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The Jayhawks needed a game like this heading into the conference season to avoid complacency. Here are a few thoughts:
* Kevin Young was just terrific in this game. He attacked the glass hard and picked up a number of garbage points. Young is to the post what Releford is to the perimeter...a guy who is overachieving by simply playing his role as well as he can. He defends exceptionally well and most importantly he knocked down his free throws today, finishing 6-6.
* Withey was dominant again today defensively, finishing with 9 blocks and numerous other altered shots. However, I was very disappointed offensively as he struggled to score with his back to the basket. Too often early on (and really at times throughout the season), he established position too far down on the block and didn't have a good angle to finish shots around the hoop. With that being said, I do think that he should start to be mentioned as a Player of the Year candidate, especially if Plumlee from Duke is being thrown into the conversation. He needs to help himself during Big 12 play though and start to be more effective in scoring the basketball.
* Elijah was just off today in his decision making, ball handling, and shooting. He did finish with nine assists and made a couple of HUGE plays off the dribble in the last six minutes to pull Kansas into a tie at 54 after trailing 54-50. My question is, why doesn't this happen more? He shows flashes like this, where he is capable of attacking the basket, but he is simply too passive. At least he played much more solid in the 2nd half, scoring all nine of his points (4-5 shooting) and picking up three more assists.
* McLemore had an up and down game but he was only 2-9 from the floor if you take away the dunks he had. He continues to rebound his position well but he can't be passive in close games like this. His ball handling and ability to attack the basket off the dribble must improve greatly before he can take the next step as a player, which he won't do until after this season. McLemore doesn't yet understand how great he can be as a player.
* Releford was his usual self, converting on the break, knocking down open shots, and moving the basketball. While foul trouble really limited him in this game (and credit Wyatt for that) he hit two big time three's...one to start the half to give Kansas early momentum and the back breaker late that essentially put the game away. If there's a better role player in the country I would like to see him.
* The bench didn't hurt the Jayhawks but they didn't really produce anything significant either. The transformation of Tharpe continues to amaze me. While he didn't have his best game today with two turnovers (his first two in a long while) he has been solid for this team handling the basketball for this team and is starting to shoot the ball better. You can see how much more confident he is now than he was early in the season. Ellis just needs one big breakout game, which would help him relax as a player. I love his aggressiveness once he gets the ball and he was effective on the glass in his limited minutes today. Neither of these guys are top notch defenders but if they can just continue to improve they should provide some depth as the Jayhawks get into conference and tournament play.
* This was a game where Kansas needed Releford to stay out of foul trouble in order to defend Wyatt. When he picked up his 3rd foul the Jayhawks were up by 11 points, 38-27. Since this happened early in the 2nd half I was very surprised to see Coach Self keep Releford in the game. Once Releford picked up his 4th foul (a very questionable call in my opinion) he essentially couldn't spend any time defending Wyatt until late in the game. Very tough break for the Jayhawks. This is where McLemore needs to be able to step up his game and take on the challenge of defending the other teams best player. At this point in his career he doesn't seem ready for that.
* The Kansas ball movement was crisp early on but once they got up 22-10 neither the ball, nor the players, moved as quickly as they did early in the game. The Jayhawks did a very poor job after their quick early start of getting the ball inside. Credit Temple defensively as they did a nice job of sagging, clogging the lane, and still contesting perimeter shooters. The Owls also took advantage of the fact that Withey struggles to score with his back to the basket. They did a good job of preventing him from sealing at angles in the post. However, the inability of the Jayhawk guards to create looks off the dribble was very evident in this game.
* Kansas had some careless turnovers in this game, especially in the 1st half when they had an opportunity to break the game open. Elijah especially did a poor job of taking care of the basketball and the Jayhawks just seemed out of sync. While many of these turnovers went out of bounds so the Owls couldn't directly convert them into points, this also contributed to the slower pace of the game.
* There was a reason that Fran Dunphy was voted as the most underrated coach in the country by his peers in a CBS Sportline poll from this summer...the guy is really good. His teams play hard, they are very solid defensively, and he can stay in games like this against superior talent. The Owls did an outstanding job in this game of controlling the tempo and took care of the basketball very well in this game.
* Once again, the Jayhawks did an outstanding job on the glass, out-rebounding the Owls 42-31. While Temple did have 11 offensive rebounds they also missed 43 field goal attempts. Withey and Young both rebounded well in the post and Ellis was solid in his brief action.
