Sunday, February 12, 2012

Offense nice, but for Elijah Johnson ‘D’ is key

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson swoops into the lane under Oklahoma State forward Le'Bryan Nash as the Jayhawks work against a zone defense during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson swoops into the lane under Oklahoma State forward Le'Bryan Nash as the Jayhawks work against a zone defense during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.


Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

KU coach Bill Self

Kansas coach Bill Self talks to reporters following the Jayhawks' 81-66 victory over Oklahoma State on Feb. 11, 2012.

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KU vs. Oklahoma State

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Kansas defeated Oklahoma State, 81-66, on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012, at Allen Fieldhouse.

KU vs. Oklahoma State

Box score

Elijah Johnson admits it was nice to see his shot go down a few times during Saturday’s game.

Still, the Kansas University junior guard says his offense isn’t his focus.

“I’m not paying it any mind,” Johnson said following KU’s 81-66 victory over Oklahoma State on Saturday. “I’m trying to be good on the defensive end. Offense is going to come.”

After going scoreless Wednesday’s against Baylor, Johnson provided KU with an offensive boost in the first half against OSU. He went 4-for-6 from the floor and 3-for-5 from three-point range, posting 11 points, four assists, two steals and no turnovers in 15 first-half minutes.

Johnson said making early shots — he made two of his three-pointers before the first media timeout — helped get him going.

“It shouldn’t be that way, but it’s just human nature for it to be a totally different ballgame for you,” Johnson said. “You’ve just got an extra little juice going to get turned up defensively and offensively.”

Johnson was a big reason for KU’s defensive success against Baylor on Wednesday. Matched up mostly against three-point specialist Brady Heslip, Johnson barely allowed the sophomore to get a shot off.

Heslip’s one three-point attempt against KU was a season low, while he failed to make a three for just the second time all season. It also was the second time this year Heslip failed to score a point.

“I’m more excited to play defense than offense. I feel like it makes me calm,” Johnson said. “Most people that think about offense get amped and get going, but when you think about defense, it usually just calms you down. Because you know what you’re doing, where (on) offense you don’t know what situation you’ll be in.”

Johnson was critical of his defensive effort against OSU guard Brian Williams on Saturday. Williams, who averages 8.1 points per game, scored 11 points, making two of six field goals and seven of eight free throws.

“I could’ve been there faster. I could’ve shut a lot of plays down if I just did one small thing,” Johnson said. “Just being aware, being alert, I could’ve changed the game eight to 10 points.”

Johnson finished with 11 points, going 4-for-9 from the floor and 3-for-6 from three-point range.

Johnson’s three treys were the most he’d had in a game since Jan. 14 against Iowa State.

Coming into Saturday’s game, Johnson had been struggling from three, making six of his previous 30 (20 percent). His season three-point average also had dropped to 28 percent.

“I think those shots that he was taking tonight are the same shots he’s been taking. He just hit a couple tonight,” KU guard Tyshawn Taylor said. “Once he got off to a good start, I definitely started looking to him more.

“Elijah’s a streaky shooter. He can get hot, so when he gets hot, we want to ride him.”


lrahardja 2 years, 2 months ago

Defense is only one aspect of the game. EJ is too good of an offensive player to ignore the other side of the game. EJ is a very solid ball handler and need to be more active and assertive offensively. So far, he often settles with simple passes just to move the ball along, EJ could improve by actively looking to break down the defense by penetrating and making that critical decision an NBA point guard shall make: - Be more confident, and take that rock all the way to the hoop - Create or find that space to shoot mid-range jumpers - Or pass it to open team mates for better shot selections

There is no better time to improve this year while we still have TT, this is your team to run next year. Assert yourself. Go EJ!!!!


Ralster Jayhawk 2 years, 2 months ago

Big EJ fan. Elijah, keep doin' what you do. Keep shooting, defending, and finding teammates with nice assists. Would be nice to see you shoot more FTs...The transition plays and dunks are awesome! RCJH!


Mike Kendall 2 years, 2 months ago

Gotta have EJ for a late run in Post-Season. Keep improving, EJ.


jayhawker_97 2 years, 2 months ago

EJ's stingy defense is often overlooked. but if he's capable to do both, i don't see a reason not to be excited for EJ to chip in at offense, it calms fans (& coaching staff) down. he can contribute at offense easily if he's willing to strike, as others suggested, with more energy & emotion.


William Blake 2 years, 2 months ago

EJ may be the best athlete on our team... but he only takes advantage of little parts of his athleticism... like the alley oop we run with him once in every 10 games. People put too much focus on the big play. EJ puts too much focus on the big play. NBA scouts enjoy watching big plays... but that's not what they are looking for in college talent. NBA success is largely a math problem. Seasons are long... games are long (20% longer)... and talent levels are not so far apart. 360 slams still count as 2 points. Sometimes teams score far over 100 points a game. The small things matter. The easy pull-up 12-ft jumper makes pro scouts foam at the mouth... far more than the fancy dunks. Bring out the pocket calculator and count how many mid range easy baskets EJ should be scoring per game and add it to the score. Maybe that's why many pro scouts carry court diagram sheets on their clipboards... recording areas of the court where their potential player executes his business.


