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The Day After: Kansas State

Kansas guard Wayne Selden celebrates a Jayhawk run against Kansas State during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden celebrates a Jayhawk run against Kansas State during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Prior to Saturday's 86-60 beat-down of Kansas State, the Kansas University men's basketball team struggled in its last home game and the Wildcats came in ranked for the first time all season and riding a 10-game winning streak.

Didn't matter.

It was business as we've come to know it in the Sunflower Showdown hoops rivalry on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse, with the Jayhawks handling everything KSU could throw at them and delivering the knock-out blow early to improve to 2-0 in Big 12 Conference play.

If you've seen any of the previous Sunflower Showdown match-ups at Allen Fieldhouse, you can guess how it went. But in case you want more details, here's our latest installment of “The Day After.”

Quick takeaway:
The KU offense really looks like it's starting to click. Wayne Selden has put back-to-back solid games together and is smiling more than ever, Joel Embiid is hitting jumpers and Andrew Wiggins looks more comfortable pulling the trigger when it's there. Even if the KU defense never quite comes around, if the offense can continue to play like this, the Jayhawks will have the chance to make a serious run.

Three reasons to smile:
1 – The fact that Selden and Wiggins are starting to feel more comfortable asserting themselves on the offensive end is really good news for point guard Naadir Tharpe. Early on, I think Tharpe felt the burden — real or imagined — of needing to be a scorer, but he's always been at his best as a facilitator. Never was that more evident than Saturday, when Tharpe dished nine dimes and had zero turnovers. That's 17 assists and 1 turnover in his last three games. Speaking of turnovers, how about the team going 23:16 without a turnover against a good defensive club? Very good sign for the young squad.

Kansas forward Tarik Black flexes after a rebound and put-back bucket by teammate Perry Ellis during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Tarik Black flexes after a rebound and put-back bucket by teammate Perry Ellis during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

2 – The chemistry between big men Tarik Black and Jamari Traylor is an incredible luxury for this team. The two combined for 10 points, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2 assists in limited minutes. That kind of performance on a consistent basis will keep Perry Ellis and Joel Embiid from feeling too much of the burden inside. Plus, Traylor and Black both bring a more physical edge to the floor.

3 – KU's three-point shooting is really on the rise of late. The Jayhawks hit 8 of 18 threes against K-State and have hit 32 of 78 three-point attempts (41 percent) dating back to the Georgetown game. Three-point shooting was a big concern early in the season, but with Wiggins, Selden and even Conner Frankamp looking more comfortable with the deep ball, KU's offense is benefiting tremendously. KU's six second-half threes tied a season high.

Three reasons to sigh:
1 – It hardly mattered, but K-State got a ton of points at the rim on Saturday. 43 percent of KSU's points (26 of 60) came from point-blank range, a fact that points to both the absence of a Jeff Withey type guy in the paint and KU's struggles with on-the-ball defense. Self said they were good for 30 minutes in this one, but there's no question that they still need to get better.

2 – It was masked a bit by KU's offensive explosion, but the Jayhawks continue to struggle with takeaways. KSU committed just 10 turnovers in the game and only four of those were true take-aways by the Jayhawks. It's nit-picking a little, but for a program so used to forcing turnovers and getting steals, it's a little odd. KU has fewer steals (83) this season than its opponents (90).

3 – Naadir Tharpe, whom players and coaches insist is a good shooter in practice, made just one of seven attempts during the run-away victory over K-State. I trust his teammates and I like the way Tharpe's shot looks, it's just a matter of shot selection that continues to be an issue. KU coach Bill Self will be the first to let you know that, as he's never shy to tear into Tharpe after he pulls the trigger on a bad thought. Even with that, Self seems to think Tharpe is doing most things right these days and he has been awfully complimentary of his point guard's recent toughness and ability to close.

One thought for the road:
KU's most recent convincing victory over K-State...
• Gave Kansas its eighth-straight, home-conference-opening win and its 30th league home-opening victory in the last 31 seasons.
• Made Kansas 2-0 in conference play for the 10th time in the 11-year Bill Self era.
• Extended Kansas’ win streak over Sunflower Showdown rival K-State to six games.
• Improved the Jayhawks to 44-18 all-time against the Wildcats in Allen Fieldhouse, including the last eight meetings.
• Moved Kansas head coach Bill Self to 23-3 all-time against K-State, 311-63 while at Kansas and 518-169 overall.
• Pushed KU’s all-time record to 2,112-816.

