I hate to be the KU fan who complains about wins, and this one had a really nice flavor to it after the first 8 minutes of the second half. KU had played well in the first half, but had let up at the end of the half so the Spartans could get back in it. Then, KU went on a terrible scoring drought and San Jose State went on a 16-0 run. Yuck. The lead was cut from 60-36 to 62-54, including an incredible 9-0 run over a minute and a half by scoring machine James Kinney... Thankfully, KU stepped up just enough to close it out and even their record against teams nicknamed the Spartans on the season.
Things KU did well: Field Goal Percentage Defense: Once again KU held a team under 30% shooting from the floor, and especially defended well inside the arc. Block Shots: As a team KU blocked 16 shots, with Jeff Withey getting 12 of them. As Bill Self discussed post-game, our guard defense on the ball was actually not great, but we lucked out having Jeff inside to block and alter pretty much every shot while he was in there. Move the ball/transition offense: KU did get several run-outs and did rack up 16 assists on 26 made baskets. During the stagnant 10 minute period of the second half this was not the case, as KU settled for jumpshots and forgot what had worked so well for them during the 20-2 run that started the second half.
Things KU didn't do well: Rebound the ball: Not out-rebounding this team is kind of a huge bummer. They did have some height, but KU needs to be tougher on the boards, especially when the other team misses 46 shots. As Self pointed out, a lot of blocks leads to more offensive rebounds, but I'm still not letting this slide. Shoot the three/settle for jumpshots: McLemore was 0-7, so other than him the rest of the team wasn't bad, but there were several stretches of this game where KU just moved the ball around the perimeter and then took a long jumper.
Overall team grade: B-
Jeff Withey - A+ (Season average B+) Jeff was truly a game changer tonight. Only the second recorded triple double in KU history, and I'll give him a free pass for going only 2-6 from the free throw line tonight. 12 blocks is ridiculous. 12 rebounds led the game. 16 points was a team high, and he only took 11 shots to do it. Withey is now averaging OVER 6 blocks per game this season.
Travis Releford - A- (Season average B+) Releford was definitely the best perimeter player out there tonight, and by a lot. He was efficient in his scoring, getting 13 points on just 6 shots. He pulled down 4 rebounds, dished 4 assists, and also had 3 blocks. He did spend a big portion of the second half guarding San Jose's James Kinney who ended up with 30 points, but Kinney also had 6 turnovers and had to take 26 shots to get those 30 points, which is not great efficiency. Also, most of the jump shots he took and made were closely guarded. On offense it is nice to see Travis continue to come out of his early season slump and be a real offensive threat.
Kevin Young - B (Season average B+) Keven should be commended for having some energy. He also hit some critical free throws down the stretch to help break KU out of their significant scoring slump. Did take two ill-advised threes, but that is a shot he is capable of making, as he did last year on a few occasions. Got out-muscled by SJSU's big-men, but still hustled. Probably the best per-minute rebounder on the team. Still needs to do a better job of avoiding the stupid foul, as he usually gets at least one moving screen/blocking foul way outside of the 3 point line every game.
Elijah Johnson - B- (Season average B-) EJ had an OK game if you just look at the stat sheet. 13 points, 5 assists, 3 of 6 from three point land, but he did have 4 turnovers. I rate him so low because I just expect so much more. From watching the game, EJ just doesn't display the leadership that we need him to. I think Self needs to continue making the comparisons to Tyshawn until he gets the message that that is the type of play we need from him.
Andrew White - C+ (Season average B-) Logged 4 minutes of second half action and his time on the court almost directly coincided with the beginning of the 16-0 run by SJSU. He missed his only shot, made 1 of 2 free throws, and did have a steal. Even with the steal it seems his defense is still going to be the limiting factor in getting on the court and off the bench.
Naadir Tharpe - C+ (Season average B) Couldn't keep himself on the court, logging only 12 minutes as the 4th guard. Needs to get more comfortable with the ball once he does drive the lane, because he has the speed to get to the hoop. Ran the point for awhile in the first half and only had one assist while logging one turnover and displayed poor shot selection a couple of times. A significant step back for Tharpe tonight.
Justin Wesley - C+ (Season average B-) Meh. He played 4 minutes he snagged a rebound. He committed his first foul 30 seconds into his stint.
Ben McLemore - C+ (Season average B+) Too many threes. Ben made 5 baskets, and only one of them was a jumpshot. He had 3 turnovers, and committed 4 fouls while having probably his worst defensive game of the year thus far. He did stuff the stat sheet, but we need Ben to be aggressive and not just be a three point shooter who catches alley oops.
Perry Ellis - C+ (Season average B) Ellis continues to struggle. He looks soft and lost. He did make a nice long jumper early in the game, but he just couldn't keep himself on the court. Maybe I set my expectations too high, but when you're the only McDonalds All-American on the roster I expect you to perform better against a mid-level WAC team.
Jamari Traylor - C+ (Season average B) On a night when none of the power forwards were playing worth a darn, Traylor also failed to establish himself, only logging 7 minutes, pulling down two rebounds and getting a stickback bucket.