Sunday, December 9, 2007

Kaun comes alive

Struggling senior center helps Jayhawks exorcise Demons

DePaul forward Karron Clark can only watch as Kansas center Sasha Kaun explodes for a dunk during the second half Saturday, Dec. 8, 2007 at Allen Fieldhouse. Kaun is the starting center for Russia at the World Championships in Turkey and is making an impact for the team.

DePaul forward Karron Clark can only watch as Kansas center Sasha Kaun explodes for a dunk during the second half Saturday, Dec. 8, 2007 at Allen Fieldhouse. Kaun is the starting center for Russia at the World Championships in Turkey and is making an impact for the team.


Audio clips

2007-08 Dec. 8 KU-DePaul Basketball

Go figure


Season-high points by Kansas' Sasha Kaun on 6-of-7 shooting


First-half run by the Jayhawks

12, 9, 7, 7

Points, rebounds, assists, steals by KU's Mario Chalmers


Blue Demon without at least one turnover, compared to 9 with


Jayhawks who didn't have at least one assist, compared to 10 who did


KU's rebounding advantage in the first half


KU's rebounding deficit in the second half


Points by which Kansas outscored DePaul in the second half

Shoulders slumped, Sasha Kaun sauntered to the bench after missing a layup and committing a turnover in the opening minutes of Saturday's Kansas University-DePaul matinee at Allen Fieldhouse.

"I took him out. He was so down," KU coach Bill Self said of his senior center.

Instead of chewing on the 6-foot-11, 250-pound native of Tomsk, Russia, Self consoled him.

"I was trying to figure out what the heck is wrong with me. Coach said, 'Don't get down. Don't put your head down. Just regroup.' He was pretty positive," Kaun related.

Whatever Self said, worked.

Kaun, upon re-entering, scored six straight points to open a back-breaking 24-1 surge that propelled the Jayhawks to an 84-66 victory over the Blue Demons.

"I had no energy. I needed to play with energy - go out there and have fun," Kaun said after exploding for 15 points, five rebounds and two blocks in just 15 minutes - by far his best effort of the season.

It turned out he had plenty of energy to give after soothing - not fiery - words from his coach.

"I speak to him loudly many times. I thought that was not the time to do that," Self said. "I get upset with Sasha when he doesn't play aggressively. I don't get upset with him when he's trying and things are just not working out.

"He's trying. It just had not worked out for him of late. He'd lost his confidence a little bit."

Kaun, who hit six of seven floor shots and three of four free throws, first converted an inside shot to erase a 13-12 deficit at 10:17.

He then swished two free throws, and, after a Will Walker charity, scored on the inside again to give KU an 18-14 lead at 8:36.

Kaun didn't score again in the run, but Brandon Rush had eight points and Mario Chalmers four, and KU led, 36-14, with 2:30 left before halftime.

Kaun played most of the run despite picking up his second foul after scoring his fourth point.

"He was on a roll. We wanted to run with it as long as we could to see if he'd get some confidence," Self said of Kaun, who'd had just two double-digit scoring outings this season, no double-digit rebounding efforts and some horrid efforts from the foul stripe.

"I think today was kind of a crossroads for him. He could have gone the other way easy," Self said. "It was good to see him show some toughness. He'll draw from this a long time."

Kaun had a vicious slam dunk four minutes into the second half and played such intimidating basketball a "Wrath of Kaun" video mimicking "Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan" appeared on the videoboard during a timeout.

"I didn't see it. I heard about it," Kaun said with a smile.

What turned him into a beast Saturday after such a slow start?

"I don't know what happened at the beginning of the game. I just got off on the wrong foot or something," Kaun said. "I had some time and re-grouped myself. It's that I need to be more active, have more energy, and good things will happen. The season is moving along. We're getting closer to conference play. The team needs me to start playing well."

Kaun's teammates were impressed.

"I hope Sasha didn't tease us because he can play like that every day," senior guard Russell Robinson said, adding, "He didn't get off to the best start in the world. He was a little down on himself at the beginning of the game, but he definitely bounced back.

