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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Column: Jayhawks will go as far as trio can take them

Kansas head coach Bill Self looks for answers from his players after a stretch of poor defense during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas head coach Bill Self looks for answers from his players after a stretch of poor defense during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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By this point of a college basketball season, all the secrets have been exposed, every player’s pet move identified, studied, taken away.

Only the most talented, most aggressive, most creative players stand out against intense defenses built to drive them to a state of frustration.

For Kansas University, its anticipated depth an illusion, that means that to a large extent it will go as far as Perry Ellis, Frank Mason III and Kelly Oubre Jr. can take them. One junior, one sophomore, one freshman, three basketball players who led with their chins Saturday.

Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Bill Self on play of Ellis, Alexander's situation and more

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self had plenty to discuss following Saturday's win over Texas at Allen Fieldhouse. While another great game from Perry Ellis made the win possible, the Jayhawks had to play without starting big man Cliff Alexander, who could have an eligibility issue.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Ellis, Oubre and Mason discuss home win over Texas

Kansas basketball players Perry Ellis, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Frank Mason III discuss the Jayhawks' home victory over Texas on Saturday.

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KANSAS 69, TEXAS 64

Box score

The trio took the Jayhawks a little bit closer to an 11th consecutive Big 12 title by defeating Texas, 69-64, in a rugby scrum of a basketball game played in an especially loud Allen Fieldhouse.

“The toughest team wins it each night (in Big 12 games),” said Oubre, who delivered 15 points, nine rebounds, three blocked shots and two steals. “There are so many good teams in this league, even the teams whose record doesn’t show that they’re one of the best.”

Such as Texas (17-12 overall, 6-10 in the Big 12).

“Texas is a great team. No knock against them, they’re one of the biggest teams in the league and they showed that tonight with their blocked shots, their length,” Oubre said. “I feel like if they were to go to any other conference, they’d be great.”

Texas blocked 14 shots, which didn’t make the Jayhawks run away and hide. Losing Cliff Alexander for who knows how long because the freshman from Chicago did something to raise NCAA eyebrows served as one more reminder that if Kansas is going to win games, it will have to do so with the junkyard mentality it brought to the playground Saturday.

Myles Turner blocked five shots, Prince Ibeh four. Like Joe Frazier taking shots to the jaw, the chin, the nose, both eyes, Kansas kept plowing forward as its shots were swatted all over the place. The Jayhawks realized that basketball is more a prize fight than a beauty pageant.

“We had to keep attacking,” Oubre said. “We had to go at their chest. We got a lot of them in foul trouble early. That was definitely the game plan because they have Jonathan Holmes, who’s 6-8 at the three position. We needed to go at his chest because he had a good game down in Austin.”

Kansas shot just 40 percent from inside the arc and made just 1 of 8 from beyond it, leaving only one place at which to win the game, the free-throw line. The Jayhawks made 26 of 32 (.813).

Ellis, Mason and Oubre all responded properly to losing a starter by trying to play bigger. They scored all but 14 of KU’s points.

“Perry stepped up big tonight and I kind of tried to step it up on the glass because we lost a big body tonight,” Oubre said.

Alexander watched the game from a seat on the bench. The players found out somewhere Saturday around mid-day, at the team shoot-around, that Alexander would not play, Oubre said.

“I looked in his face,” Oubre said. “He wanted to play so bad. He wanted to be out there so bad to prove himself. It was tough for me to look at because I know if I were in his shoes, I’d be itching at the knees, just wanting to get in the game.”

Even when Alexander has been in the game this season, it’s been difficult to tell that at times. He has had flashes and has superior athletic ability to all those playing in his place, but his basketball skill and savvy haven’t wowed anybody. Still, Kansas has more potential with him than without him.

Not having him Saturday didn’t hurt Kansas. But not getting him back, if that ends up being the case, can’t help. Even with Alexander, Ellis lacks much help up front.


More news and notes from Kansas vs. Texas


By the Numbers: Kansas beats Texas, 69-64

By the Numbers: Kansas beats Texas, 69-64

Comments

Joe Ross 4 years, 5 months ago

We have come a long way from the beginning of the season when it was unclear who would emerge as this team's leaders. Conspicuously absent from the discussion now are Wayne Selden, Sviatoslav Mykhailuk, and Cliff Alexander. Who'd have thought?

Suzi Marshall 4 years, 5 months ago

Don't count Selden out. He's got alot to give and my bet is .... he will do it.

Cody Riedy 4 years, 5 months ago

I agree. He's been inconsistent so far, his offensive game is clunky at times, and though he's been a pretty good defender, he doesn't create TOs like Oubre. Still, he sort of reminds me of Travis Releford - even when he wasn't generating numbers, you kind of feel better when he's out there because, because he's steady and you know, every now and then, he can break out and change the game.

Joe Ross 4 years, 5 months ago

I have confidence in Selden's ability to step up in game situations. He's proven this already. But this is a different thing than being a leader on the court. I havent seen that from him thus far this season. We can always hope, I suppose. Perry Ellis, by contrast, has shown that leadership over the course of the last several games. I hope he inspires others...

Jim Chastain 4 years, 5 months ago

I was pleased to see Selden get more aggressive in the second half in terms of going to the basket and looking for his shot from 3. An aggressive, focused Selden totally changes the complexion of this team and for his own sake he really needs to develop his slashing game. He is so big and strong and that will help him make more of an impact at the next level.

That said, I don't think he is seen as a leader on the team. I'm getting the feeling that this is Ellis' and Mason's team right now and Oubre has bought into that. Not sure about the others. Traylor seems lost all of a sudden and Greene comes and goes offensively.

Roger Ortega 4 years, 5 months ago

I think all the hype about Greene's great shooting has him thinking too much. We know he's a great shooter and he does too, I think that maybe he's concerned with his percentage or something. He's also not getting great looks right now as it doesn't seem Bill hasn't been setting up the 3 ball lately. He'll settle in and get hot again and I'm hoping it starts Tuesday.

John Pritchett 4 years, 5 months ago

Selden and Green have a few down games and suddenly we're writing them off as an "illusion". They have both shown an ability to provide great offensive support. They'll be back. And don't forget Graham has had a few big games recently.

I don't understand the need to always lock this team in as this identity or that. First it's "Perry's too soft" and "We can only play on the perimeter", now "Perry's the only consistent guy" or "We only have 3 good players" and "We can only play inside". This team is learning and evolving. That will continue. I'm just glad we've managed to bring this team along while still managing to stay at the top of the toughest conference in the country. That's great coaching.

John Pritchett 4 years, 5 months ago

The free throws were huge. I haven't looked at the exact numbers, but my sense is that we performed well below average at the free throw line in our losses to WVU and KSU. I definitely recall missing the front end of a one-and-one in the last minute or two of one of those games. With those games so close, that can be a deciding factor. Prior to those games, we were solid from the line, but the lower free throw percentage in those two games was as much the cause of our losses as this game's high percentage was the main factor in the win.

Harlan Hobbs 4 years, 5 months ago

Amen, Joe and John. Terrific insights.

My biggest pet peeve right now is all the talk about Bob Huggins as Coach of the Year. Bill Self is, and always will be, the true Coach of the Year in the Big 12. Nobody else is even close!

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