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Hot-shooting McLemore edges out Withey, Tharpe for top spot

Kansas guard Ben McLemore puts up a three over Kansas State guard Rodney McGruder during the first half on Monday, Feb. 11, 2013.

Kansas guard Ben McLemore puts up a three over Kansas State guard Rodney McGruder during the first half on Monday, Feb. 11, 2013. by Nick Krug

1. Ben McLemore: Kansas coach Bill Self said afterwards that McLemore was more aggressive both shooting and penetrating, and the freshman's line was impressive because of it. McLemore scored 30 points on just 13 field-goal attempts, going 9-for-13 from the floor and 6-for-10 from three. He added seven rebounds and a team-high three steals to go with three turnovers.

2. Jeff Withey: Withey's best moment came after an emphatic slam, as he yelled to the air before tugging at his jersey in a Superman-like pose. The fans went nuts, as they hadn't seen that kind of fire from Withey in his last few games. The senior posted 17 points (5-for-10 shooting) to go with 10 rebounds while adding five blocks to set a new KU career record. Withey added two steals and had no turnovers in 30 minutes.

3. Naadir Tharpe: Self called Tharpe's first half the best half of his career. Not only was the sophomore making great plays off the dribble to post seven first-half points with six assists and no turnovers, he also stuck to KSU's Rodney McGruder defensively to keep him from open shots. Tharpe's second half wasn't as good, but his final total of seven points on 3-for-9 shooting with eight assists, one turnover and one steal in 27 minutes is the best line KU has gotten from a point guard in weeks.

4. Kevin Young: Had a knack for finding the open spaces around the basket to get layups. When he did have some room off the dribble, Young also made the right decision most of the time, pulling up for short jumpers or passing back out when an opening wasn't available. The senior finished with 13 points on 6-for-9 shooting and also had a huge impact on the boards, grabbing nine rebounds (eight defensive) in his 29 minutes. Young also had two assists, a block and steal to go with a turnover.

5. Travis Releford: Looked much more comfortable in a wide-open game. His best move was an old-man drop-step on Will Spradling in transition, with the senior twirling around the KSU guard for a layup with a foul. Releford had 10 points on 4-for-8 shooting with two assists and one turnover. He was limited to 22 minutes because of first-half foul trouble.

6. Jamari Traylor: Missed all three of his field goals, but he also gave KU a couple extra possessions, pulling down three rebounds (two offensive). He had one point and one assist with no turnovers in 12 minutes.

7. Perry Ellis: One rebound, one steal and one turnover in six minutes. The freshman played just one minute in the second half.

8. Andrew White III: Won the coin toss to take eighth over Justin Wesley. Played one minute without recording a statistic.

9. Justin Wesley: Lost the coin toss. Part of the trillion club with one minute and nine other zeroes on his stat line.

10. Elijah Johnson: Once again was a negative-value player for KU. Johnson scored five points on 1-for-6 shooting (0-for-4 from three) and now has shot over 50 percent in just one of KU's 24 games this season. The senior added two rebounds and three assists to go with a team-high four turnovers. His starting spot should be in jeopardy, especially with Tharpe's strong effort Monday.

11. Rio Adams: Didn't play well in a five-minute audition for future minutes. He had a steal and played decent on-ball defense, but he also committed a foul and had two turnovers.

KUsports.com Season Standings
1. Jeff Withey (188 points)
2. Ben McLemore (187 points)
3. Travis Releford (173 points)
4. Kevin Young (139 points)
5. Elijah Johnson (123 points)
6. Naadir Tharpe (121 points)
7. Perry Ellis (101 points)
8. Jamari Traylor (80 points)
9. Andrew White III (41 points)
10. Rio Adams (26 points)
11. Justin Wesley (15 points)

Big 12 Standings
1. Ben McLemore (98 points)
2. Jeff Withey (97 points)
3. Travis Releford (87 points)
4. Kevin Young (80 points)
5. Naadir Tharpe (60 points)
6. Perry Ellis (49 points)
7. Elijah Johnson (47 points)
8. Jamari Traylor (39 points)
9. Andrew White III (18 points)
10. Rio Adams (11 points)
11. Justin Wesley (8 points)

Comments

Adam Evans 1 year, 9 months ago

I hate to say it because I like him so much, but bill self was wrong. Our best chance of winning is with tharpe at the point. Not Johnson. Have both out for end game and smaller lineups like we do already but have tharpe take the lead with the start and we are a better team. BMac doesn't score 20 without tharpe tonight.

dumbarton 1 year, 9 months ago

Right on, KUGuy. The first half that Tharpe played practically brought tears to my eyes...WE HAVE A POINT GUARD. Man did it feel good to watch as it's been too long. He and KY both bring tons of high octane to our offense and their defense is getting better and better. Withey was an absolute stud, Rele is getting more active and what can I say about Ben that hasn't been said. Great win!

