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In a game where the Jayhawks got up quickly and cruised to the finish line, Kansas has set them up with another game against Iowa State on Friday evening. A few thoughts:
* McLemore was electric to start the game as he had a couple of early dunks and a couple of early 3's. That hot start extended to the 2nd half where he got hot again and led an opening charge that broke open the game for good. Again, Ben's efficiency reminds me so much of when Kevin Durant played at Texas. He scores his points within the flow of the offense and when you look up he has 20+ points on a minimal number of shots (12 in this game). Ben continues to put the ball on the floor more effectively and is very good at pulling up off of 1-2 dribbles when going to his left. Anything more than two dribbles seems to get McLemore in trouble though and this is an area he will have to work hard on at the next level.
* The Jayhawks wanted to get Withey going early, going to him on the first couple of half court possessions but Withey was below average, struggling to catch the ball early on and turning the ball over four times in the 1st half. However, once again, when Withey got the ball up to the basket, he was very efficient and has now only missed two shots in his last four games. The problem is that Jeff must play stronger and attempt more than the three shots that he did today. This lack of lower body strength is going to be even more apparent going forward and is a big reason that I believe Withey will struggle to score as a pro. As always his presence around the rim affected a number of Red Raider shot attempts.
* Young, as usual, showed great energy early on and was efficient around the rim, finishing 3-3 from the floor. He did an excellent job diving to the rim today when his man went to double Withey and converted twice on that. This team needs Young to defend at a high level tomorrow but the good news is that while the Cyclones had success today late putting Clyburn at the point, Young should be able to defend him out there and slow him down more effectively than the Oklahoma bigs.
* Releford has been a little bit off lately and Kansas needs to get him going if they hope to go anywhere in the Big 12 and NCAA Tournaments. The thing that really makes the Jayhawks special is the fact that, up to the last few games, Releford has always been there to provide a consistent 3rd scorer for this Kansas team. They must have his consistent production offensively (Kansas fans know that they will get his best defensively every time out) like they have all year to reach their peak this postseason.
* While Releford's production is needed, no Jayhawk is of more importance to the fate of this team than the efficiency of Elijah Johnson. Today Elijah was very average (4 points, 4 assists, and 2 turnovers) but his best wasn't needed today. An acceptable stat line for Elijah for the remainder of the season would be 12 points, 5 assists, 2 turnovers, 45% from the floor, and 38% from beyond the arc. If he can give the Kansas these numbers I firmly believe that this team will get to Atlanta.
* The Red Raiders goal was to attack the basket off the dribble in this game. The Jayhawks struggled to defend the ball and were constantly playing from behind in the half court as the Red Raiders would beat the a Kansas defender off the dribble, force help, and beat another closeout. It was also disappointing to see Kansas not locked in defensively when defending Kravic as his scouting report shows that he likes to spin in the paint and the Jayhawks allowed him to repeatedly do this in this contest. The Jayhawk guards have been spoiled this season to have Withey on the back line of their defense, ready to contest shots when they get beat off the bounce.
* Playing Kansas in a 2-3 defense isn't usually a recipe for success but the Red Raiders had some success in the 1st half. However, I simply love how Kansas moves the ball against zone defense and watching Bill Self coach against zone is a thing of beauty. What will be interesting for me to watch going forward is how will the Jayhawks fare against a team that plays a zone defense consistently and plays it well (Louisville, Florida, Syracuse, and Georgetown). Three of these teams force a high number of turnovers, making them strong in an area where Kansas is weak (turnover issues) which is always a key matchup in these tournament games.
* The Jayhawks needed to get out to a quick start today and keep their foot on the gas in order to get their top 5 players some much needed rest before their game tomorrow against Iowa State. While Kansas did get out to a 15-2 lead, their bench struggled, the teams got careless, and the Red Raiders got back into the game. Texas Tech scored 12 of their first 19 points of the game on Kansas turnovers (that big Jayhawk weakness) and cut that deficit to 23-19. With Iowa State looming tomorrow, in what's sure to be an up and down affair, the extra rest that Kansas could have gotten with a blowout would have been very valuable.
* The ball movement and player movement were solid today for Kansas. They did an excellent job of mixing up their post touches (you could see an emphasis to try to get the ball to Withey early in each half) with their ability to beat closeouts after swinging the basketball. While the Jayhawks were very effective from beyond the arc they did have a number of wide open looks which is a credit to their offensive attack.
* The big negative today was the fact that Kansas turned the ball over 17 times. Their inability to take care of the basketball and give up points off of turnovers has been a weakness all year and could be the thing that prevents them from winning a crucial game in the postseason.
One down, two more to go this week. Can Iowa State shoot the 3pt shot as well tomorrow as they've shot it against Kansas so far this season? If they can, it will be very hard for the Jayhawks to pull out a victory over the Cyclones for the 3rd time this season.
Not much to learn from that game really. We played pretty well. Wish we were facing anyone in the conference but ISU. Not that we can't win. It is just totally up in the air on how they shoot. We could play very well, defend well and if they knock down a half dozen well contested threes the game is a mess.
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