low early on) and had some movement in their offense, especially up near the top of the lane, I think they would have been better off. The Kansas help defense was very good once again and they didn't let Pledger get started from long range, which is a concern for anyone that Oklahoma plays.
* I love watching Buddy Hield play. Bill Self doesn't miss on many kids, but I think he would have been a great fit at Kansas. The kid is an excellent athlete, plays hard on both ends of the floor, is a very solid on-ball defender, and can take people off the dribble. I look forward to watching him develop through the years.
* Offensively it was nice to see the Jayhawks come out and pound the ball inside. You could tell from the opening tip that this was an emphasis for Kansas to use their height advantage with Withey. As with many big guys, when Withey touches the ball in the paint, I believe that he's more engaged in rebounding and defending. I do wish that the Kansas guards made the same effort to get the ball into Withey in the 2nd half as well. If this had happened, I firmly believe that this game would have got out of hand early in the 2nd half and Kansas would have cruised to a much more comfortable victory.
* The pressure the Sooners applied on the perimeter really gave the Kansas guards fits. Not only were they able to cause some issues with their traps, the Kansas guards were very limited in what they were able to do off the dribble today. They got out of control at different points throughout the game today, but I'm not sure that any teams in the Big 12 will be able to take advantage of this weakness. However, Jayhawk fans should want to see no part of a team like VCU in the tournament.
The Jayhawks need to avoid a slip-up against West Virginia on Monday night. While the Mountaineers are down this season, they have big bodies that can compete with Withey, quick guards that can operate off the dribble, and Morgantown is a very difficult place to play.
This post was edited by Matt Cumro 15 months ago
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