Adam Evans 1 year, 9 months ago

Not a fan of the fouls Travis has been picking up. I think it's messed with his defensive confidence a little and he is trying to avoid fouls (unsuccessfully). And Tharpe has shown those moments of brilliance all season, but it looked last night that he is finally putting all the pieces together at one time. I think he starts at the 1 before the season is over.

SaltLakeHawk 1 year, 9 months ago

Our offense has a fever. And the only prescription is more Naadir Tharpe.

LAJayhawk 1 year, 9 months ago

FYI, Withey's dunk was #3 on ESPN's Top 10 tonight.

Scott Smetana 1 year, 9 months ago

1 was from high school from here in Colorado Springs! 3/4 court shot from a girl that bounces off the floor and in.

LAJayhawk 1 year, 9 months ago

And I sense that you find that a very BIG deal. ;-)

LAJayhawk 1 year, 9 months ago

In all seriousness, though, did that shot count as a two or three? My guess would be three as no one touched it, but (unless I'm mistaken), it did bounce off the floor inside the arc. The rule book is kinda hazy on a shot like that.......

Adam Evans 1 year, 9 months ago

Sports center said that it counted as a three, since no player touched it after it crossed the three point line. It was pretty cool actually. And man, Withey's dunk and energy afterwards was unbelievable. I didn't think he had it in him anymore to be that aggressive. Such a sight for sore eyes.

Joseph Bullock 1 year, 9 months ago

I'm pretty sure it counted as a "2", because it bounced off the floor! also, I believe the bounce was inside the 3 point line, and any touch (like a foot or toe) on, or inside the 3 point line, makes the shot a 2!

monkeehawkSL8 1 year, 9 months ago

PikesPeakSmitty, I live in the old north end. Is there a place in town where Hawk fans gather? monk

hawk_of_ages 1 year, 9 months ago

I don't know, it seems like a gratuitous slap in the face to rank EJ below a couple of guys who did literally nothing. Yes, his slump is disheartening, and he certainly should be rated no higher than 6, but if you're going to look objectively at THIS game and not punish him for his entire season, he wasn't actually THAT bad. He did make some nice plays along with some poor ones, and showed leadership in cheering on Tharpe and Ellis. And it's not like he was taking bad shots -- he just can't get them to fall.

Joe Joseph 1 year, 9 months ago

I think the point was that he hurt the team more than Wesley and White. Which is true. Johnson has contributed very little the last, oh, several weeks.

hawk_of_ages 1 year, 9 months ago

He hurt the team with his four turnovers and his shooting slump, but he also helped the team with his three assists. You'd have to look at plus-minus to determine whether he was really a net negative compared to a guy who was out there for 45 seconds in garbage time and did absolutely nothing at all. From what I saw, EJ moved the ball well, made some nice plays on both ends, and didn't force bad shots. I'm not arguing it was a good game for him, but it wasn't the trainwreck that this low rating suggests.

Dirk Medema 1 year, 9 months ago

I'm with you Hawk. It is disheartening to see all the EJ bashing. It must be a tremendous confidence boost for him as well.

hawk_of_ages 1 year, 9 months ago

Obviously it's not Jesse Newell's job to boost EJ's confidence, and I think his analysis is spot-on as usual. But to rank EJ below a couple of guys who put up garbage-time goose eggs is just an insult.

Jesse Newell 1 year, 9 months ago

I like the discussion here, hawk_of_ages. A few things:

1. I consulted with Matt before putting him that low, just to ask if I was completely crazy. Matt said he could argue either way, so I stuck with what I thought.

2. I'm thinking of this almost like replacement level in baseball. Right now, if Johnson received no minutes, who would play? I would guess Tharpe would play eight more minutes, and Adams would take the other 20 or so. If that happened, would those two have combined for better than 5 points on 1/6 shooting with three assists and four turnovers (also with no steals defensively)? It's debatable, and where you side there determines where you rank Johnson.

I think the Tharpe/Adams duo taking Johnson's minutes would have performed better than Johnson did. For example, Adams might have had five turnovers, but he might have only gone 0/1. Or maybe even 2/3. Or maybe he has four turnovers and doesn't shoot at all, but gets two steals. That's better production.

