Bill Self postgame after KU's 80-63 victory vs. New Mexico
Freshman center Joel Embiid makes this young Kansas University basketball team so much better when he plays as opposed to when he nurses foul trouble. His extraordinary numbers — 18 points, six rebounds, four blocked shots, three steals and no turnovers — compiled Saturday night in 25 minutes against New Mexico in the Sprint Center, tell only a portion of the story. By Tom Keegan
Naadir Tharpe’s return to the starting lineup after a two-game absence proved to be a resounding success during an 80-63 victory over New Mexico on Saturday night in Sprint Center. By Gary Bedore
All week, as the New Mexico men’s basketball team prepared for its showdown with No. 13 Kansas University at Sprint Center, the Lobos hoped the experience of starting three four-year veterans would make a difference against the young Jayhawks. Minutes after KU’s 80-63 victory, which came in large part thanks to a 41-25 second-half surge, that hope proved more optimistic than realistic. By Matt Tait
By Matt Tait (firstname.lastname@example.org) —
Kansas City, Mo. — The Kansas University men's basketball team got back to its winning ways with a hard-fought, 80-63 victory over New Mexico at Sprint Center in Downtown Kansas City.
With Naadir Tharp back in the starting lineup for the Jayhawks, Kansas looked much more like the early-season team we saw and a lot less like the team that suffered back-to-back road losses at Colorado and Florida. Tharpe finished with 9 points and 8 assists in 37 minutes.
KU played harder, tougher and with more confidence, particularly in the second half, when Tharpe dished a bunch of sweet passes to Perry Ellis (21 points) and Joel Embiid (18) that helped the Jayhawks build their largest lead of the day and finish strong.
Here’s a quick look back at some of the action:
• The game turned when: Moments after New Mexico's Kendall Williams did his little shoulder, shimmy-shake, the Jayhawks pulled away with a 5-0 run that pushed the lead back to double-digits with 6:40 to play. The Jayhawks did not enjoy a double-figure lead for long on Saturday and New Mexico made them earn every inch of the leads they did have. It was a huge moment that featured a couple of KU steals, a sweet drive to the rim by Wayne Selden, a monster flush from Joel Embiid and a no-look dime from Naadir Tharpe to Perry Ellis that put Kansas up 72-59 with 5:39 to play.
• Offensive highlight: With 14:35 to play in the second half, Naadir Tharpe threw a lob to Joel Embiid, who got up to get it but could not do anything with it. Instead of forcing a turnover, Embiid merely caught it, composed himself and then made a move to the rim that resulted in a reverse layup over his head and a huge roar from the KU crowd, as the Jayhawks went up by double digits for the first time in the game.
• Defensive highlight: Andrew Wiggins had a sweet block of New Mexico's Cameron Bairstow late in the first half after a scrum for a loose ball, but it paled in comparison to the block from Joel Embiid early in the second half. After hustling to save the ball from going out of bounds, New Mexico's Cleveland Thomas caught a pass in the deep corner and then drove to the rim down what seemed to be a wide open path. A second or two later, as Thomas neared the hoop, Embiid pinned his layup attempt against the backboard and the Jayhawks were off and running.
• Key stat: Field goal percentage. The Jayhawks shot 52 percent for the game, but more importantly limited UNM to 33 percent shooting and often limited the Lobos to one-shot possessions.
• Up next: The Jayhawks will finally return to Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday, Dec. 21, for an 11 a.m. match-up with Georgetown.