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Saturday, March 23, 2013

WKU laments missed chances

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

KU coach Bill Self, Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford talk after win over WKU

Kansas coach Bill Self and guards Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford talk after the Jayhawks' 64-57 win over WKU on March 23, 2013.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

WKU coach Ray Harper

WKU coach Ray Harper talks after his team's 64-57 loss to Kansas on March 22, 2013.

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Box score

• KU-WKU

— In a game decided by just seven points, it would’ve been easy for the Western Kentucky men’s basketball players to look at the stat sheet and lament the team’s final shooting numbers during Friday’s 64-57 loss to top-seeded Kansas University at Sprint Center.

But leading scorer T.J. Price, who was largely held in check by KU’s Travis Releford, said the off shooting night was only part of the equation.

“I don’t think the numbers have to be a little bit better,” Price said. “But our defense did. They went on that big run, and that’s what got us.”

The run Price referred to turned a one-point WKU lead at the half into a 10-point KU lead late. But it was not one of those knock-out blows that the Jayhawks are famous for delivering. It was slow, deliberate, even painful at times. And it was enough to make the Hilltoppers smile about the scare they put into the Jayhawks, who improved to 30-5 and moved onto the third round, where they will face eighth-seeded North Carolina at 4:15 p.m. Sunday.

“Heck yes it does,” said junior guard Brandon Harris, who shot 1-for-7 and finished with three points. “This whole week all we heard was we didn’t stand a chance, they were supposed to beat us by 40, people were clowning our mascot, but I think people knew who we were for that first 20 minutes, and they’re not gonna make fun of us any more, I can tell you that.”

On a night neither team was particularly sharp offensively, KU’s ability to score inside and at the rim made the difference.

After shooting 48 percent during the surprising first half, the Hilltoppers (20-16) opened the second half with just four makes in their first 29 attempts. Considering the fact that the KU lead was in the low single digits throughout the night, many in the WKU locker room believed that a few more here or there would’ve made the difference for the visitors and allowed Western Kentucky to make history as the first No. 16 to knock off a No. 1.

Instead, that distinction will have to wait for another team, another year.

“It’s a game of runs, and later there down the stretch, the ball bounced their way,” Harris said. “If the ball bounces a different way, we’re the first 16 seed to beat a 1. We just played the No. 1 seed in the country, shot 3-for-20, and we lost by, what? Imagine if they caught us on a good night.”

WKU’s top three guards combined to shoot 9-for-34, with Price, the Most Outstanding Player of the Sun Belt Conference tournament, finishing just 3-for-13. Price said Releford was responsible for part of his struggles but also gave it up to the guys who held down the fort behind him.

“He’s a great defender,” Price said. “And once you get past him, you have to worry about the big guys behind him. Once I got by him, the big guys were just right there. That happened to me a lot. We usually make shots. I guess tonight just wasn’t our night.”

Price said he expected to remember Friday’s battle for a while and added that he thought the Jayhawks were as capable as anybody of winning it all.

“One thing about this year, nobody was consistent at staying at No. 1,” he said. “It’s anybody’s championship this year. They have the talent for it, but you just never know whether they’re gonna come to play or not.”

Comments

AverageCitizen 1 year ago

Harris said. “If the ball bounces a different way, we’re the first 16 seed to beat a 1. We just played the No. 1 seed in the country, shot 3-for-20, and we lost by, what? Imagine if they caught us on a good night.”

Imagine if they had caught KU on a good night.