* A very impressive performance for Kansas at the free throw line today. This should ease the staff's concerns that crept up in the Ohio State game where they struggled to put the game away at the line.
This game will go a long way toward making sure the Jayhawks are focused heading into conference play. While today wasn't a thing of beauty it was still an important non-conference win over a team that beat Syracuse. Expect a focused Kansas team to hit the floor on Wednesday night.
EJ, well okay he didn't have a very good game. He did just enough... but when he did it was crucial. If had played a more consistant game, the outcome may never have been in question, but if you compare where EJ is at this point in the season compared to Taylor last season... Taylor was still having some pretty significant turn over problems going into conference play. It may not be fair to either player to compare... this is a different team, much more ballanced. I don't see EJ as critical to the team success as Taylor was last season, but if Johnson improves as much between now and the end of the season as Taylor did last year we will be in good shape.
When Self put McLemore on Wyatt, after Releford got in foul trouble... that pretty much shut down Wyatt, it was good to see Ben turn in a good defensive effort when we really needed him to step up. Offensively he needs to learn to get his points, he doesn't know how to take over a game yet... I think that will come within the next 5-7 games.
Live to love, love to live
I think the OP is overly critical of Withey. He is never going to be a guy that scores with his back to the basket but frankly there are so few of those guys in college basketball anymore that I struggle to find a lot of fault with it. He is good enough that most teams bring a double team and generally he has made most teams pay the price when they don't. Not his best game today but that is going to happen from time to time.
I think what is more important is that for the most part we don't rely on throwing the ball into Withey like we tried to with Cole Alridch back in the day. That used to really muck up our offense in my view. Withey gets his touches in the flow of the game and that is that.
Also while I think Dunphy is a good coach the CBS broadcast today was flat obnoxious. If the guy can really coach then get his ass out of the A-10 and get him coaching in a real league against top competition night in night out.
I agree that there are not many back-to-the-basket scorers in college basketball any more, but Withey was 3-10 from the field yesterday. I happen to think a lot of them were easy shots that he should make and didn't have a problem with the attempts, but 30% from the field and an ORtg of 87 (which was actually worse than Johnson's 90) is hard to be less than critical of. That said, Withey was not a black hole, and he even had a couple of very, very nice passes yesterday.
Now the best news is that we don't just dump it in to him like we did with Aldrich his last season. Cole was so good (and really, just so much better than our other options) his sophomore year, that we seemed to push a gameplan we didn't have to his next season, to our ultimate demise in Oklahoma City. We don't even try that with Withey, and that's important. Jeff is this team's MVP at this point, so I'm okay with him not being exceptional on offense as long as his rebounding continues to improve.
I've actually been very impressed with Withey's passing ability this season. Not that he has a great assist to turnover ratio (21 turnovers and 11 assists on the year) but he has made some good looks kicking the ball out of the post and dumping that ball to Young under the basket.
I think 10 attempts per game is about right for Jeff. On the season he's averaging 9.2 shots per game. Kansas just needs him to convert 5-6 of those shots each game. Making only three shots, from the area of the floor he's shooting from is disappointing. Again, this is only one game, as he is shooting 55.8% from the floor, but he has to post up higher on the block. His lack of lower body strength hurts him in that regard.
While I respect your opinion, Kansas didn't put McLemore on Wyatt that much because he struggled against him. They tried right away when Releford picked up his 3rd foul but it didn't work well (this is the stretch which Wyatt scored 11 of Temple's 17 points which turned an 11 point deficit into a 44-43 Temple lead), which is why they went back to Releford guarding him (4th foul) and then put Elijah on him.
However, to your point, the Jayhawks did put Ben on Wyatt in the last two minutes on a crucial possession and Wyatt didn't get a touch. I think Ben has improved greatly as a defender since early in the year and has the potential to be a lockdown defender, but he's not there yet.
You're right... McLemore did struggle on defense for a good portion of the middle of the game... everyone did when Releford was out of the game. You could say Releford struggled on D as well... since he got into foul trouble. As well as Tharpe has been playing he still seems to be a little lost on defense.
This is a game Self is going to have a lot of film to show the players as what not to do.
Tharpe, for as well as he's been playing, struggles defensively.
I do think a close game like this was needed heading into conference play. In all reality everything has been very easy lately and it's a good wake-up call.
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