3. For help with the rankings, I use John Hollinger's Game Score statistic, which is an all-encompassing stat that gives a rough measure of a player's productivity for a single game. Last night, Johnson's game score was -0.9. That's not the end-all be-all, but it also confirmed what I had seen: Johnson did not help the Jayhawks in many areas last night.

hawk_of_ages 1 year, 9 months ago

Thanks for the excellent explanation. Your Tharpe/Adams hypothetical sounds reasonable to me, as does your use of Hollinger.

My only quarrel is burying him even below Wesley and AW3. It would be one thing if they played for a minute and actually logged some positive stats, OR if they played more meaningful minutes and merely did no harm (more or less what Ellis and Traylor did), but as it is they effectively didn't play in the game at all. At least EJ logged some nice assists.

Adam Evans 1 year, 9 months ago

It's more than a slump. A slump would consist of a few games strung together. EJ has a terrible assist/turnover rate for the season, he has only shot over 50% in a game once this season, and his turnovers are almost always big and in crucial moments. He's a great player when he wants to be, but his performance this year says we are better with him backing up. He can't handle being the point. And in no way does he start over BMac at the 2. So the only other option is to bench him.

hawk_of_ages 1 year, 9 months ago

He played well in December, which not coincidentally is when KU looked like the best team in the country.

Adam Evans 1 year, 9 months ago

He played decent in December. Still shot terrible. Still turned it over too much. Never did he play with the skill level that tharpe has shown. Are we better with him playing well? 110% yes. But he isn't a point guard and never will be. His skills are at the 2 and he has been unable to transition (which is not his fault, just the cards he was dealt). Tharpe is the only PG was have.

Sam Constance 1 year, 9 months ago

What the heck are you watching?

Last night is the first time we've seen Tharpe do ANYTHING that warrants deserving to play PG.

Sam Constance 1 year, 9 months ago

This. So much this.

I typically love Jesse's breakdowns, but putting Johnson behind White, Wesley and Ellis is completely stupid.

Ellis did absolutely NOTHING to help KU win last night. Neither did Wesley. Neither did White. EJ at least played some pretty solid D, and created for others a few times, and also showed the serenity to only take 6 shots after it was obvious his shot is still off.

Rio and Elijah both deserve to be ranked ahead of those three guys.

I also find it pretty reactionary and premature to talk about EJ's starting spot being in jeopardy because Naadir had one half of really good PG play. Let's see him do that a little more before we yank Johnson--after all, in the 3-game losing streak, Naadir wasn't doing any better than Elijah.

BUT HE HAD 20 MINUTES OF REALLY GOOD BALL!!!!! START HIM!!!!

BENCH ELIJAH!!!!!

RABBLE RABBLE RABBLE

I got tired of having to defend Tyshawn throughout his career, only to have Tyshawn show all the doubters wrong. I have a feeling EJ will ultimately do the same. It sickens me that these kids have to be defended from the onslaught of criticism from their own fans.

KUFan90 1 year, 9 months ago

"and now has shot over 50 percent in just one of KU's 24 games this season"

This is a truly amazing stat.

Jonathan Allison 1 year, 9 months ago

I'm a slow learner, but I finally am on board with Tharpe needing to play the point most of the available minutes.

I don't care who starts, but KU looked much better when Tharpe was in. Also, the team looked bad to start the second half until Releford picked up the third foul and Tharpe came back into the game.

I really hurt for EJ because of his struggles all season, and it's clear that Self is trying to give him every opportunity to get back on track, but it's been to the detriment of the team thus far.

Jonathan Allison 1 year, 9 months ago

I also loved Tharpe's D on McGruder.

When I saw that Tharpe was on McG I thought "there's no way Tharpe can guard him." Tharpe proved me wrong once again.

It was a good strategy too. Started with Releford on him of course gets into his head, because McG knows that Releford owns him, but then putting Tharpe on him has to really make him question his own manhood, because McGruder thought he could score right over the top of the little man, but he couldn't. Who's really the little man now? Maybe it hurts his confidence going forward.

Geezer 1 year, 9 months ago

What game did you watch? Tharpe's defense on the ball has improved from laughable to almost adequate.

Jonathan Allison 1 year, 9 months ago

I'm refering to Tharpe's guarding of McGruder. Maybe you missed it but McGruder scored 2 points in the first half (a fast break dunk to start the game). Tharpe guarded him for probably at least 10 minutes in the first half because Rele and EJ were in foul trouble. McLemore guarded him a bunch in the second half, when McG scored 18.

