Sunday, February 19, 2012
Kansas coach Bill Self talks to reporters following the Jayhawks' 83-50 victory over Texas Tech on Feb. 18, 2012.
The Kansas University basketball team’s reserves finally proved ESPN color commentator Bob Knight right. It just took them a few months.
More than once during Kansas games he has worked, Knight has said that the Jayhawks are deep. This is the same guy who repeatedly points out ways teams are leaving themselves vulnerable and so often looks like a prophet the very next possession.
His ability to feel what’s about to happen in a game makes it all the more shocking when Knight says Kansas has a deep bench. Huh?
Maybe he was seeing the future again when he said what he repeatedly said about KU’s depth.
More likely, the right opponent was in town Saturday for reserves to be able to showcase their skills.
Even on a night the starters weren’t as sharp as usual, they didn’t need help from the bench to defeat Texas Tech, 83-50, but it made for a more entertaining evening for an Allen Fieldhouse crowd warming up for Saturday’s explosion.
Reserves accounted for 31 of the points, the most entertaining seven delivered by walk-on-turned-scholarship-player Jordan Juenemann.
Kevin Young contributed 10 points and three steals. Conner Teahan nailed a trio of three-pointers and has made seven of 15 the past five games.
Naadir Tharpe, other than getting burned on defense shortly after making a three-pointer, played a productive 12 minutes that included a pair of steals.
But it’s not as if Kansas coach Bill Self is going to change his rotation based on one game against the least-experienced, last-place team in the Big 12. The bench scored 31 points Saturday, which was just five more than the output in Lubbock.
Going to a place like Manhattan to face a hungry, physical Kansas State team, where the bench scored two points, is a better indicator.
Teahan will continue to play a lot to spell the perimeter players and force the defense to spread out to cover him because he can get hot, three points at a time. Justin Wesley will get his minutes and his personal fouls when the opposition has two tall post players. In other situations, Kevin Young will play. Of all the players on the bench, Young seems most likely to have a shot at increasing his minutes. How can he do that?
“Play harder,” Young said. “Play a lot harder.”
Defend better. Defend a lot better.
Young has had his moments, and when playing with confidence can produce offensively, scoring and on the boards. Saturday was his third double-digit scoring output. He opened the season with 13 points against Towson. And in the unquestioned highlight of his season, Young scored 14 points in a season-high 24 minutes against Ohio State, making six of eight field-goal attempts.
Against the strongest teams in the Big 12, he hasn’t fared as well, although in two games against Iowa State he did score nine points in 26 minutes. In the two Baylor games and the Missouri game, he was scoreless in 17 minutes.
Kansas will continue to rely on its starters more than most teams. Defensively, that fivesome is playing great, anchored by shot-blocker Jeff Withey in the back and by a strong perimeter trio that knows how to apply pressure and deny passes.
Offensively, the team has looked a little spotty at times lately, and Self explained how it needs to get back on track there.
“Sometimes, when you play against different defenses and some guys are denying some guys the ball, frustration sets in,” Self said. “It’s why we should throw the ball to Thomas (Robinson) every possession, because the more he touches it, the better passer he is. That goes for any big. Danny (Manning) will tell you this: When they never touch the ball, and then they touch it, they feel like they have to score.”
Texas A&M defends well, so Kansas will need to figure out how to pound the ball inside against the Aggies, so that the Jayhawks will have fresh practice entering Saturday’s monster game against Missouri.