Recap: KU makes a big splash on Big Monday
Forget the fact Texas has lost five of its last seven games.
Kansas went on a 22-0 run against a team considered by many the nation's best three weeks ago. Guard Sherron Collins and center Cole Aldrich, KU's anchors, went a combined 5-for-23 from the field and KU still scored more than one point per possession. The Jayhawks forced a Longhorn turnover on 23.3 percent of possessions and coughed the ball up on just 12.9 percent of their own trips down the floor.
Kansas played a great game on the road against a solid team. Games like Monday night's tend to make the memory of that unimpressive overtime victory against Colorado fade a little faster.
• Speaking of unpleasant memories fading away, how about KU guard Xavier Henry? Henry came out confident despite his recent struggles (check out the chart at the end of this blog entry), scoring 15 points on 6-for-13 field goal shooting. He limited mistakes and contributed across the board, grabbing five rebounds and committing zero turnovers.
http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2010/Feb/08/ku_bkc_ut_09.jpg Xavier Henry enjoyed Monday one of his first successful conference games - Nick Krug/LJW Photo
• Monday gave Bill Self a chance to show his preferred eight-man rotation, which looked quite a bit like one might have expected heading into the season, minus guard Brady Morningstar taking some of guard Tyshawn Taylor's minutes. Freshmen Thomas Robinson, Jeff Withey and Elijah Johnson are clearly valuable players with discernible strengths, but the No. 1 team in the nation shouldn't need to experiment with its lineups in early February. This KU team has three legitimate All-Big 12 First Team candidates in Collins, Aldrich and Marcus Morris and two more deserving of Second-or-Third Team consideration in Brady Morningstar (defense should count toward these things too!) and Henry.
M.O.J. (Most Outstanding Jayhawk)
I never thought I would type this (until next season), but here goes. Marcus Morris might be worthy of All-Big 12 First Team consideration.
From the start of Big 12 Conference play on, Marcus has played one so-so game (15 points on 6-for-14 shooting against Colorado), one better-than-average game (13, 5-for-11 vs. Kansas State) and seven outstanding games. Facing a respected group of Longhorn bigs, Morris didn't disappoint on Monday. He scored 18 points on just 10 field goal attempts, grabbed eight rebounds and dished a season-high four assists. With Aldrich out of commission (2-for-10 field goal shooting, five fouls) on the offensive end, Morris' contributions stood out even more. Texas forward Damion James posted bigger stats in more minutes, but Morris edged him in Efficiency per possession by .001.
Room for improvement
By KU's standards, Monday's game wasn't an offensive showcase. But considering Texas' 12th-ranked defense, the Jayhawks performed fairly well. KU's defense is sturdy enough that posting an above-average offensive efficiency number against most teams would probably result in victory.
More than anything else, the struggles of Collins and Aldrich pushed KU's points-per-possession number down. Subtract that pair from the box score and KU would have gone 21-for-42 from the field, 10 percent better than it shot in reality. Don't interpret this as Cole-and-Sherron bashing. KU is certainly better off with its most experienced Jayhawks, who contributed five steals and six blocks.
Hard luck line
Aldrich looked a bit rusty, but guard Tyshawn Taylor seemed downright corroded (offensively). The sophomore from Jersey went 2-for-6 and committed two turnovers in 19 minutes. Taylor did pry away two steals and handle some tough on-ball defensive assignments, meaning he took home Monday's dishonor because most of his teammates played so well.
The Bottom Line:
Put together a 22-0 run, chances are you're going to win.
Defeat a conference foe on the road, chances are you have a better shot at the league title.
Post a double-digit margin of victory against the No. 14 team in the land on ESPN's Big Monday, chances are the national columnists and TV pundits say what this blog has been saying all season long: KU is the best team in the nation.