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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Keegan

Opinion: It’s time to embrace this team’s ugly way of winning

Kansas guard Travis Releford celebrates as time expires in the Jayhawks' 64-59 comeback win against Texas on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.

Kansas guard Travis Releford celebrates as time expires in the Jayhawks' 64-59 comeback win against Texas on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

KU coach Bill Self talks after win over Texas

Kansas coach Bill Self talks after his team's 64-59 victory over Texas on Jan. 19, 2013.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Jeff Withey and Ben McLemore

Kansas players Jeff Withey and Ben McLemore talk after the Jayhawks' 64-59 victory over Texas on Jan. 19, 2013.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Texas coach Rick Barnes

Texas coach Rick Barnes talks to reporters following his team's 64-59 loss to Kansas on Jan. 19, 2013.

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Box score

KU-Texas

— Do your blood pressure a favor. Enjoy the way Kansas finishes games and trust that in time your favorite basketball doctor, 10th-year coach Bill Self, will figure out a way to remove all the hideous warts you have to see leading up to the pleasant part.

The formula of winning ugly and finishing pretty doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, so you might as well get used to it.

In too-typical fashion, Kansas had to overcome a particularly long shooting slump Saturday in order to remain unbeaten in Big 12 play and extend its winning streak to 15 with a 64-59 victory against Texas.

For the fourth time in five games — Temple and Iowa State at home, Texas Tech and the Longhorns on the road — KU had trouble scoring and needed a strong finish for the victory.

Against Tech the strong finish lasted the entire second half. It didn’t kick in until much later in the Erwin Center.

Trailing by 11 points with less than 15 minutes left, by 10 points with less than 12 minutes remaining and by six with less than six left, Kansas transformed itself back into the experienced basketball team it is and finished on an 8-2 run in the final 2:18.

Somehow, no Texas lead felt safe because the young Longhorns have been blowing leads all season and Kansas knows how to win ugly and finish pretty. It’s a dangerous means of winning, but an entertaining one, warts and all.

Shaky point-guard play — at one point, Elijah Johnson and Naadir Tharpe were a combined 0-for-11 with one turnover and four assists — played the biggest part in KU’s sluggish offense.

Things turned when Self went with Tharpe, Johnson, Ben McLemore, Travis Releford and Jeff Withey for the final several minutes.

Until then, Kansas in general and Johnson in particular, couldn’t get shots to drop. Was it the defense or the shooting?

“Me personally or the team?” asked Johnson, who made one of 11 shots.

Both.

“I don’t want to talk about me personally,” Johnson said. “It’s irrelevant, but I give them respect because they play some defense, they play some good defense. I honestly say that’s the best defense we’ve gone against all year. And they never really let up. And their bench players came in and gave them some good minutes. I respect them for it. They made it tough for us.”

Johnson did get around to talking about his poor shooting day. He attributed having so many scoring opportunities close to the hoop to the Texas defense paying so much attention to center Jeff Withey.

“I took 11 layups today,” Johnson said. “Didn’t make nothing but one.”

It sounded unbelievable to him too. The strong team finish made the ugly statistic one that doesn’t matter in the standings.

“I think we dealt with the pressure well,” Johnson said of the late stages. “They had us rattled for one or two possessions maybe, but I think we took care of that by just calming our team down and just doing what we do. We’ve been in this situation too many times.”

Even when Texas’ lead grew to 11 points after a 12-0 run that lasted 2:20 early in the second half, it never felt as if the home team was going to win this one. It certainly didn’t ever feel that way to Johnson.

“No, I never think that until zeroes are on the clock, and even then I still won’t believe it,” Johnson said. “I feel like you can’t have that mindset and try to be a competitor.”

If Kansas can figure out how to compete as well for 40 minutes as it does at the end, the close calls will become less common, but for now, winning ugly beats losing pretty.

Comments

wyansas 1 year, 2 months ago

to me it really feels like 60% of the ku wins of the bill self era have been ugly.

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TexasRockChalk 1 year, 2 months ago

After watching Jeff Withey in person, I sure wouldn't be surprised if he had played volleyball in high school.... ;)

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actorman 1 year, 2 months ago

I found it interesting that most of the column focused on missed shots and Keegan barely mentioned the turnovers. To me, the turnovers were (and are becoming) a much bigger problem. Can anyone else remember seeing a KU team turn it over 5 consecutive times and 6 times in 7 possessions? That continued a pattern of sloppy passing and carelessness with the ball that could well end up being KU's downfall this year.

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MacHeath 1 year, 2 months ago

Different style of basketball... The small lineup isn't what I am used to as a KU fan. Makes me nervous. Now I have to worry about foul trouble, and fatigue. Although, these guys seem to be able to stay out of foul trouble, and still play aggressively. I will agree that winning ugly is better than losing pretty. Going to be an interesting season for sure.