William Blake 2 years, 2 months ago

I keep hammering on EJ... because I see the upside potential of EJ being about the same as the upside potential we have started to realize with Jeff.

If EJ can keep up the growth on defense (he has improved), while figuring out how to help this team on offense up to his potential, what other team in the land can match us? None.

"“I’m not paying it any mind,” Johnson said..."

Right... like we buy that. He'd give your left testicle to shoot 40% from 3sville for the rest of the season. He still isn't ready to free his mind from the wrong ideas about basketball. I hate to see this because he is limiting his future right now. Can't count on him figuring it out next year... This is a guy who can just start thinking different about offense and over night he can improve his game, and suddenly appear on the lists of NBA scouts.

TT figured it out. TT is a completely different player (so much improved) and the changes he made started in his head. What guard in the country is playing up to the level of TT right now? None.

"Still, the Kansas University junior guard says his offense isn’t his focus."

Bad idea. No player should limit himself with a singular focus. The game is played on both sides and to limit one's focus to one side creates a "yin yang" circular limitation (or rut). You go up, you go down, you stay in the middle, where most of the mediocre world survives. EJ is better than that. His rut on offense is self-imposed by his closed-mindedness on the game. He believes he is playing it safe by focusing on the type of play that got him where he is today... but now the stakes are higher and for the first time we are counting on him at Kansas. He is no longer a "boost off the bench"... no... he is 30+ minutes of being 1/5th of the team. Knock him out of being an offensive threat and you create a big hole in our offense. Every time he goes out and shoots 0-for-6 or 1-for-6 it allows teams to take their 5 players and focus them on 4 of our players... encouraging EJ to brick up even more shots. When the 3 isn't working on offense it has the opposite effect you want it to; instead of spreading out defenses so you can attack the middle it gives defenses a free pass to clog the middle. 5 on 4.

EJ needs to attack the entire area INSIDE of the 3-pt line. He shouldn't even practice 3s anymore... bring all his practice shots into mid range or learning to be successful at finishing at the rim. He should turn his focus away from the 3 and let it come back naturally. Let the time be right to shoot the next 3 and stop forcing it.


jhox 2 years, 2 months ago

I commented after another article today, before seeing this one, how he's playing like a lost Freshman. His defensive effort the second half was poor. I thought Coach Self was going to stroke out yesterday after his defensive effort on one OSU fast break. I'm not sure I've ever seen Self more mad at a player. He was doing his best Frank Martin impression.

Thing is, most games this year he's been our second best on ball defender. Yesterday he just looked slow and tired, not fighting through screens.He seemed to have no energy. He has no confidence handling the ball against pressure. As someone pointed out above, he has all that athleticism but he doesn't attack the basket. Yesterday the lane opened up like the Red Sea in front of him, and he drove to about the free throw line and backed it out. I've seen him a couple of times this year explode toward loose balls, and leave everyone else in his dust, but I've never seen that explosive step used to drive to the basket with the ball.

He needs to work on the pull up jumper and learn to drive into the lane. He could be a consistent 15 point a game scorer if only he would penetrate and pull up for the short jumper. With his hops, it could not be defended. I hope he wakes up before the NCAA tourney. He's too gifted and too bright of a kid to be playing the way he's playing. I hope he finds his confidence soon, and plays the way I know he is capable of playing.


illuminatironin 2 years, 2 months ago

Let me start by saying that I am a big EJ fan so when I say this it is in the hopes he gets better!

“I’m not paying it any mind,” Johnson said following KU’s 81-66 victory over Oklahoma State on Saturday. “I’m trying to be good on the defensive end. Offense is going to come.”

Spoken like someone who has no confidence. Is it me or did he just disappear the second half? Two really bad passes right to OSU defenders an it looked like he didn't want anyone to throw him the ball. Yes defense is our bread and butter but would we have recruited him if he averaged 8 points but was a good defender? He needs to start hitting that mid range jumper and attacking the basket. Dude can jump out of the gym he is wasting all that talent. I am worried that his confidence will be damaged and he will waste his senior year. He will need to be a leader next year.

C'mon EJ you the man!


Ferd Magellan 2 years, 2 months ago

It's hard to be too critical of Johnson because of his defense, but he made some of the worst passes I've seen all year. Also I'd give anything for him to abandon his 3pt shooting and use his freakish athleticism to attack the basket. Why we run so many set plays for him to shoot jumpers is beyond me.


treed14ku 2 years, 2 months ago

All KU fans need to sign this petition to not play Mizzou again. Pass this link on to all your friends on Facebook and Twitter. Our voices matter.


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