EJ mostly guarded Angel when he was in. Angel is the primary (and almost sole) ball-handler for KSU and he scored 17. I don't recall Tharpe guarding the ball poorly, but I recall Tharpe guarding off-the-ball and chasing McGruder all of the court and keeping McGruder from getting any open looks for a good portion of the game.

Scott Smetana 1 year, 9 months ago

Seems like Tharpe is only getting more minutes when someone is in foul trouble. He is awesome!! I hope the fans can convince Self to start him and have him play 35 minutes.

hawkfan30 1 year, 9 months ago

I agree that we are a better team with Tharpe on the floor...but I think Tharpe's play can be attributed to not having the pressure of a starting point guard. Self probably knows the team is better with Tharpe on the court running the point and EJ at the 2...but knows that his senior EJ can take the pressure the complaining and the negativity from fans and media that comes with being a starting point guard at KU. When you're the starting point guard at Kansas you are under a microscope and can't do anything right...anyone remember the talk about TT last year? If Tharpe is the starting PG he gets all of that and probably wouldn't be the same player either. Right now he gets to play the Hero/Spark coming off the bench and honestly that's the perfect role for him right now. We're 20-4 better record than last year...and are still in 1st place in the league. EJ started the game right last night set the tone driving to the bucket for an and 1. He'll find his shot and I expect him to have a big game against Texas. Anyone remember how often he got to the rim in Austin? I expect those layups to fall in the Phog!!!

jgkojak 1 year, 9 months ago

I see Tharpe the way Collins was on the 2008 team - he didn't start but he finished a lot of games -

I am OK with EJ being out there for the first few minutes - bring Tharpe in to turn up the heat, or put Tharpe and EJ in together (which seemed to work well) -

Once we get to the tourney, we won't have teams that know how to play Withey

VaJay 1 year, 9 months ago

I thought Withey's hands were the biggest they've been in a while. He got good position, demanded the ball & when the ball got near him grabbed it and either scored or got fouled. Interesting new twist in his game too - he shot two turnaround jumpers from about 10 feet. They both rimmed out, but they were decent shots.

Travis Releford - PLEASE SHOOT MORE! You passed up a few open looks & the only one slightly better than you on those shots is B-Mac.

As for EJ, unless he protects the ball better, and stops jacking up 3's that have little chance of going in, he may be due for the bench. If he were a sophomore or junior, he would already be there in all probability. As he's a senior, I think Coach Self is giving him too much leeway, which is unfortunate.

Chris Shaw 1 year, 9 months ago

Boo on the ratings today. Any other game I would probably agree with these ratings. There is one player and one player only who got the Jayhawks back in "Flow" and in basketball "Rhythm" last night and his name is...Naadir Tharpe.

When KU sputtered the first 5 min of the second half, who created opportunities and created another spark for the Jayhawks? Naadir Tharpe.

Hate to say it, but this game was not about stats last night no matter how good B-Mac is/was/will be.

justanotherfan 1 year, 9 months ago

McLemore is on another level. Scoring 30 points on only 13 shot attempts is crazy efficient. That's on par with what Lebron is doing right now (and he's on a historic pace). You can't ignore that type of offensive efficiency. BMac is on a level right now that is hard to appreciate because you just don't see guys score that much that efficiently.

Typically a 180 shooter (50% FG, 40% 3pt, 90% FT) is a historically great shooter. It's only been done about a dozen times at the NBA level. BMac is at 51% from the field, 43% from 3 and 87% from the line. If he can shoot about 92% the rest of the way from the line, he has a chance to go 50/40/90. That's elite on a level that is hard to explain. Last night he was 69/60/100. Outright mind boggling.

What's more, only twice all season has BMac had more FGA than points. What he is doing is amazing in a way that we may never see again at KU, at least from an efficiency standpoint. For the year he has attempted 265 shots and scored 404 points. In the NBA, 1.29 points per shot is average. Anything over 1.4 is elite. Ben is at 1.52 right now. It is extremely rare for a guard to average over 1.5 points per shot.

Naadir had a nice game last night, but McLemore's performance last night, and over the course of the season, is absolutely elite.

Adam Evans 1 year, 9 months ago

Very nice post friend. I have a soft spot for stats like that and you are so right about bmac. The fact that e is a 20yr old freshman I think contributes a lot to that as well.