"We get him playing like that ... the team goes upward," added Robinson, who, along with Rush and Rodrick Stewart, helped stymie high-scoring Demon Draelon Burns.

Burns, who had scored 32 points in each of his last two games, scored 10 off 3-of-11 shooting. He missed five shots and didn't score the first half as KU opened a 39-22 halftime lead.

"We didn't do anything other than make him a focal point and rotate guys on him," Self said. "We didn't trap him. We did want to know where he was at all times. He made his two 3s (in four tries) in the last five minutes. So he was 1-for-9 going into that. Everybody can take some pride in that."

The rout provided sweet redemption for a KU team that blew a 14-point second-half lead in a loss to the Demons last year in Chicago.

"We knew they had a good team and were capable of beating us," Kaun said.

Fat chance Saturday against the likes of Kaun, Rush and Darrell Arthur (13 points each), as well as Chalmers, who had 12 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and seven steals for the No. 3-rated Jayhawks (9-0).

"I thought we played well. I thought all our big guys played well," Self said. "They were confident. Everybody needs confidence to be worth a flip."

The Jayhawks, who begin final exams Monday, will meet Ohio at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.


jayhawker_97 13 years, 4 months ago

Kudos to Kaun!! Gain all your confidence back, man!! because Kaun can be a scoring machine inside. Get those fouls and make the free throws, that's how easy you can contribute, even on a tough-to-score-a-fieldgoal match!!

wi_jayhawk 13 years, 4 months ago

Ah, Sasha! Congrats on showing the critics that they are once again wrong. I think we all need to have a little more faith in our players, and not be so quick to criticize and cut them down. They all try. They all put their heart and soul into this sport, and this school. Let's support them and lift them up when they are down. And, then, carry them on our shoulders when they are at their best! Rock Chalk, and happy holidays!

Joe Ross 13 years, 4 months ago

Ive been saying all along that people were too hard on Sasha.

Listen to reason.

If Sasha can have a breakout game like this, then obviously he has the skill set to be a strong player. Poor performances are not due to lack of ability.

They're due to what's going on between the ears. Self's move early in the game (that is, taking him out without chewing on him) allowed Sasha to refocus. The performance at the end of the game was the result. Excessive scrutiny/criticism only exacerbates the problem.

ralsterKUMed95 13 years, 4 months ago

Well said, everyone. I agree. I hope he can show more of this. Man, this team was/is fun to watch! My favorite team in years, and it has NOT peaked yet (not fully healthy). Darnell is an all around threat--what a senior leader and example to ALL other bigmen. This team is BY FAR better than last year because we lose Ju, but gain 2 bigs (Cole and Darnell), and 2 guards (Rodrick and Tyrell). Look at the depth and versatility. We will beat alot of good teams in the second half, like we did Arizona--looked our best actually in OT, not that we want to go to OT...but point is we can do alot of things well on the court, for beyond 40min (if needed), with ALOT of different guys. Did I say I love this team?

ChicagoJHawk 13 years, 4 months ago

Good game overall, and especially mad props to Sasha! This time we really looked like we had our stuff together & didn't play as sloppy/carelessly. If Sasha can continue to play like that we'll be just fine! I truly beleive that the only team can beat us is ourselves. If we continue to play smart, play as a team and make our free throws we can beat anyone!

LAJayhawk 13 years, 4 months ago

I always felt a little hesitant about Chalmers, because he clearly is the cockiest player on the team. That, by itself, doesn't bother me; it was the idea that his -- what seemed to be -- overconfidence could hurt us at some point. I am proud to say that this year he is CERTAINLY proving me dead wrong. He is a confident player -- not overconfident -- who is simply dominating every aspect of the game right now. He doesn't need to score 20 every night (we have plenty of scorers to help out), because when you end the game closing in on a quadruple-double, well, you have complete control over every aspect of your game. Arguably the best all around player in the Big 12 right now. Great game.

It's also fantastic to see Sasha excell like that. I hope he can find that mental part and exploit it the rest of the year.

