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Monday, December 30, 2013

Keegan

Column: Naadir Tharpe erases awful start with hot shooting

Kansas guard Naadir Tharpe glides under Toledo center Nathan Boothe for a bucket during the second half on Monday, Dec. 30, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Naadir Tharpe glides under Toledo center Nathan Boothe for a bucket during the second half on Monday, Dec. 30, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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In the time it takes for a college basketball shot clock to expire, Kansas University had turned the ball over twice on bad passes from Naadir Tharpe and Andrew Wiggins and surrendered a three-point shot after Tharpe was taken out of the play by a high ball screen.

Bill Self had seen enough and called a timeout. If Tharpe had a pair of ear plugs hidden in his sock, he might have considered standing behind Joel Embiid long enough to put them in his ears without the coach noticing. Tharpe knew who was about to enter them with short words delivered at high volume.

KU-Toledo Box Score

Box Score

Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Bill Self bemoans defensive effort after 93-83 victory against Toledo

Bill Self bemoans defensive effort after 93-83 victory against Toledo

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Naadir Tharpe, Perry Ellis and Andrew Wiggins dissect KU's win over Toledo

Naadir Tharpe, Perry Ellis and Andrew Wiggins dissect KU's win over Toledo

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As the point guard and most experienced player, it’s Tharpe’s job to get his team off to a good start. He didn’t do that at either end and Self let him have it.

Tharpe spent the rest of the night making up for it. The junior guard from Worcester, Mass., scored a career-high 20 points, made seven of eight shots and four of five three-pointers, to go with eight assists and five turnovers.

“I screwed it up because I should have taken a timeout five seconds into the game after our first turnover,” Self said of Tharpe’s errant pass to Wayne Selden in the corner, a turnover pinned on Selden 13 seconds into the game. “I don’t know if I’ve ever taken one that fast before, but I think I could have helped our team a little more if I would have taken it earlier because that wasn’t a great way to start the game.”

Tharpe used the tongue-lashing as inspiration, not as a reason to make his confidence run away and hide. He made his first four three-pointers, made good decisions on when to shoot, when to keep the ball moving and when to attack with the dribble. He also played well on the wing when he and freshman Fearless Frank Mason (seven points, one assist) played together.

“I actually told him after the game I thought the showed some guts to respond,” Self said of Tharpe. “To me, how we start a game is more dependent on a point guard’s mindset and how he starts the game. After that, I thought he responded great. I thought he defended well. After he got that little turnover bug out of his system, he took care of the ball better and certainly he shot the heck out of it.”

Tharpe always has had a nice-looking three-point shot, one that usually looks as if it’s going in when it leaves his hand. Yet, until a recent stretch of hot shooting, his three-point attempts teased with hope more than anything. He shot .273 from long range as a freshman, .330 as a sophomore. And in his first five games this season, his percentage stood at .333.

In the past six games, Tharpe has made 11 of 23 three-pointers, a .478 percentage, boosting his season number to .429.

“He’s been shooting great in practice,” Self said.

Tharpe said his recent shooting streak is the result of him becoming more aggressive.

“I’m going to miss shots, but I feel like I can shoot the ball well and I feel like the next shot I take is going to go in,” Tharpe said. “If I just keep that mentality and my teammates keep on encouraging me as well as the coaching staff, I’m going to be able to keep shooting this well. Hopefully.”

Looking back on the quick timeout, Tharpe paraphrased his coach’s words, rather than directly quoting him, yet another good decision from the developing point guard.

“Just for me to pick it up, really,” Tharpe said. “I was letting my man score too easy. He hit two shots right away. It kind of got them going a little bit. He just kind of let me know that what I was doing wasn’t good enough.”

N.G.E. Not good enough. Tharpe became better as the fast-paced, entertaining game progressed. But his big night did not leave him complacent.

His best game in a Kansas uniform?

“I wouldn’t say, like, all-around best game because I still had a couple of lapses at the defensive end,” Tharpe said. “They scored a lot of points, but I shot the ball pretty well. I guess this was one of my best shooting games here, but I still had five turnovers. I have to do better on that, but I thought I played well. My teammates helped me out, encouraged me to keep shooting and stay aggressive.”

When Tharpe went to the bench for a brief stay with his fourth foul, Mason did a terrific job running the team and found Perry Ellis under the hoop with a long, on-target pass that put KU up 11 points with 3:58 left. Toledo shaved its deficit to eight points and Tharpe pumped it back to 11 with a strong drive to the hoop from the left wing with 2:14 left.

Point guard doesn’t need to be KU’s strongest position, but it can’t be a liability either, and recent progress from both Tharpe and Mason is an encouraging sign for the young, talented Jayhawks.

Comments

Michael Sillman 7 months, 3 weeks ago

If you watch Tharpe in warm-ups, it is clear that he has a great 3 point shot. I expect that he will stay over 40% for the rest of the season. In fact, I think we are a better team with Tharpe and Mason playing together with Selden on the bench at critical moments.

