Game 4: vs. Washington State
That was a solid, dominating performance. Good to see the momentum from the second half of the Chattanooga game carry over to a game against a decent quality opponent. In the last 3 halves of basketball the Kansas defense has allowed 19, 21, and 20 points. This is amazing. It seems like this team has finally bought into the idea that playing defense makes games more fun. You get more transition chances, etc, etc.
In any case, KU played well in nearly all facets of the game, so lets do the lists of team pros and cons:
Things the Jayhawks did well: Pretty much everything: WSU shot 32% from the floor, 19% from 3 point land, only attempted 3 free throws. KU won the rebound battle, the turnover battle, shot the ball very well, especially in the first half, and moved the ball well on offense.
Things the Jayhawks didn't do well: Hmm. Shoot the ball in the second half: After shooting over 60% in the 1st half, KU cooled off and ended up shooting 47% for the game.
Overall team grade: B+
Travis Releford - A+ (Season average B+) FINALLY. We know Travis is capable of being an offensive threat, after he dropped 20+ points a couple of times last year. He was the picture of efficiency tonight, and he finally made a couple of three point shots. 17 points on only 7 shots is pretty darn good, and he really provided the offensive spark on a night McLemore wasn't as involved and Elijah's shot wasn't dropping. Only played 23 minutes, but was also key in holding WSU's guards to a pretty awful collective offensive night.
Kevin Young - A (Season average B+) This is exactly what Kevin Young should be doing. He doesn't force offense, but he still makes himself a presence in the game. He grabbed 10 rebounds in only 18 minutes, and scored 4 points on just 2 shots. He also registered an assist and a steal, and only had one turnover. As long as Young isn't outclassed physically, there is no reason he shouldn't continue to get a similar number of minutes to Traylor and Ellis. A 22 year old, even one who isn't as highly rated or athletically gifted, has learned a lot about how to play basketball that his younger counterparts simply don't know yet. Young's development might prove to be as critical as anyone else's on the team, as coming in to the season it seemed that 4 starting spots were settled. If Young can bring a stable veteran presence to the 5th starting spot, then I think KU is in for another great season.
Perry Ellis - A- (Season average B) Coming off the bench, Ellis had a very productive 14 minutes. He scored 12 points on only 3 shots, becuase he was able to get to the free throw line and make all 8 of his attempts from there. He also snagged 3 boards, dished 2 assists, and added a steal and a block. Ellis coming off the bench might be a good way to balance the scoring between the starters and the bench.
Jeff Withey - B+ (Season average B) Withey only played 19 minutes, but he was fairly involved in the offense, getting off 8 shots in that amount of time. A little bit disappointing is that he only gathered 6 rebounds and he didn't get to the free throw line at all. Making up for that is that he blocked 5 shots and helped to limit WSU's big man Brock Motum to only 14 points on 18 shots. 8 points is disappointing, but I won't hold it against him too much. The outside shooters were firing on all cylinders, and WSU was collapsing on the middle quite a bit.
Ben McLemore - B+ (Season average A-) Ben had a solid, if less involved, offensive game tonight. He is definitely a quality defender as well, as he so far seems to be routinely collecting both steals and blocks. A guard getting so many blocks is, I think, a true sign of the quickness of his hands. 11 points on just 6 shots, but not as many rebounds as we are accustomed to from the slashing guard. I can already hear the "one more year" chants on Senior night...
Naadir Tharpe - B+ (Season average B+) Tharpe continues to impress me with his growth since last year. He looks like a really solid point guard who will be poised to excel as a starter for the next two years. 4 assists and no turnovers in 18 minutes, along with continued improvement on defense were only offset by a less than great, but not poor, shooting night.
Jamari Traylor - B+ (Season average B) Traylor also continues to impress me with his physical play. I think he and Ellis are a great combination off the bench to compliment Young and Withey. In 15 minutes, Traylor recorded 4 boards, a steal, a block, and 5 points. We should probably just start red-shirting most of our freshman bigs.
Andrew White - B+ (Season average B) In 9 minutes, including mostly late game minutes, White scored 5 points on just 2 shots, as well as pulling down a couple of rebounds and dishing an assist. Offense is not his weakness, so having him get some minutes during the course of the game when the defensive intensity is still high is important for developing Andrew as a player. Going against EJ, Releford, and B-Mac in practice every day can't hurt either.
Elijah Johnson - B (Season average B-) Elijah had a pretty so-so offensive night, scoring only 8 points on 9 shots, including 2-8 three point shooting. He did have 4 assists against 2 turnovers, which is a good ratio. Did play solid defense, and he certainly picked a good night to have an off-night shooting, but I still expect a lot more from EJ. He was also a key factor in keeping WSU's guards from having anything close to a decent game scoring the basketball.
Justin Wesley - B- (Season average B-) Wesley got 10 minutes, mostly at the end of the game. He gets a little bit of credit for being the most experienced player on the floor for the last 5 minutes of the game, and he did snag 4 rebounds in his time. He also turned the ball over twice and committed 3 fouls in those 10 minutes, as well as missing two bunnies, at least one of which should have been a slam. Wesley is certainly benefitting from the Peters injury and the decision to Red-shirt Landen Lucas.
Rio Adams - C (Season average B-) Not Rio's night. In 8 minutes he missed 4 shots, grabbed one rebound, and didn't do much else. He is certainly an excellent athlete, but he needs to not get ahead of himself on the court. No turnovers were a plus since he is one of the primary ballhandlers when he is out there.