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.
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.”
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.
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.