Chris Shaw 1 year, 9 months ago

I agree with all those stats and on any other night I would agree with you. This offense has been in a funk since well before the Temple game for over 2 months. Kansas fans forgot the responsibilities of the point guard position and in essence what a PG's jobs, duties, responsibilities, and what the overall "Look" of a the PG position is suppose to be.

The Kansas team was starving for someone to make plays for others in the paint area off the dribble. And...Kansas got it Monday night against K-State! Finally! I don't deny B-MAC was efficient as hell. Anybody can look up those stats and give that analysis. Go back and look at those 13 shot attempts and tell me how many of those attempts were directly associated with Tharpe breaking down the defense? I rest my case.

AsadZ 1 year, 9 months ago

Very well said slayr. I would hope that Naadir minutes continue to go up. I'd still keep the starting 5 from a chemistry standpoint however it is obvious that Naa needs to get more PT due to his superior PG play.

What was also amazing to me last night was his stellar D on Mcgruder. He pretty much shut him down in 1st half. That was a great move by HCBS. Would anyone on this board imagined just couple of months ago that Naadir could play such amazing D on one of Big 12 best Offensive player. I mean Mcgruder moves so well without the ball but Naadir was able to keep up with him and would not allow him to get any open looks.

We were best on both ends of the court while Naadir was in the game.

AsadZ 1 year, 9 months ago

I agree with BigManU. KU O has finally found its QB, Naadir Tharpe.

Chris Shaw 1 year, 9 months ago

For the same reason you guys knocked EJ all the way down to #10 behind Traylor, Ellis, White and Wesley is the exact reason you should have propelled Tharpe to the #1 spot regardless of stats. IMO, the little things add up sometimes more than the big things and in this one game it was true and exception to the rule.

Sam Constance 1 year, 9 months ago

Withey deserves the #1 spot on this list, imho. The difference between this team and the team that lost 3 in a row was his intensity, both offensively and defensively.

And as great as Tharpe played last night, what the hell is going on with the parade that's being thrown for him? He played one half of really good basketball, then returned to being more like what he has been all year in the second half. I'm totally on board with increasing his minutes, but this insanity about him being the savior of KU basketball this season is just that: insane.

I daresay that there is the potential of diminishing returns if we just hand the primary PG duties over to Tharpe for good. Nothing wrong with letting EJ continue to handle the heat and pressure while getting Tharpe an increased role at PG. I think there is also some value in having the two of them play side-by-side, both for giving McLemore rest and for playing a small-ball lineup with EJ, Tharpe, McLemore, Travis and Withey.

wavingthewheatinOH 1 year, 9 months ago

Ranking Elijah lower than the kids who made no points and played only one minute is shamefully unfair, and IMO vindictive. Whenever a public ranking is made, it should be done without personal bias. Elijah may have made just 5 points, but chances are his positive contributions reach far beyond the scoreboard. He’s a senior, and he is a leader. He encourages, supports, and shares.

Day after day we read each other’s opinions; we’d be naive to think that Elijah hasn’t read or heard about them too. Why, oh why, do we think we are the “end all” and “be all” to the world regarding KU basketball? Realistically, could any of us do a better job? In spite of our enthusiasm to see KU dominate the Big 12 conference, at what expense to the individual player do we bloviate under the cloak of anonymity? I doubt if any of us could wear the Crimson and Blue night after night and not have a slump or two. Kudos to Bill Self for supporting him! And, as the KU family, so should we.

Joseph Bullock 1 year, 9 months ago

 Hey, remember what Tharpe did against Craft, who is supposed to be the best "on ball" defender at the PG spot, in College basketball.  He repeatedly broke Crafts ankles, with move, after nasty move.  Craft look like a 3rd grader, trying to guard Tharp!!!  
  Also, I Loved Withey's monster Jam, and his emotion after it!  And did anybody notice the elbow he delivered (unintentionally, of course, as it was caused by the guy who fouled him)?  Ane one thing that nobody seems to be talking about, is the incredible wrap around bounce pass, out of the double team, that was delivered to Withey, courtesy of Jamari.  Without that nasty pass, there would have been, no dunk, and no sports center for Jeff!!!  One other thing I noticed on that play, was how Withey floated away from the baseline, to the middle, which gave him a clear path to the basket, for the dunk.  That move by Jeff, actually made Jamaris pass even more impressive, because he had to re-locate Jeff, and make a much more difficultt pass, from that angle.  The who play was just dirty nasty, and one of the best I have seen all season.  And yes, I have a very strong attention to detail.  ha ha ha

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