A tale of two halves.
The real difference in this game appeared to be the energy expended by the Jayhawks, and as Self said in the postgame radio show, this team isn't good enough to coast along at 80%. They need to play 100% all the time. They need to enjoy playing defense and realize that all the fun stuff, like blocks, steals, and fast break run-outs which end in vicious dunks come from playing defense with energy and intensity.
Watching this game was at times excruciating, and it really just looks like this is a team that hasn't spent a lot of time on the court together.
Things the Jayhawks did well: Everything, in the second half.
Things the Jayhawks didn't do well: Everything, in the first half.
Team grade average: B
Ben McLemore - A (Season avg A) Wow. Is it too early to say McLemore is the best player on this team? He is certainly the best athlete. 25 points with athleticism to spare. Solid defense, even if he wasn't guarding the primary scoring threats for the Mocs. He makes dunks look easy, and he can score in so many ways. This guy is fun to watch, and he gets bonus points for being the one guy who came to play for the entire game.
Kevin Young - A (Season avg B+) Thank goodness for Kevin Young. He brought exactly the type of second half intensity this team needed. He snagged 7 boards in 19 minutes, had a couple of putbacks, and really contributed on defense in keeping UTC spread out and not able to run their offense the way it was run in the first half.
Elijah Johnson - B (Season avg C+) Elijah, like the rest of the team played a really crummy first half. But he couldn't have played much better in the second half. He scored 18 points on only 10 shots, got 2 boards, 2 steals and 4 assists to offset 4 turnovers, and looked much more comfortable defending the off-guard in the second half. He was a non-factor after the beginning of the first half, and jacked up a really bad three point attempt that really put Self on edge.
Travis Releford - B (Season avg B) I'm not sure which will happen first: this team stops running plays for Travis, or he starts knocking shots down. All that being said, Travis is a fantastic on ball defender. The out of nowhere performance of the Mocs' Farad Cobb came to a screeching halt in the second half when Releford hounded him relentlessly. Releford also stuffed the stat sheet with steals, rebounds, and assists. Three turnovers, the missed shots, and his contributions to a crummy first half keep him from getting higher up in the grades.
Naadir Tharpe - B (Season average B) Tharpe didn't shoot it well, especially given that he mostly took open looks. But he ran the point admirably, racking up 5 assists with no turnovers. Tharpe continues to impress me considering the way he looked last year. He's the reliable 4th guard this team needs.
Rio Adams - B (Season avg B) Rio got 4 minutes in the first half when all hell was breaking loose, and he had an assist and a sweet Sherron Collins-esque up and under layup. Also had a turnover, but brought some good defensive intensity in relief of the guards who were struggling in the first half.
Jeff Withey - B- (Season avg B-) I'm not sure if its more his fault or his teammates' reluctance to pass the ball inside, but Jeff absolutely needs more touches than he got in this game. In the second half though, he really became a factor on both ends of the court. He probably played 17 or 18 minutes in the second half, and he grabbed a bunch of points, boards, and blocks. Only getting 3 free throws was a major disappointment, and a real testament to his lack of touches in the game. An A+ for the second half and a D for the first half averages out to a B-.
Andrew White - C+ (Season avg B-) White got in for a minute in the first half, and missed the type of open look he has to make if he wants to earn more court time.
Perry Ellis - C (Season avg B-) This was another game where Ellis all but disappeared into thin air. In 20 minutes he only had 2 points and 4 boards. More disappointing than the Michigan State game because this was a team that KU clearly outclassed, and there was absolutely no inside presence.
Jamari Traylor - C (Season avg B) Traylor got the start, but tonight wasn't his night either. The freshmen just didn't appear to have their wits about them tonight, as UTC's bigs routinely got position and good looks at the basket in the first half.