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.”


treed14ku 7 years, 9 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.

Jack Wilson 7 years, 9 months ago

I would suggest not signing that petition. We sound like little whining girls. Let's play MU every season, and kick their ass.

Steve Brown 7 years, 9 months ago

While I would agree not to play MU right now, giving the issue any attention is a little like calling Todd to say you are giving him the silent treatment. Let it go.

Travis Clementsmith 7 years, 9 months ago

I'm tired of how the ESPN crew made it sound like its just the KU admin that doesn't want to play while all us fans are begging them to continue it. Its not whining to me. Its to show that I support Self and the AD, and as a fan, I don't care if KU schedules MU again. I signed it.

JHawk74 7 years, 9 months ago

If Missouri continues to be a top 25 team in Basketball we should plan on playing them every year. It would be fun to play them every year in Kansas City or St. Louis or some neutral court in the pre-season. I hate Missouri but I hate to see the tradition of playing them go away also.

Michael Bratisax 7 years, 9 months ago

That's like saying 'If I can win the lottery every year'.

refugee 7 years, 9 months ago

I won't give Mizzery the satisfaction of thinking I care. We can sell out the Phog against anyone. Teams are only too glad to schedule us.Mizzou needs us, we don't need them...

Chris Shaw 7 years, 9 months ago

He doesn't necessarily need to get to the basket as much as he needs to look to be aggressive and attack the paint and look for that 15 footer/mid-range jumper. He has been very consistent with that shot and if he can do that and still look for his teammates while attacking the paint than that is all should ask from EJ. He's just not a rim attacking type of player so I don't expect that to change going forward for the rest of the season.

Chris Shaw 7 years, 9 months ago

That was high school! Have you seen much rim attacking in the 3 years, especially this year, from EJ? Outside of the scripted lob play for EJ, he does not get to the rim. That's not his game and won't be his game until TT leaves.............and it may never be his game, unfortunately.

hawk316 7 years, 9 months ago

EJ's growth as a defensive player has been really impressive and has been such a tremendous asset to this year's team. I agree that his strength offensively is now the mid-range jumper which he should take more of, while at the same time, reducing the number of three-point shots. I remain convinced that he could be very successful in attacking the rim, but perhaps needs to gain some confidence in that area. Finally, he could certainly tighten up his passing game, as he does tend to make sloppy, lazy, off-target passes more often that you would like.

But make no mistake, EJ has become a very important part of this team. Great attitude, very coachable, a strong team player, and you know that HCBS loves that defense!

Thad Daugherty 7 years, 9 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!

Kye Clark 7 years, 9 months ago

I get what you're saying about wanting more offense from EJ, and those passes were dreadful; maybe the worst passes I've seen anyone make this year. But the team as a whole played a poor second half. And as to the quote, I don't think that speaks to his confidence, at least not directly. He is just echoing the exact same thing Self has said, paraphrasing here as I don't have the actual quote handy, but he says that if you're worried about scoring and if you need to score to play well, chances are you're not going to play well. Now he may have confidence issues, but he isn't gun-shy. We see him jacking up treys every game despite shooting a poor percentage on the year.

I'm sure there are going to be some board rats that think Self has told EJ his job this year is not to score, but that he's just "glue". I don't buy that, mainly because of our bench. In most years, you can get away with a starter or two being solely "glue" and not giving you much point production. Not this year. What's a good point total from our bench this year? 10 points? That's Connor hitting a couple treys and KY or Wesley getting a couple baskets. That's a good night for our bench. No, we need either Travis or EJ (preferably both) looking for their shots, especially against tougher competition that can effectively limit or contain one of our other threats.

I too would like to see him dribble in and get a few more mid-range jumpers, but I was actually encouraged by his play in the first half today. We need another reliable trey-gun. And I'm willing to give the team a mulligan on their second half performance. As I said on another article, it's human nature. I don't begrudge them that, especially not on the heels of two big, emotional road games at Misery and at Baylor. It was bound to be a let-down game; had all the makings of a trap game with the game at Manhattan on Monday night. Instead they came out and did what they needed to do - put the game away early. The first half was as well as I've seen them play all year. So while it would have been nice for them to play better in the second half, it doesn't bother or worry me.

jhox 7 years, 9 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.

KEITHMILES05 7 years, 9 months ago

I totally agree with you. Quite frankly I feel he has regressed regardless of his nice shooting yesterday. He shows no energy, is listless, emotionless, completely out there. This isn't good.

jayhawker_97 7 years, 9 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.

Mike Kendall 7 years, 9 months ago

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

Lin Rahardja 7 years, 9 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!!!!

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