The Day After: TCU at AFH
Perry Ellis was sensational and the Kansas University offense hung a season-best 95 points on an overmatched TCU squad in a 30-point victory at Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday.
It was exactly the kind of game the Jayhawks needed to bounce back from a tough, overtime road loss at Kansas State five days earlier, but did not always look as easy and as pretty as the final score might indicate.
Ellis did, though. The Wichita sophomore had one of his best all-around games in a Kansas uniform, finishing with 32 points on 13-of-15 shooting and adding 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals to his stat line. Ellis' big day came in 31 minutes and featured a 4-for-4 performance from the free throw line and a career-best three-point mark of 2-for-2 from downtown.
There's no question that TCU entered this game overmatched, but they sure didn't look like it in the first half. Thanks to bad energy and sloppy defense, the Horned Frogs were able to score with the Jayhawks during the game's first 20 minutes, but, even with that being the case, there was no point when it looked like KU was in trouble. Bill Self's squad made sure that was the case with a fast start to the second half that made the final 15 minutes or so merely a formality. The Jayhawks were incredibly efficient offensively in the second half, as they shot 61.3 percent (61.5 percent for the game) from the floor, 90 percent from the free throw line and scored 34 of their 48 second-half points in the paint.
Three reasons to smile:
1 – After a sluggish start that had those in the Allen Fieldhouse stands grumbling with disapproval, the Jayhawks woke up at halftime and came out with much better energy and intensity in the second half. That showed on TCU's opening possession of the final 20 minutes, when KU made life miserable for the TCU player throwing the ball inbounds and then forced the Horned Frogs into a timeout five seconds after they got the ball in. The same five that started the game — Naadir Tharpe, Wayne Selden, Andrew Wiggins, Perry Ellis and Tarik Black — started the second half, so they deserve credit for setting the tone for KU's improved effort on the defensive end. Those who checked in from there quickly followed that lead, as KU held the Horned Frogs to just 33 percent shooting and 25 points in the second half after giving up marks of 56.5 and 40 in the first.
2 – Wayne Selden was as aggressive as I can ever remember seeing him and he flipped the switch at go. On the game's opening possession, after KU won the tip, Selden took a quick pass from Naadir Tharpe and exploded to the rim in an attempt to begin the game with a rim-rattler. He came up short thanks to a foul, but the aggressive play paved the way for a strong afternoon from Selden, who finished with 15 points on 7-of-13 shooting, numbers that included 11 points and 4 assists on 5-of-9 shooting in the first half. It wasn't just Selden's desire to attack the rim that showed his attack-mode mindset. The freshman guard aggressively looked for his shot in KU's half-court offense, went after his own misses with reckless abandon and really appeared to assert himself during the portions of the game when he was one of the top scoring options on the floor.
3 – Selden said there was no issue with adjusting to a new rotation with Joel Embiid (injury) and Brannen Greene (discipline) on the bench in street clothes — “Everybody on the team knows how to do their job and the job is going to get done no matter who is on the court,” he said. — but I still think KU deserves credit for showing no signs of weakness, offensively, with two potentially high-minute, regular-rotation guys on the bench. The ball movement was crisp and quick, guys played unselfishly and really looked to be playing for each other, consistently passing up potential shots for easier shots for teammates. Four Kansas players finished with four or more assists, with the man who poured in 32 points leading the way with five dimes.
Three reasons to sigh:
1 – It may be merely a coincidence, but Saturday's game was the second in a row in which Kansas took the floor with very little energy and bounce against a team it had drubbed by 20-plus points just a few weeks earlier. It makes sense on the road, but it was weird to see in Allen Fieldhouse. The Big 12 Conference schedule is a grind — particularly this season — and it's human nature to overlook a team you had no trouble with the first time you played them. This only becomes an issue if the slow starts continue. Self talked after the game about not really knowing why his team can't or doesn't play with the same intensity in the opening minutes as it does in the final minutes, and you can bet finding a way to fix that is high on his list of priorities.
2 – It hardly mattered in the grand scheme of things, but KU's free throw shooting matched its lack of energy in the early going. The Jayhawks missed their first six free throws and made just 1 of 8 attempts from the foul line in the first half. Those missed opportunities allowed TCU to hang closer than they should've and they came from four different players. The home team's struggle at the free throw line in the early going was so noticeable that when Landen Lucas finally ended the drought by making the second of two free-throw attempts at the 11:34 mark of the first half, the Allen Fieldhouse faithful let out a wail of a Bronx cheer. KU cleaned things up in this area in the second half to the tune of a 9-of-10 mark from the foul line. But many of their second-half free throws had absolutely no pressure attached to them and, for the game, KU still shot just 58.8 percent. On the season, Kansas is now shooting 69.5 percent from the free throw line, just slightly better than the 66.7 percent mark turned in by KU's opponents.
3 – For the second game in a row, a key member of KU's roster was benched for disciplinary reasons, as freshman forward Brannen Greene did not suit up because of a “pattern of irresponsible behavior.” There's no telling what Greene did to draw Self's wrath, but the timing couldn't be worse. The versatile freshman who fought hard to get into the rotation last Monday at K-State played just his second game of 15-plus minutes and was a huge reason KU forced overtime in that one. Given that Greene's one-game suspension came right after Jamari Traylor suffered a similar fate, it's worth noting that, with the most critical part of the season right around the corner, it's time for these guys to tighten things up so their actions don't have a negative impact on what the team is trying to accomplish.
One thought for the road:
Saturday's home-court beatdown of TCU:
• Improved KU to 19-6 on the season, against the nation’s most difficult strength of schedule.
• Made Kansas 10-2 in Big 12 play, the 20th-straight year the Jayhawks have won 10 or more conference games (beginning in 1994-95).
• Gave the Jayhawks their third-straight win against TCU and pushed the all-time series to 7-1 in favor of KU.
• Handed Kansas its 112th-consecutive win against unranked opponents inside Allen Fieldhouse.
• Made Bill Self 11-4 all-time against TCU (5-1 at KU), 319-65 while at Kansas and 526-170 overall.
• Made KU 2,120-818 all-time.
The Jayhawks will travel to Texas Tech on Tuesday night for their first match-up with the Red Raiders this season. The game is scheduled to tip off at 7 p.m.