Dale Koch 13 years, 4 months ago

great game Sasha. Keep up the good work. You are a vital part of this team.

bmkjayhawk 13 years, 4 months ago

1) Great game, Sasha. 2) This is the first time I've been impressed with KU this season, and their potential hasn't even been met thus far. 3) What was the weather like in Lawrence yesterday? I guess Frank Martin said that the only fans in the nation who would weather an ice storm just for a basketball game are KSU fans. 4) I am very excited about this group of Jayhawks, and here are some reasons why: -they haven't played their best yet (and are still 9-0, winning a couple of gritty games against tough teams) -they aren't healthy yet (and are still 9-0, winning a couple of gritty games against tough teams) -they will be challenged in Big XII play (@ A&M, @ OSU, @ UT, @ KSU, @ MU, not to mention other tough ones at home and then the occasional sleeper), which will help tremendously in March -tough/competitive group, primarily Robinson and Jackson (senior leaders)

Just a lot to look forward to.

Joe Ross 13 years, 4 months ago

Dont you just LOVE these Jayhawks? Boy I sure hope Self adds more recruits next year. I know he's got a few but Kansas should be competing for big names like Mayo, Durant, and Rose (yes I know the latter was considering Kansas at one point). I want a championship and it may take getting a marquis name like that--even if for only one year--to push it over the goal line after Rush is gone.

At this point, any talk of Arthur making the jump next year is premature. He will hire an agent who will fill his head with fluff and make him believe that (one) he is ready and (two) there is something to be risked by staying. Certainly they will point to Brandon Rush' being injured to make their case. Foolishly, I think Arthur will enter the draft at the end of the season instead of staying to develop his game. What a waste when he could have been a Jayhawk another year.

Random musing: I love our present logo, but I think it should be accompanied by an alter-ego mascot, one looking more menacing. Sometimes when we're beating the crap out of another team, I almost wish our bird wasnt smiling. Its like getting beat up by a clown or something. Dual-look mascots...yes, thats the answer. Even for a traditionalist like me, I have to admit that change has been good for the Jayhawk mascot over the years.

Anyone else disappointed that James got voted off Survivor? Todd should have gone.

I hope all of you are looking forward to great holidays with your friends and families. Anyone know where I can find some Jayhawk wrapping paper?

Joe Ross 13 years, 4 months ago

Texas is the real deal this year. Have any of you seen them play? I think in a strange way Durants presence lingers there. I mean he babysat these guys when they were green. They could mature without pressure, because it was all on Durants shoulders. But they tasted victory and there is a residue of confidence with these guys, Im telling you.

They are no match for Kansas, granted, but still. They look better WITHOUT a big name (Durant) than Kansas State does WITH one (Beasley). Can I get an amen???

LAJayhawk 13 years, 4 months ago

No offense jross1972, but your second to last post kind of reminded me of a Bill Mayer article... all over the board.

Texas is definitely tough this year. That will be a hard fought game on the road.

ralsterKUMed95 13 years, 4 months ago

jross1972, While I think our current KU logo and current incarnation of the Jayhawk are both fine, I have always liked the aggressive stance and expression of the 1941 Jayhawk (the one just prior to the current bird). And to me, Darnell Jackson's (& Russell Robinson's) play on the court personifies that image and toughness. That 1941 Jayhawk just looks more "hawk-ish"...

CasperCorps 13 years, 4 months ago

Good game Kaun and like I said Chalmers is a stud.. Rockem Hawks!!!!

Matt Kenton 13 years, 4 months ago

Heck of a stat line for Sasha in only 15 minutes of play... imagine if he could play like this consistently for 30+ minutes!

And the most welcome site of all... 3 of 4 from the line!

rockchalkjayhawk4ku11 13 years, 4 months ago

SASHA was a beast. I got a lot more respect for you now Kaun. Please play like that every game!

JJHawq 13 years, 4 months ago

I love the 41 hawk so much - I have it in ink on my left upper arm. Although I would love to go back in time and remove my "college years' ink" - I still love that bird.

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