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hawkman8950 1 year, 2 months ago

who cares about style points, get the job done anyway you can within the confines of the rules of the game. A 'w' is a 'w' and ranking don't mean anything come tournament time

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Janet Olin 1 year, 2 months ago

At first glance it would appear KU was favored because of their disproportionate number of free throws. But then you need to know that KU was very consistent about driving the lane while TX mostly jacked up treys (and made a lot of them). That doesn't get you to the line very often.

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AsherwhitE 1 year, 2 months ago

All very true Boouk. But for ESPN the decision is all about making big money. ESPN could care less about viewers' wishes or needs so long as the viewing numbers are big money-makers for them. It's all business to ESPN.

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Fred Whitehead Jr. 1 year, 2 months ago

I just wonder of the Journnal-World sprots gurus have a goodflashing roaring headline selected for when the tatooed legion flops out of the tournament this year??

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Tony Bandle 1 year, 2 months ago

Watch Tuesday's game carefully. HCBS despises Weber, who claimed none of Bill's kids he left behind knew how to play bball and that he himself transformed them into a NCAA Final Four team.

Weber once held a mock funeral to "bury" the memory of Coach Self. Oh, by the way, Weber couldn't win squat once all of Bill's recruits graduated after four years.

Bill dislikes Drew on general principle but with Weber...it's personal!!!

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Ben Kane 1 year, 2 months ago

not reading this, just want someone to tell me if this is the same guy who said long scoring droughts were over

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Scott Smetana 1 year, 2 months ago

Will the game be on ESPN full court? If so, I'm hitting the sportsbar.
Bummer I can't get ESPN3 since I have Dish Network. Still looking for a good app or website to listen to KU games. Any Ideas? Thanks.

PS - Mizzery Stinks!

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KGphoto 1 year, 2 months ago

We are very pretty at the line. 21-25 as a team!

This has to be the best free throw shooting team I can remember.

Ugly early? Maybe, but scoring a third of your points off 84% free throws, throughout the game, also proves to be lethal for those muddy contests.

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Jay Dogger 1 year, 2 months ago

I expect tos ee the small line-up even more next year. Of course, White, Green and Selden are each 6-5 to 6-6 so it won't be that "small."

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nostradavid 1 year, 2 months ago

'Twas Ever Thus - Ted's teams in the '70s seemed to always be down by 10 or more, halfway through the second half (at home). Then they would come roaring back - taking the lead with a minute or two left in the game. The pattern was so consistent, you had to wonder if it was done for dramatic effect. It kept the fans engaged. It seemed like the louder we cheered, the better the team played. - I hope Elijah never has to shoot 1 for 11 again. We were all feeling that pain. He should set fire to the hoops in Manhattan. just like...

The Crazy World of Arthur Brown

The Crazy World of Arthur Brown by nostradavid

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LeadFarmer 1 year, 2 months ago

Am I the only one that hates it when NBA announcers call college games? I know Kevin Harlan is a KU grad but damn dude, these are kids, not million dollar athletes! Last week I heard Bill Walton say that the college shot clock is too long. Talk about trying to divert from the fact that his beloved Arizona Wildcats lost bad.

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William Blake 1 year, 2 months ago

Ugly winning? Are we talking about the game or our coaching staff's suits? There is a reason why pinstriped suits are on the 50% off rack. It did really look like they got a 3-for-1 deal.

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Doug Cramer 1 year, 2 months ago

EJ is developing into a leader. He cares more about helping his teammates succeed...than his own personal stats. I wouldn't give up on him...this leadership will help him and his team perform down the stretch !!!

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April13 1 year, 2 months ago

Impressed by EJ's comments. He gave credit to the Texas defense, took the blame for his performance and managed to stay positive through it all. Last year, Tyshawn's first half was really rough, and then the law of averages came into play. I like our chances as the season continues.

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Ferd Magellan 1 year, 2 months ago

It's not like KU pounds every Big 12 foe into submission every year. This is what happens to most good teams during the conference grind. The offense hasn't been as smooth as we're used to seeing, but it's also the first year we don't have a true scoring big man. We're asking a lot of Johnson, Releford, McLemore and Tharpe. They're playing in a system that is at its best when players are shooting high percentage shots near the basket. This is what a jump-shooting team looks like, particularly in March.

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hbjayhawk 1 year, 2 months ago

KU is gonna pound Kstate...won't even be close!

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Ralster Jayhawk 1 year, 2 months ago

Well, KSU has returned 7 guys from last year. Weber brings his B10 experience over. So far, Izzo > Self > Matta >>> Weber, regarding B10-type battles. This wont be easy, since it is a road game vs an experienced team (Enriquez, Gibson, Southwell, MacGruder, Irving, Spradling, Rodriguez...). We need our Agame.