I wish that we had a few more pre-season games. It just doesn't appear to me that we are really ready for conference play. The D is still not there yet. Iowa State scares the heck out of me.

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Brett McCabe 7 months, 3 weeks ago

I wonder a bit if this team plays to the competition. Duke and Georgetown come to mind....I think that the atmosphere in Florida undid them, so they get a bit of a pass there. The Colorado game was competitive.

They may step it up against SDSU and during the conference slate. But unless the "D" gets way better and the TO's get way fewer, we may have some problems this season.

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Bryce Landon 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Ready or not, it's coming. And maybe this is the year the nine-championship streak ends, if we can't play D.

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Jonathan Allison 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Toledo's a team that been on fire to start the season. We don't get a free pass for our defense, but they came in firing on all cylinders. Reminiscent of the OSU game last year at AFH when Markel Brown couldn't miss in the 1st half.

Sometimes teams are going to play that way and we'd better expect it from OSU and ISU this year because they're gonna bring it, but this wasn't a good game to really guage the team defensively.

This game gave the team something good to build off of. Beating the previously undefeated Rockets and playing well offensively should give us momentum to go against a highly ranked San Diego State team. That game has the potential to set our bearings for a really tough start to conference play.

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Rich Hetherington 7 months, 3 weeks ago

The schedule this year is brutal! Not only do we have the toughest non-con schedule, but we have a VERY strong Big 12 slate and we play each of our conference foes twice. Counting San Diego St., we play 4 ranked teams in our next 6 games. I hope the guys are ready for this, because of the currently ranked teams, we are just 1-3 so far. Albeit those were all away from AFH, but we do have to play at Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Baylor, Kansas St. and Iowa St., all of whom are receiving points in this weeks AP poll. Man, won't this year's B12 tourney be a great precursor March Madness?!?! This is going to be a gauntlet the rest of the way, and I for one am going to love every minute of it! We may face an up-hill battle trying for our 10th straight B12 title, but I can honestly boast that no team will be more battle tested heading into March than the Jayhawks! Current projections have us playing 18 games against tournament teams (before the B12 tourney), and that number could end up being as high as 20!

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Mike Riches 7 months, 3 weeks ago

"Point guard doesn’t need to be KU’s strongest position, but it can’t be a liability either..."
Great point Keegan! I don't think Tharpe needs to score 20 in most games (or take 8 shots for that matter) for this team to play its best basketball. If someone's hot like Tharpe was last night, then give him the ball, of course, but I would have to think that the coaching staff generally prefers for other players to be taking more shots and the PG taking less.

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RJ King 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Agree. I would like to see this team recognize situations. Granted we don't want to rely on scoring from our point guards, but look what happens when the opponent left Tharpe wide open. Also Perry benefited from the focus on Embiid and Wiggins.

This team can use its variety of weapons and morph from big to small, inside to outside, athleticism to finesse. Obviously, adjusting on the fly and finding your advantage in any situation is a key to victory, but beyond just wins and losses, with this team it could mean brilliance, excellence, magnificence.

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Walter Bridges 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Unfortunately, the PG position has been the weakest since Collins had the job. You could make an argument for Tyshawn but either way, not having a top 50 player at the point has hurt us.

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Kit Duncan 7 months, 3 weeks ago

This year's team has as big or bigger bullseye painted on its back than most previous teams. Almost every opponent on the schedule has a bright red circle around the date on the calendar on which they will play KU and are anxiously looking forward to bringing down the Mighty Kansas Jayhawks!

These KU kids have certainly been made aware of this, but because most are freshmen, don't quite get the importance of beating certain rivals, or having to learn how to channel the inner beast against other teams ready, willing and possibly able, to defeat the hated team from Lawrence. All this means is that KU has to bring it every night against all comers in order to secure that tenth conference title in a row and, until another team proves worthy, KU should still be favored to win every game. Rankings mean nothing until conference play starts. Then, and only then, will we know who the best team is in the Big XII!

RCJH go KU!

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Humpy Helsel 7 months, 3 weeks ago

I just don't know if Naadir is the guy. I really like him and am pulling for him. It just seems he lacks some killer instinct. Frank Mason, aka, Frank the Tank, aka, Sherron Lite, has more of that "take no prisoners, give no quarter" mentality. But is Naadir keeps shooting like that with any consistency, it creates all kinds of problems, where right now, it is "go ahead, Frank, shoot it." I'm glad Frank has emerged because we need him. I do wish Coach would fool around with Wayne at the point some. He is not that good of a shooter for a starting 2, but is a great passer. Going to the basket is his biggest offensive asset.

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Dirk Medema 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Frank Mason (seven points, one assist)

should be

Frank Mason (seven assist, one turnover, 2 pts)

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