Next up: The Jayhawks will travel to Ames, Iowa, on Monday for a Big Monday, 8 p.m. match-up with No. 9 Iowa State, which lost at Oklahoma on Saturday for its first loss of the season.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins battles for a rebound with Kansas State guard Jevon Thomas during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins battles for a rebound with Kansas State guard Jevon Thomas during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

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Comments

Daniel Kennamore 8 months, 1 week ago

Great progress showed in the last two games, but I fully expect their youth to show itself again on Monday. Luckily we don't need to win at Iowa State so another 'learning loss' might be helpful for Self to teach them.

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Bryce Landon 8 months, 1 week ago

Disagree completely. If we want to show that we have made significant progress, we need to win this next game.

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Dirk Medema 8 months, 1 week ago

Absolutely agree Bryce. Ames is the most important road game at this point.

I'm fully expecting the players to show up big time, and hoping at least one 'clone is "smart" enough to start an "overrated" chant. Wiggs feeds off that stuff. Heck, Coach may have even been putting in the first installment with his comment that Wayne has been the best in the league - outside of Kayne. One huge trait of thee guys is rising to the occasion.

It could also help that "thinking next play" for Embiid means this game. Hopefully, he has the durably pervasive tough game to compliment his "shake" and other finesse moves.

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Jack Jones 8 months, 1 week ago

Add my Amen to these responses. Given the overall strength of the teams in the conference ~ the "luckily we don't need to win at (anywhere)" attitude just doesn't have a place in the conversation. We've had our "learning losses" and it appears we've "learned" pretty well. There will be no nights/days off in the rest of the schedule ~ Period!!

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John Myers 8 months, 1 week ago

Disagree as well. EVERY conference game is a must win game, until the championship is locked up. Especially this year, where it seems a good number of teams are playing really solid ball.

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Aaron Paisley 8 months, 1 week ago

ISU is a good team and with either no Kane or a less than 100% Kane tomorrow night, this is a game KU has to have. ISU is going to be one of the primary challengers in the Big 12 this year and to have a 2 game lead on them with a victory over them early in league play is huge.

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Brett McCabe 8 months, 1 week ago

Bonus takeaway from the KSU game is bulletin board material from Weber who said that our defense isn't even close to being as good as last year's. If that doesn't motivate you to get to your man's grille, then I'm not sure what will.

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Bryce Landon 8 months, 1 week ago

Where did you get that? I didn't read anything from Weber saying that our defense was terrible? If anything, he compared us favorably to Oklahoma State.

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Brett McCabe 8 months, 1 week ago

KC Star or Capital Journal, I can't recall which.

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Jason Keller 8 months, 1 week ago

He said it in the press conference after the game... He literally said "this defense isn't anywhere near as good as last year's defense" He went on to say "last year, we'd put something new in that they had never seen and they'd still take it away". It wasn't really blasting this team, just complementing last years team. I think we all know that our defense isn't what is was last year. It never will be without Withey.

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Kit Duncan 8 months, 1 week ago

I have to take issue with the comparisons of this year's defense to last. First, this is an incredibly young team that is just starting to find cohesiveness in the rotations that Coach Self puts on the floor. Second, and even more important, is the no-touch rule. Prior to this season, defenders could hound the ball handler with hacks/slaps/hand on the hip shoves/elbow in the back, all which will most often be called a foul by officials this season.

Now, the defender has to get position on the ball handler or be bailed out by a co-defender who rotates off his man. This "double team" leaves another player open for a pass and, if the ball handler has penetrated to the right spot, that open player will likely have a free lane to the basket or an uncontested jump shot. Defenders have a much more difficult time with this season's rule change. To add to the dilemma, not all officiating teams call the no-touch rule as close. So, from game to game, and sometimes first half to second half, the refs seem to enforce the rule quite differently.

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Brett McCabe 8 months, 1 week ago

The rules changes are certainly an issue in direct comparisons between any squad and their 2012-2013 counterparts. Probably a better comparison is against your competition and, so far, we aren't faring that well.

The age issue isn't valid - it's our job to put a team on the floor, and every year the team on the floor will be compared to others. It's just a fact. Young, old, good, bad....it doesn't matter.

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Vic Janeway 8 months, 1 week ago

Yes, he made a comment about the maturity of this year's defense compared to last years. He is not wrong, they still have more work. AND I expect it to improve against ISU tomorrow, the fight is starting to show.

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Steve Zimmerman 8 months, 1 week ago

ISU is becoming more like KU's rivalry - it's always worth watching KU against the Cyclones.

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