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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)

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Comments

Joseph Bullock 1 year, 2 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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wavingthewheatinOH 1 year, 2 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.

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Sam Constance 1 year, 2 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.

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Chris Shaw 1 year, 2 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.

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AsadZ 1 year, 2 months ago

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

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Chris Shaw 1 year, 2 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.

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VaJay 1 year, 2 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.

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jgkojak 1 year, 2 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

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hawkfan30 1 year, 2 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!!!

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Scott Smetana 1 year, 2 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.

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Jonathan Allison 1 year, 2 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.

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Jonathan Allison 1 year, 2 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.

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KUFan90 1 year, 2 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.

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hawk_of_ages 1 year, 2 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.

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LAJayhawk 1 year, 2 months ago

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

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SaltLakeHawk 1 year, 2 months ago

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

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dumbarton 1 year, 2 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!

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Adam Evans 1 year, 2 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.

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