Really tough loss for the Jayhawks. Felt like they were in control, and then they just fell apart there at the end. Bum deal. Oh well, I think it will be a learning experience, and I'd rather lose games now than in conference play or the tournaments.
Things the Jayhawks did well: -Shoot the ball: 50% is not too shabby. Neither is 4 of 9 from 3 point land. Good shot selection (or good perimeter defense by Sparty...). -Steals and turnovers: 11 steals and 15 turnovers isn't too bad in a game with this slow of pace.
Things the Jayhawks didn't do well: -Rebound: Getting outrebounded is never good. Allowing the other team to have more total rebounds and more offensive rebounds in such a close game really stinks. -Shot defense: Especially down the stretch, the 'hawks on-ball defense really slipped. MSU made it look easy at times, and especially their guards were incredibly clutch. -Take care of the ball: 16 turnovers and 8 steals against is no way to prove that you value the basketball, especially in a game of this pace. (under 50 shots for both teams and final point tallies in the 60's.
Overall team grade: B-
Ben McLemore - B+ (Season average: A) Ben was an efficient scorer, tallying 14 points on only 7 shots. Stuffed the stat sheet as well with 3 boards, 3 assists, a steal and a block, to go with 3 turnovers. Really was hoping he'd get the shot on our last possession, and they tried, but it was well guarded by Sparty. MSU's quality guard play kept Ben from getting an A.
Jamari Traylor - B+ (Season average: B+) Jamari is proving to be a great surprise off the bench. He is a much more physical player than Ellis, as I'm sure banging against T-Rob every day last year helped. While a bit offensively raw, he filled out the stat sheet with 4 boards, 2 steals, and 3 blocks. Would have been nice for him to be more involved offensively in the second half as well.
Travis Releford - B (Season average: B) This is about the type of offensive game we should hope for from Releford against a quality opponent. Unfortunately he, along with the rest of the guards, didn't play great on the defensive end, although T-Rele did have 4 steals. Glad to see him not settle for outside jumpers as he did against SEMO. And he stuffed the stat sheet pretty well.
Naadir Tharpe - B (Season average: B+) Significant cut in playing time for Tharpe, as EJ was able to stay on the court, but Naadir was still effective while he was in there. He is proving to be more of a shooting guard than a true point guard, but he still did a decent enough job while he was in there. Still a big improvement over last year.
Justin Wesley - B (Season average: B-) In 7 minutes, Wesley was quiet, grabbing an offensive rebound and a bucket on a put-back. That is what he is in there to do, and he didn't have any turnovers or fouls. Not sure of the numbers while he was in there, but MSU's bigs were relatively quiet on offense.
Elijah Johnson - C+ (Season average: C) Elijah ended up having to take the role that Tyshawn did against Kentucky in last year's Champion's Classic game. Unfortunately the rest of the team crumbled under the pressure, and EJ wasn't able to keep the team afloat down the stretch. That said, 9 missed shots is too many, and 2 assists to 4 turnovers is not good from our lead guard either. He did a much better job of staying on the floor than he did against SEMO, but maybe that was part of the problem, as MSU's guards really outplayed KU's down the stretch.
Jeff Withey - C+ (Season average: B) Withey got into foul trouble in the first half, and had too many turnovers, and not enough shot attempts. Missed a critical and-1 opportunity, and failed to make the kind of impact on the game that he should.
Kevin Young - C+ (Season average: C+) Young only played 3 minutes, committed a foul, and missed a free throw. Nice to have him back, but he's clearly not up to full speed yet.
Perry Ellis - C (Season average: B+) Ellis really melted away, and was out-muscled by MSU's forwards. He lost minutes to Traylor, and didn't get enough touches or rebounds for the kind of game this was and the type of player he needs to be. That being said, he and Withey did limit MSU's bigs offensively.