The way American coach Jeff Jones saw it, it was the play of Kansas point guards Elijah Johnson and Naadir Tharpe that made things oh-so-easy for Travis Releford and the rest of the Jayhawks in an 89-57 victory. By Matt Tait • Box score • KU coach Bill Self audio • Naadir Tharpe, Travis Releford and Jeff Withey audio
Kansas players Naadir Tharpe, Travis Releford and Jeff Withey talk to reporters following the Jayhawks' 89-57 victory over American.
Kansas coach Bill Self talks to reporters following the Jayhawks' 89-57 victory over American on Dec. 29, 2012.
Remember the Naadir Tharpe that retreated when the opposition attacked? You can forget him now, Journal-World sports editor Tom Keegan says, because the sophomore guard has pushed that timid player into the past.
Comedic actor/Kansas University basketball fan Jason Sudeikis asked coach Bill Self for a copy of his book, “Bill Self: At Home in the Phog,” before Saturday’s KU-American basketball game in Allen Fieldhouse. By Gary Bedore
By Matt Tait.
Well, that was unpatriotic.
Behind 19 points from a hot-shooting Travis Releford and double-digit scoring from three other Jayhawks, the Kansas University men's basketball team drubbed American, 89-57, at Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday night.
Somewhat surprisingly, freshman sensation Ben McLemore was not one of those double-digit scorers. KU's leading scorer finished with nine points on 2-of-4 shooting in 20 minutes.
As for the other top scorers, Elijah Johnson (12 points, 4-of-5 from three-point land), Jeff Withey (11 points, 4 rebounds, 4 blocks) and Perry Ellis (11 points, 10 rebounds) helped pace Kansas to its 11th win of the season.
KU took charge early in this one and never looked back, building a lead of as many as 39 points en route to the easy victory. KU lead 53-26 at the break and tossed 14 players onto the floor before the final buzzer sounded.
Although Releford was the most impressive scorer of the bunch — his 19 points came on 7-of-8 shooting, including 5-of-6 from three-point range — sophomore point guard Naadir Tharpe challenged for top honors. In 20 minutes, Tharpe scored nine points and added 12 assists. Perhaps the most impressive number on Tharpe's stat line came in the turnover column, where he threw up a "0" for the fourth straight game.
Saturday's opponent certainly was nowhere near as tough as the Jayhawks faced last weekend (Ohio State) or will face again in the coming weeks when Big 12 conference play begins, but it seems as if it would be tough for anyone to argue that this was anything other than another impressive showing from the No. 6 team in the country.
Here's a quick look back at some of the action.
The game turned when: KU coach Bill Self seemingly encouraged his team to up its energy level after the first media timeout. KU and American were tied at 7 during that break and eight minutes later the Jayhawks led by 20 and were on their way to yet another Allen Fieldhouse massacre.
Offensive highlight: There were many, but it seems pretty easy to say that the best of them all came with 11:52 to play in the first half when KU picked up a steal, pushed the ball ahead with sophomore guard Naadir Tharpe, who jumped and hung in the lane and found Jeff Withey charging in from the three-point land in transition. Tharpe laid the ball off to the KU big man, who dribbled once, made one heck of a mean face and posterized American's Tony Wroblicky with a one-handed slam dunk to put the Jayhawks up 23-9.
Defensive highlight: With 8:00 to play in the first half and KU in complete control, red-shirt freshman Jamari Traylor jumped into the passing lane near midcourt, swiped a steal and went the other way for a two-handed jam. As Traylor rose toward the rim, American's Stephen Lumpkins wrapped him up around the chest and was called for the foul. Although Traylor missed the free throw, KU gained the rebound and picked up three more points when Travis Releford buried a shot from behind the arc to put the Jayhawks up 34-14.
Key stat: The Jayhawks made 15 of 24 three-point attempts during their latest blowout victory, good for 62.5 percent and one shy of the school record.
Up next: The Jayhawks will close out the non-conference portion of their schedule Sunday, Jan. 6, when they take on Temple at Allen Fieldhouse. Game time has not yet been announced and will be set following the announcement of CBS's NFL playoff schedule.