Travis Releford tops ratings; KU's point guards struggle


Kansas players Travis Releford, left, and Jeff Withey scramble for a tie up with Michigan forward Glenn Robinson III during the second half on Friday, March 29, 2013 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Kansas players Travis Releford, left, and Jeff Withey scramble for a tie up with Michigan forward Glenn Robinson III during the second half on Friday, March 29, 2013 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. by Nick Krug

1. Travis Releford: KU's best player in the NCAA Tournament fittingly was the Jayhawks' best player against Michigan. The senior was excellent in transition, locked down on Trey Burke when given that assignment and was aggressive attacking the rim. In his final game, the senior posted 16 points on 6-for-10 shooting with five rebounds, six assists and one steal to go with one turnover in 42 minutes. He finished with 965 career points.

2. Jeff Withey: Had to defend two players most of the game, as KU's guards consistently were stuck on ball screens, leaving Withey to play the role of Superman. He did his best while also scoring at will early against Michigan's Mitch McGary. Withey finished with 12 points on 6-for-11 shooting with eight rebounds and five blocks to go with one turnover in 39 minutes. His 49 NCAA Tournament career blocked shots were one behind Tim Duncan's NCAA record of 50.

3. Ben McLemore: The freshman made up for a cold start with hot shooting late, finishing with a team-high 20 points on 8-for-15 shooting, which included 4-for-8 accuracy from three. Had a defensive rebound hit him in the hands with 32 seconds that would have iced the game with KU leading by five, though. He dropped it, Michigan put in a layup, and the miracle comeback continued.

4. Kevin Young: Young scored 12 points on 6-for-6 shooting, but he didn't seem to give KU the energy plays he normally does. Young also failed to get out to Trey Burke on the game-tying three with four seconds left in regulation. After the double-screen, that was his man. Young added seven rebounds and an assist to go with a turnover in 29 minutes.

5. Perry Ellis: Shook off a slow start, as two early traveling calls didn't keep him from being aggressive later. The freshman attacked Michigan's undersized four men, scoring eight points on 4-for-7 shooting with five rebounds and three assists in 15 minutes.

6. Jamari Traylor: Made his only shot and had an assist and two blocks in five minutes.

7. Naadir Tharpe: Though Tharpe played well enough in the first half after Elijah Johnson picked up three fouls, his final shooting line wasn't pretty. The sophomore made just one of eight field goals, including two (tough) three-pointers that would have won the game at separate buzzers for KU. Tharpe finished with two points, seven assists and one steal to go with two turnovers in 32 minutes and too often left Withey on an island when he got stuck to McGary screens.

8. Elijah Johnson: When Johnson was struggling mid-season, KU coach Bill Self stuck with him in the starting lineup. At that point, the coach had to know he was hitching his postseason hopes on the belief that the senior could snap out of his funk in the NCAA Tournament. It never happened. Johnson had three critical turnovers in the final 3:27 of regulation that allowed Michigan the chance to come back from a 10-point deficit. In overtime, he hitched up ill-advised shots and had another turnover that led to a runout for UM. Then on the game's final possession, he passed up on what looked to be an open layup in favor of a kickout to Tharpe. It was no secret that KU's glaring weakness was guard play this season, and it finally caught up to KU on Friday. Johnson had 13 points on 4-for-8 shooting with no assists and five turnovers in 24 minutes. He also picked up a flagrant foul in the first half after a low hit on Michigan's McGary.