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Ralster Jayhawk 1 year, 2 months ago

The baby steps I see Ellis making, I see some of that same progress in Traylor. He is attempting jumpshots. He is driving to the rim like TRob. Keep working, Jamari, this is exciting. Same for PerryEllis. Once their offensive output becomes reliable, we wont have to play "small". I loved KYo's steal and fast break.

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budsitz 1 year, 2 months ago

KSU runs an effective Big Ten type motion offense. They remind me of Wisconsin or an old IU. Southwell and Gibson are excellent screeners. Henriquez is the only player over 6'-7" on their roster. He is foul prone and rarely plays more than10-12 minutes a game. So, they basically play four guards and a forward (Gibson 6-7). Spradling tends to float between the two baseline corners on the 3 point line. He does not seem to be driving the ball to the hole like he did last year. So, he is not getting to line. He is an excellent FT shooter. So, the key will be Releford fighting over the screens to stay on McGruder. I would not switch off. Releford should forget about the defense boards - just stick with McGruder. McGruder does attack the offense boards. At just 6-4, he is KSU's best rebounder -go figure! KSU fouls alot, they have had several games with more than 15 turnovers. So, despite having experience guards, they are prone to careless passing - just like Johnson and Tharpe. KU just needs to pound the ball inside. This would be the perfect game for Ellis and Traylor to show their offensive skills.

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Michael Johnson 1 year, 2 months ago

I don't understand! This happens every year. I guess you have to write about something. Conference play is tough. In '08 we lost 3 close games in a very short stretch. The good thing is we've been able to pull these games out. I know it's easy to look at Texas and their 8-8 record and think we'll just roll them. They have 12 freshmen and sophomores. They are the team that will likely have the best chance to stop our streak next year. Just chill out. We are going to crush the bad teams and play close with the good teams just like every team does this time of year.

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mikehawk 1 year, 2 months ago

Opinion: My wife is going to have to order a defibulator to have here at the house if this winning ugly is going to be an ongoing habit. Wow! I can't take this all year. This is why I can't watch the NCAA tournament games live. My family and friends give me crap because I record the games and go for a walk in the park. We win and I go home and enjoy the replay. We lose. I have yard work to do. This may become my practice for all games. I'm already nervous about Tuesday night. What was Keegs big headline two weeks ago? Conference play starts with other teams fighting for 2nd place...Well, we are playing our "rivals" for 1st place at the Octagon of Poop and the loser is a game back.

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nuleafjhawk 1 year, 2 months ago

Opinion: It’s time to embrace this team’s ugly way of winning

At first, I thought this was a dumb headline, but I guess it's better than losing pretty.

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KJD 1 year, 2 months ago

I thought Keegan had a great question for Self after the game about Kansas going with a small line up late in the game. Clark Kellogg also noted how KU was spreading out and dribble driving against the best match-up to suddenly create an alternative style of offense for Texas to adjust to late. When Kansas was down in the final minutes to Iowa State this year at home the switch to the small unit helped KU rally back for that win too.

That small line up came to mind as I watched most of the Kansas State game today right after our win. The television coverage of K-State's surge at the end of the first half did a good job showing how McGruder works screens in their motion offense. McGruder is moving so much better in that offense now than he did earlier in the season, and Spadling did a nice job sinking jump-shots while making good reads in the motion too. It will be interesting to see when (or if) Kansas switches to that smaller line up this Tuesday in order to disrupt K-States rhythm offensively and to change up our offense on the other side of the ball.

Listening to Bill Self’s comments after the game he was talking about how they were switching 4 with Jeff sticking with his which can help defend the rim and KU up 3 with seconds to go. KU can also switch 5 if KU goes small and plays Young as the big though obviously you lose perhaps the best defender in the country with that unit. During the CBS coaches interviews while they were celebrating 75 years of the NCAA tournament, Self picked out a late 80’s Illinois team as his favorite Final Four team, which did not win a championship, because they had a bunch of 6’5” guys who could switch on all ball screens.

Being able to pressure the ball as KU does so well will help in defending K-State though the way KU switches screens throughout the game, particularly against McGruder, will be fun to watch. Self might again save that switch to a small line up for a late game adjustment just to throw a big wrinkle at K-State, who might know it will come, though it will still be a physical style and flow adjustment the Wildcat players on the floor might need to handle in the moment. KU is proving they are comfortable in suddenly playing small right when the pressure of game point is at stake.

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Boouk 1 year, 2 months ago

Can't wait for a top 15 matchup at KSU on Tuesday, even though it's only on the Big 12 Network.

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