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TexiCaliHawk 1 year ago

First of all, it's always great to get a 'W' so congrats to the Hawks for NOT being the 'first to lose as a 1 Seed to a 16 Seed -- I know, I know . . . 'Survive and Advance'. That said, we simply cannot play so 'scared' any more as that seems to be the recipe for disaster for this squad (e.g., long tentative passes, holding the ball instead of moving it, standing around instead of moving without the ball, looking to pass instead of aggressively driving into the paint, short-arming 'bunnies' instead of dunking the ball with authority, etc., etc.). We also need MUCH more 'Senior Leadership' than our 4 Seniors (3 of them '5th Years!') have demonstrated as there were more 'brain fart' plays out of them than you would expect from a Freshman. E.J. has reverted back into his 'funk' and Releford seems to have likewise reverted back into his 'shell' -- we need BOTH of those guys to step and LEAD like we all know they are capable -- especially when things aren't going well. Ben was 'invisible' (at best) and actually a 'barrier' (at worst) to our progress -- he looked absolutely lost out there for the majority of the game and tried to force the issue on several occasions when he got the ball -- only to result in a missed (difficult) shot, or errant pass, etc. Thank God for Jeff Withey who DID show up to play as well as our ability to hit Free Throws down the stretch, or we would be going home early from the Tourney (just like K-State!). Monkee -- your (repeated) mantra of "Take care of the ball and we can win it all" is indeed an accurate assessment (especially when we play a quick, athletic, pressing, trapping team like UNC or VCU), but unfortunately, it is only one of our keys to advancing -- this team responds best when it has a chip on its shoulder; playing with a tremendous amount of energy and PASSION (a 'Free Mind') in squeezing the utmost out of their God-given abilities. When we just 'show up' and play as passive as we did last night, we are still a good team, but just not GREAT team. Sorry to sound so negative, but I'm guessing HCBS is thinking/saying the same things to his team -- we have the Talent and Coaching (as well as a decided 'Home Court' advantage in playing at the Sprint Center in front of a vast majority of fans on a floor where we just last week won the Big 12 Conf. Tourney by playing our BEST basketball of the season). Now we have to mentally put that 'stinker' behind us and gear up for WAR against 'ol Roy and his Tar Heels who WILL show up and play like they have nothing to lose . . . Will we? I certainly hope so as I love these Seniors and just want them to go out like they deserve to . . . as CHAMPIONS! As we've seen from all the upsets thus far, nobody is going to 'give' us anything . . . we have to TAKE it! I'm thinking that our lackluster performance last night will get our attention and indeed give us the push we need to take care of business on Sunday . . . ROCK CHALK!

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iamakufan 1 year ago

I don't think the direction the ball bounced had anything to do with it at all. It bounced both ways about equally, overall. The big difference maker seemed to be in the second half when Kansas cranked up their defense. Prior to that they were not defending to their usual standard. Once they got defense on track they were able to get back in control, although it was a tenuous control.

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kusports1 1 year ago

Can you imagine if we didn't come out tight and nervous?!? I don't like when people, media included, say 'what if the other team made more shots or only turned it over 10 times the game would have been different.' Duh. There are things KU could have done better as well. That's part of the game. Survive and move on!

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Robert Brock 1 year ago

Ray Harper is a smart coach. He really made the Hawks sweat.

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monkeehawkSL8 1 year ago

You know those commercials where the mom or dad comes in the kitchen and find the kids that are not old enough to see over the counter, let alone use a knife or a mixer? And bless there little hearts they have baked a cake. The kitchen looks like a family of rabid raccoons went postal on a bad batch of PCP. What's left is a mess so bad that half the house will have to be renovated. But the evert of the little darlings is so heart warming that the parents tear up and gage down the beautiful gift.

Jayhawk fans start eating. Its alright it was just nerves. "Take care of the ball and we can win it all". If those kids get in the kitchen on Sunday and bake another cake it won't be so cute.

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jayhawkinATL 1 year ago

Couldn't have summed it up better re: this year's 'hawks: "They have the talent for it, but you just never know whether they’re gonna come to play or not.”

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Jerry Long 1 year ago

One of the announcers last night said, "If only WKU could have made a few of those 3's earlier". I said to my wife, "Wouldn't have mattered if we had hit half of the bunnies we missed". Coulda, Shouda, Wouda. Survive and advance.

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chriz 1 year ago

Congrats to the Hilltoppers. I will say, though, that poor shooting is a common excuse for our opponents after our wins. It's not luck. It's just hard to shoot against a team coached by Bill Self.

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Michael Luby 1 year ago

nice quote by Price. Good player, way underrated team. I hope KU reads what he said.

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Rock Chalk 1 year ago

"... They have the talent for it, but you just never know whether they’re gonna come to play or not.”

Very true with this team, you never know. I do wish they would have played like you would expect a #1 seed team to play, like we know they are capable of doing. Is this intentionally done, look weak to our upcoming opponents?

I felt sure Bill would pull this one out, and he did, it just wasn't pretty. I know an ugly win is a win regardless, it is baffling however their inconsistency.

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Steve Zimmerman 1 year ago

You deserved our respect, Red Dot - or whatever. Now, if you'd excuse us, we still have some business to finish. Go home safely! Our team definitely has got a lot to learn from this game. But I guarantee, we'll come out stronger to halt Roy's 700. C'mon JHawks! Rock Chalk!

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Lash 1 year ago

OK Decided to get the close one out of the way first. Win to play another day. The number one seed drama is over for another year. Enjoy the weekend and have fun Sunday afternoon!

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68hawk 1 year ago

Good job Hawks! It was hard to watch a few times but they got the job done.

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