Final Season Standings
1. Jeff Withey (303 points)
2. Ben McLemore (276 points)
3. Travis Releford (272 points)
4. Kevin Young (230 points)
5. Elijah Johnson (204 points)
6. Naadir Tharpe (190 points)
7. Perry Ellis (180 points)
8. Jamari Traylor (122 points)
9. Andrew White III (55 points)
10. Rio Adams (39 points)
11. Justin Wesley (24 points)

Final Big 12/Postseason Standings
1. Jeff Withey (212 points)
2. Ben McLemore (188 points)
3. Travis Releford (187 points)
4. Kevin Young (171 points)
5. Naadir Tharpe (129 points)
T6. Elijah Johnson (128 points)
T6. Perry Ellis (128 points)
8. Jamari Traylor (81 points)
9. Andrew White III (32 points)
10. Rio Adams (24 points)
11. Justin Wesley (17 points)

Final NCAA Tournament Standings
1. Travis Releford (29 points)
2. Jeff Withey (28 points)
3. Kevin Young (20 points)
T4. Perry Ellis (19 points)
T4. Ben McLemore (19 points)
6. Naadir Tharpe (17 points)
7. Elijah Johnson (12 points)
8. Jamari Traylor (9 points)
9. Andrew White III: (3 points)
10. Rio Adams (1 point)


Jeff Schartz 5 years ago

The top three players for Michigan were the refs.

jay381 5 years ago

I totally disagree. There was one player that made plays for Michigan and that was Elijah Johnson. To blame the referees is a case in misdirection. Johnson cost us the game period.

SaltLakeHawk 5 years ago

The only bad call I remember during the game went against Michigan (their player cleanly blocked Releford's dunk attempt and was called for a foul).

But blame the refs if that makes you feel better, I guess.

thmdmph 5 years ago

That was totally a foul. Because a commentator said it's not does not mean it is not. That was a full body check

Al Martin 5 years ago

There was a lot of body contact on that block. I didn't think it was an egregiously bad call.

racerx 5 years ago

There are always questionable calls, but I didn't see any major problems with how the refs called the game. In fact, if anything, they gave Coach Self a free timeout in the last seconds of the game which allowed him to set up a play (EJ apparently wasn't paying attention at the time, though).

socnick 5 years ago

I agree. If they would have thrown EJ out of the game like they should have done, we win.

BringBackNike 5 years ago

Don't bring up the refs westtexjayhawk. Bill Self is the one to blame for this loss. Leaving Elijah and Kevin Young out there was ludicrous. Naadir and Perry were playing during all of our major runs during the game. Playing great ball. Self was stubborn and stuck with his seniors and we ultimately paid the price. Elijah was just awful in that game, just terrible. Please bring in some guards Bill!

Michael Luby 5 years ago

Elijah, You lost the game for us. You did. Coach Self didn't help by keeping you in there. Naa should have been playing the whole game for you. What a great way to end your teammates' season. We will certainly miss Travis and Jeff and Kevin and Ben very much.

kukuku 5 years ago

EJ was awful in this game, but we're definitely going to miss him. It's not his fault that he got stuck playing out of position this year, and it's not his fault that Self put him in instead of Tharpe. He basically gave this game away, but if it weren't for him there's no way we would've been national runners-up last year.

dumbarton 5 years ago

Very reminiscent of the I-State game (in Ames) only this time the tables turned and Burke did an EJ on us. Naa has been running the offense more efficiently, particularly this past month or so. The assists to turnover stats back that up. It was quite obvious EJ was playing out of position but Coach Self was going to ride the EJ train come hell or high water. One or two great games out of 37 does not a point guard make. I am thankful for all EJ has given to the program over the course of his career. I only wish Coach Self had put the ball in Naa's hands those last 5 minutes. Naa would have handled the pressure better and not had the costly turnovers.

Adam Tyler 5 years ago

We are going to miss him, no doubt. But Coach Self should have stuck with the lineup he was using in the first half. When Elijah was sitting on the bench, we were rollin. Coach Self didnt hesitate to do this to Ben against North Carolina and it worked out.

I just wish he would have put up a shot. Just to have that chance.

Adam Tyler 5 years ago

Oh and Jesse, Kevin Young did not do a terrible job closing out on Trey Burke when he bombed that 3. It was a contested damn near 30 footer that he busted in his face. But not bad defense, in my opinion.

Ross Hartley 5 years ago

KY was supposed to switch up so that he cut off Burke. He did not do that and that gave an open shot (from 30) with KY only able to close and wave at him. KY may have been distracted by EJ falling over the screener. It was a hell of a shot by Burke.

