This one felt very in control at times, but Saint Louis clawed back into the game with runs at the end of each half, the scariest of which came late in the second half when back to back threes by Cody Ellis cut the Jayhawk lead to single digits. KU quickly recovered and closed out the game. The aforementioned Ellis did score 19 points, but he had to shoot 20 times to get there, that kind of inefficiency is fine by me, although a forward being able to get off 12 three pointers is a bit troublesome.
Interesting aside: KU played 9 players, and had one player each with 0 through 8 rebounds.
Things KU did well: Defend inside the paint - St. Louis was only 8 of 26 inside the arc, which is about 31%. KU blocked 9 shots, and one of them was on a 3 point attempt, which means that KU blocked as many two point attempts as Saint Louis made. Shoot the three ball and free throws - Releford continues to rebound from his 0-11 slump, going 4 of 7 tonight and 6 of 10 over the last two games. Nobody else shot more than 3, and the three guys who did attempt a 3 all made at least one. Only 3 guys shot free throws, but they made them at a great rate. Pass the basketball - Johnson had 9 assists, and KU as a team had 17 assists on 24 made baskets, with only 9 turnovers. Young made a couple of great interior passes, and in general the ball movement was solid.
Things KU didn't do well: Defend the three point line - To be fair, St. Louis was playing from behind most of the game, and teams do tend to put up more threes when this is the case, but SLU ran what seemed like the same screening play to free up Cody Ellis time after time, and he got up 12 shots, and only two of these attempts were desperation tries. Rebound the ball - Only winning the rebound battle by 4 over an inferior team is a bit disappointing. Also only snagging 6 offensive rebounds on 29 missed field goals is well under Self's expectations. Step on the throat - KU had an 18 point lead in the first half and fell apart, and then in the second half played to a tie. Saint Louis is no slouch of a team, but it seemed like the killer instinct was lacking somewhat.
Overall team grade: B+
Travis Releford - A (Season average B+) This is sort of the polar opposite of what we normally expect from Travis. He scored quite well in the first half, scoring 21 of his 23 points then. He was also very efficient, scoring 23 points on just 13 shots. What he normally does is stuff the rest of the stat sheet, but tonight he only grabbed one rebound, and offset one turnover with one steal. He almost certainly was the reason we had a big halftime lead, but he all but disappeared on offense in the second half.
Jeff Withey - A (Season average B) This was a great game for Jeff. In the 2nd half the team made a real concerted effort to get the ball inside, and Withey delivered. Scoring 25 points on 12 shots is fantastic efficiency, and any game where he shoots 14 free throws has a chance to be a great one. Seven blocked shots is also a real game changer, and Jeff is now averaging 5 per game on the season. The only thing keeping him from an A+ is his only getting 5 rebounds and 3 turnovers.
Ben McLemore - B+ (Season average A-) Sort of a blah game for McLemore, but he was still solid. He only played 25 minutes but still scored 11 points on 9 shots, pulled down 6 boards, and didn't turn the ball over. A bit disappointing that EJ, Ben and Naadir all didn't attempt a free throw. This maybe makes me think they should have all been more aggressive in driving the basketball.
Elijah Johnson - B+ (Season average B-) Sometimes the shots don't fall, and that is okay as long as you don't shoot a half million shots. On a night shen Elijah only shot 2 threes and didn't get to the line, I can forgive that because he played point guard very capably. 9 assists to only 2 turnovers is a great ratio, and 4 rebounds and a steal help to fill in the stat line. Still not seeing what we should be seeing from Johnson's offense, but maybe there is enough scoring on the rest of the team that he won't be the 14-17 point scoring guy I predicted.
Kevin Young - B+ (Season average B+) Young got anothere start and delivered 27 quality minutes. He didn't get involved in the offense from a scoring standpoint, but made some great moves with the basketball to set other guys up, collecting 3 assists including a very memorable pass out of a double team to feed Withey for a dunk. He also snagged a team high 8 rebounds. He did get burned a few times by the repetitive screening action to free up Cody Ellis, but Self obviously felt most comfortable with him out there, as he got more minutes than Traylor and Perry Ellis combined.
Jamari Traylor - B (Season average B) Traylor only got 12 minutes, which much like Ellis' lack of playing time I think indicates the types of skills and on-court actions that Self values the most. Traylor did pull down a couple of boards, grab an assist and two steals while blocking 2 shots. I've been very impressed with Traylor's shot blocking abilities so far this year. He failed to get himself involved in the offense though, so I can't go higher than a B.
Naadir Tharpe - B (Season average B) Tharpe struggled to finish inside the arc, and he settled for pull up jumpers when he either should have driving for layups or kept the ball moving around. No turnovers, 2 assists, a steal, and 4 rebounds still point to a decent game from the 4th guard.
Perry Ellis - B- (Season average B) Perry couldn't keep himself on the court tonight, probably due to fouls and lack of good perimeter defense. He did fill the stat sheet in only 9 minutes, with 4 points, 3 boards, and an assist and steal to offset a turnover. That being said, Ellis is our one and only McDonald's All-American, and he only played 9 minutes. That speaks volumes about both what Self values in his team, as well as how much growing Ellis still needs to do.
Rio Adams - C+ (Season average B-) Rio got just 2 minutes, missed a shot and committed a foul. His playing time roughly coincided with the beginning of a 1st half run by Saint Louis.