Game 1 observations: Zach Peters, Travis Releford two highlights for KU in win
Before we get started, here's some iPhone video of the final 1.6 seconds in KU's win.
The following is a quick breakdown of each Kansas player following the Jayhawks' 79-76 victory over the Swiss national team on Tuesday night.
Please note that if a player isn't listed, he did not play.
Elijah Johnson — He stood out most on the defensive glass, tying for the team high with six defensive rebounds (with eight rebounds overall). He made a three and also had an impressive move on one second-half drive, using a juke to get by his defender before putting in a contested runner off the glass from about eight feet. Self got after him once in the first half, calling his defense “lazy.”
Jeff Withey — I noticed an interesting sequence in the third quarter for the Swiss team. One big man drove the lane and was about to put up a shot before passing it at the last second to another big. He did the same thing, pump-faking before throwing the ball back to the perimeter. Yep, in two quarters, the Swiss team already knew who Jeff Withey was.
Though Switzerland don’t have a lot of bigs (and had even fewer after an ejection), Withey once again was the anchor of KU’s defense with his shot-blocking ability. Offensively, like last year, he was at his best when finishing off nice passes from his teammates, as most of his points came right under the rim. On two occasions, I can remember him making a conscious effort to take it at his man, and it didn’t turn out well. The first time, a left-handed hook became an airball, and the second time, a right-handed turnaround wasn’t close after Withey made an awkward pivot back into his defender during the shot.
Travis Releford — Along with Withey, Releford was KU’s best defender. He showed his ability to slide and stop dribble penetration again on Tuesday. Offensively, he was one of the highlights, especially in transition. He frequently was one of the first ones down the floor, and he made the most of the opportunities he had. His best play was in the fast break, as he cupped the ball in his right hand, jumped off one foot, and slammed the ball over a defender while getting fouled. When he took off, I didn’t think he was going to get to the rim, but he managed to get all the way there while finishing with contact.
Zach Peters — Self called Peters KU’s second-best big man behind Withey, which was high praise. The freshman seems to have knack for being in the right position underneath for rebounds, and he had a few occasions Tuesday when he used his body well to completely seal off a would-be Swiss rebounder. He wasn’t without mistakes, as Self got on him a couple times, but he had one of the most encouraging games from the newcomers. He also finished a high-low pass from Withey for two points, which gives the KU offense another dimension. Peters was blocked at least once Tuesday, and in the two times I’ve seen him in the last week, it seems like he sometimes has problems getting shots around defenders. Those bad memories haven't affected his aggressiveness, though, which appears to be a good sign.
Ben McLemore — Was best on the defensive glass. He struggled somewhat offensively, turning it over a few times while going 0-for-6 from the floor. He didn’t play much in the second half, which makes me wonder if his sore hip cut into his playing time (Self mentioned after the game a few players were playing through nagging ailments). McLemore played just 16 minutes.
Naadir Tharpe — He was mentioned by Self as one of the guys who had good stretches. Tharpe showed confidence in his shot, draining an 18-footer in transition during the first half when KU was struggling to score. He also was one of KU’s best passers in transition, once zipping a long pass to Releford in stride for a jam and another team weaving into the lane to draw attention before dropping back to Releford for another two. Self called him out for a couple things from the bench, but overall, Tharpe played well and — most importantly for him — under control.
Perry Ellis — He was one of KU’s best finishers around the rim in the halfcourt. One time, he used a nice move on the baseline, wiggling around his defender on the dribble before putting in a reverse layup to avoid getting blocked. Had four rebounds in 12 minutes.
Landen Lucas — His best play came in the first half when he dove for a loose ball to help create a turnover. He also hit two free-throw attempts after getting fouled early. The freshman still looks to be thinking a lot while he’s out there. He picked up three fouls in four minutes, one of which came because of a lack of body control.
Rio Adams — He struggled in his first exhibition game, perhaps because of jitters. He finished with three turnovers and didn’t play most of the second half. Was charged with a double-dribble when he lost control while not being pressured, and right after that, he jumped in the air in the lane without knowing where he was going with the ball. Though he avoided a turnover, I heard Self yell to his bench, “Go get him.” Adams was out soon after that. Self also got after him on one occasion in the first half for not running the correct assignment on an offensive play. He played just seven minutes.
Milton Doyle — Like Adams, he struggled with turnovers (two) and didn't play too many minutes, perhaps because of the giveaways. He logged just five minutes.
Andrew White — White’s highs were pretty high Tuesday. He was KU’s best player in the third quarter when the Jayhawks built their biggest lead. During that time, he put in a three off a screen, put in another jumper and also stuck with his man defensively, which resulted in a KU steal. White also drew frustration from Self offensively, as on three separate occasions, he stepped out of bounds with the ball for an unforced turnover. He finished with five giveaways in all. KU coaches also were on him all game to get out further defensively, as he would lay off his man too far to allow easy catches. White once again was a factor on the offensive glass (three offensive boards) while showing an impressive vertical. A couple of those rebounds were in traffic where he snatched it away from taller players.
Evan Manning — After Self checked him into the game in the second half, Manning came up a steal in his first minute. The freshman played solidly except for one offensive possession when he tried to do too much, as he got fancy with a dribble trying to go around a screen by Lucas and lost control. Don’t count Manning out of a possible spot in the rotation at some point this year. He was on the court during KU's last defensive possession (see video above), and his name was the first that Self mentioned after the game. Remember, the coach hasn’t been afraid to put in walk-ons in the past (Stephen Vinson, Christian Moody, Brady Morningstar) when their play warrants it.
Jamari Traylor — Showed great athleticism on first-half block when he raced down the floor trailing the play before swatting the ball out of bounds. He moved well Tuesday, getting up and down the court in a hurry. I don’t remember much from him offensively, but I get the feeling that energy and defense is what Self wants most from him anyways.
Justin Wesley — I don’t remember much from Wesley’s time out there Tuesday. He played six minutes with no points and a rebound.
Kevin Young — Extremely active on the offensive glass, posting six offensive rebounds. He also had the game's biggest play, a rebound and pass to Jeff Withey for a layup with 25 seconds left that extended KU's lead from two to four. Young admitted after the game he needs to improve his defensive rebounding, and Self has been getting after him hard to do that. Young made his first four shots and finished with nine points on 4-for-6 shooting with eight rebounds in just 13 minutes.