Mick Allen 5 years ago

I agree completely. If Burke shoots a 3 just behind the arc Kevin gets there. He couldn't get out to the 27 foot arc that Burke launched from. We could have overcome E. J.'s gaffes if Ben controls the rebound that fell right into his hands in the last 30 seconds.

jhwkr542 5 years ago

I really thought everybody played a heck of a game...except for EJ.

Bob Thompson 5 years ago

It's a shame that one play can define your career, but sadly for EJ that is what will happen. Also sadly for KU, he has pulled us down in the process. If I were coaching I would have set him for the game, even if I had to put in Rio.

racerx 5 years ago

I assume you're talking about the last play. That doesn't define EJ's career, rather it illustrates his career -- POOR DECISION MAKING! That's been EJ's problem all along. His turnovers typically aren't because he's a bad ball handler, it's because he does stupid stuff like dribble into a lane full of defensive players and gets stripped...or throws a cross court pass within reach of a defender.

Bob Thompson 5 years ago

No, I was talking about his low blow foul at the start of the game.

Robert Brock 5 years ago

Welp, now that our starting five is moving on, what will the future be with no experienced bigs and a group of unknown guards? 2013-2014 will probably not produce championships but may produce real excitement.

jhwkr542 5 years ago

You're underestimating Bill Self a little much, methinks. Are you forgetting Rio, Tharpe, Ellis, and Traylor?

Scott Smetana 5 years ago

Good ratings except for Tharpe. He should not be penalized for missing off balanced buzzer beater. He played under control and handled the ball very well. He should be up there around #4

Bob Thompson 5 years ago

How many times was Tharpe behind his player forcing Withey to guard Tharpe's man and his man?

Scott Smetana 5 years ago

I was at the game in row 4 and wondered the same thing. Then when I saw us go under the screen, the guards immediately pulled up and shot the 3. Even in the lane, we did a good job shutting down Burke. It was pick your poison... allow them to drive to Withey or get a wide open 3.

pepper_bar 5 years ago

I agree. Considering the tough situations Tharpe was put in in this game, his performance was pretty darn good.

prusso25 5 years ago

The tournament is all about getting lucky 6 games in a row. I would love for us to get another championship, but let's be honest - it's all about luck. These gentlemen kept the Big 12 streak alive which means this season was still a huge success in my opinion.

With Self as coach, we are in contention every single season. Bring on October!

Bob Forer 5 years ago

You're forgetting what Danny Manning said about luck after he lead he Hawks to the NC. Paraphrasing, he basically stated that people create their own luck.

Yes, with so much parity in college basketball today, there is an element of good fortune involved in winning a national championship. But then again, champions don't throw away games they have in the bag by creating their own bad luck, which is essentially what KU did against Michigan.

jclav 5 years ago

Well interesting that no one is crowing about how Jeff Withey is going to eat up Mitch McGary! Cry cry cry!

Jan Rolls 5 years ago

Refs did a good job until the burke shot. How can you have 2 guys hit the floor on a screen and no foul on either one? Jeff was playing against a guy that had only started 5 or 6 games all year and gives up 25 and 14 rebounds. Article in KC paper that day Self says just guard your man and they will be alright. No one told Jeff to guard 2 men. He was a different player from previous game.

monkeehawkSL8 5 years ago

Well because we're still talking about it, when EJ went air borne wasn't Jeff standing directly in front of the basket (slightly to the left) in perfect position to receive a pass and dunk the ball with about 2 seconds left. This would have been a tie but far better than the walk off the court. Now I'll be the first to admit that by the time this was taking place I was, ah, eh, how do I put this. Out of my f@*%$ng mind with that all to familiar I can't believe what I'm seeing, this can't be happening but I really love the Jayhawks clinical depression thing. "Its medication time". Or am I just imagining another "if only" to prolong the agony? This whole nightmare reminds me of a S. King novel written by every Jayhawk hater nationwide, enter as many scenarios as you want no purchase necessary kinda contest.

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