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The Day After: A big win in sunny San Diego

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Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) floats in for a bucket over San Diego State forward Zylan Cheatham (14) during the second half, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015 at Viejas Arena in San Diego.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) floats in for a bucket over San Diego State forward Zylan Cheatham (14) during the second half, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015 at Viejas Arena in San Diego. by Nick Krug

The Kansas University men's basketball team's 70-57 victory over San Diego State on Tuesday night capped the pre-Christmas portion of the Jayhawks' schedule and put Kansas on the brink of closing out non-conference play.

Kansas will face UC-Irvine at home on Dec. 29 and then jump into Big 12 play from that point on.

Perry Ellis was incredibly efficient offensively for the second game in a row, Jamari Traylor (6 points and 6 boards (4 offensive) in 21 minutes) came back from the dead and the Jayhawks shot it well from the outside and the free throw line once again.

Given the potential trap game talk because of the upcoming holiday break, this was a pretty solid effort against a good team in a true road environment.

Second-ranked Kansas now sits at 10-1 and, in all reality, should be 11-0 and ranked No. 1. Not a bad non-con stretch.

Quick takeaway

If nothing else, this victory was a big confidence boost for these Jayhawks. Don't get me wrong, this was not a team lacking confidence in any way, but there's always something different — not to mention extremely validating — about going on the road into a hostile environment and coming out with a victory. With Big 12 play right around the corner, that kind of confidence and proof that they can get the job done is just what the Jayhawks needed right now. And, remember, KU has built that incredible streak of 11 straight Big 12 titles largely because it has been able to win conference road games and others have not.

Three reasons to smile

1 – You can say what you want about this team's depth and talent and, while those things are huge advantages for Kansas, Bill Self is still only going to play the guys he trusts in big moments. And, based on his 26 minutes despite shooting just 1-of-4 for the night, it's clear that Self trusts Brannen Greene, the basketball player. Greene, who uncharacteristically contributed to the stat sheet in other ways than shooting on Tuesday was one of just six Jayhawks to play double-digit minutes. Jamari Traylor (21) was another. There are players on this team with more upside and more complete games than both of those guys, but Greene and Traylor have been around Self as long as anyone and, clearly, that means something at this stage of the season.

Kansas forward Jamari Traylor (31) celebrates after a dunk during the second half, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015 at Viejas Arena in San Diego. At right is San Diego State forward Malik Pope (21).

Kansas forward Jamari Traylor (31) celebrates after a dunk during the second half, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015 at Viejas Arena in San Diego. At right is San Diego State forward Malik Pope (21). by Nick Krug

2 – The Jayhawks recorded seven blocks in this game and I think that's something that has been a little underrated about this team. It's obvious that this group does not have a Cole Aldrich or Joel Embiid, but it doesn't necessarily need one. The 7 blocks KU picked up on Tuesday night came from five different players, with Perry Ellis and Hunter Mickelson each blocking two and Jamari Traylor, Brannen Greene and Carlton Bragg picking up one apiece. Just about anyone KU puts on the floor has the athleticism, size and ability to alter and/or block shots, even junior point guard Frank Mason, who, though short in stature, has incredible hops. Mason already has a pair of blocks this season. Even though the leaders in this category come from the places you'd most expect — Mickelson leads with 15, Traylor has 8 and Diallo, in just six games and limited minutes, has 7 — just about everyone in the lineup can contribute a blocked shot because of his length or athleticism. That's a big reason this KU defense is limiting opponents to 39 percent shooting and why SDSU shot just 37 percent on Tuesday night.

San Diego State guard Jeremy Hemsley (42) puts a shot over Kansas forward Hunter Mickelson (42) during the first half, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015 at Viejas Arena in San Diego.

San Diego State guard Jeremy Hemsley (42) puts a shot over Kansas forward Hunter Mickelson (42) during the first half, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015 at Viejas Arena in San Diego. by Nick Krug

3 – The Jayhawks again shot the ball well from three-point land — 8 of 19 for 42.1 percent — and remain above 46 percent from downtown for the season. So much has been made about this team having some of the best shooters a KU squad has had in a while, but it's definitely the flow of the offense, the ball movement and the fact that those shooters are often getting wide open looks that is keeping that percentage so high so far.

Three reasons to sigh

1 – With Landen Lucas, Jamari Traylor, Hunter Mickelson and Cheick Diallo combining to play just 40 minutes, the Jayhawks were out-rebounded by the Aztecs, 35-33. Because of the lineups Self used, that's no reason to sound the alarms. But giving up 15 offensive boards might be.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) and San Diego State guard Dakarai Allen (4) battle for a loose ball during the first half, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015 at Viejas Arena in San Diego.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) and San Diego State guard Dakarai Allen (4) battle for a loose ball during the first half, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015 at Viejas Arena in San Diego. by Nick Krug

2 – The Jayhawks forced 15 turnovers, including nine steals, but scored just 15 points off of those SDSU miscues. It didn't hurt them in this one, but capitalizing on opponents' mistakes is something the Jayhawks are going to have to fine-tune if they want to make it 12 in a row in Big 12 play.

Kansas head coach Bill Self turns in frustration during a run by the Aztecs in the second half, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015 at Viejas Arena in San Diego.

Kansas head coach Bill Self turns in frustration during a run by the Aztecs in the second half, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015 at Viejas Arena in San Diego. by Nick Krug

3 – After building a 12-point halftime lead, KU had a couple of opportunities to go for the knock-out blow in the second half and missed each time. Kansas eventually pulled away and San Diego State never led — in fact, the game was only even tied for 1:42 — but I'm sure Self and company would've much preferred the kill shot to come much earlier in the second half, particularly in a game played on the road in front of a rocking crowd.

One for the road

KU's road win at San Diego State...

• Gives KU nine consecutive wins, which is the longest winning streak since the 2013-14 season, when KU won 18 in a row.

• Gives KU its first true road win of the season (1-0) and a 5-1 record in games away from Allen Fieldhouse this season.

• Ties the series with San Diego State at 2-2. Kansas is 26-8 all-time against current Mountain West Conference teams.

• Improves Bill Self's record to 362-79 (.821) while at Kansas and 569-184 (.756) all-time.

• Gives KU an 83-38 (.686) road record under Self.

• Makes KU 2,163-832 (.722) all-time.

Next up

The Jayhawks return to Allen Fieldhouse next Tuesday at 8 p.m. for a match-up with UC-Irvine that will close out non-conference play. After that, Kansas will play host to both Oklahoma and Baylor in the first week of January, kicking off the Big 12 portion of its schedule in style.

By the Numbers: Kansas 70, San Diego State 57

By the Numbers: Kansas 70, San Diego State 57

Comments

Benton Smith 6 years, 4 months ago

Yeah, Vick has been sick and unable to play in the last 2 games.

Kent Richardson 6 years, 4 months ago

Nice article. I'm glad that Lazarus Traylor is back.

Capitalizing on opponents mistakes will be much easier if we will like give up the ball on fast breaks when a wing is involved. Really Frank?

ISU got a little of it's mojo back against Cincinnati, a true road game, but three open missed shots in the last 5 seconds helped.

We can put Lazarus on Hield and all will be well with us and OU.

What the heck, TTU beats UALR and takes them down.

Maybe we will get a little spoiler help this year in conference. Jingle bells. As long as we don't partake in the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Owsley Batman 500 style.

Dirk Medema 6 years, 4 months ago

"The Jayhawks return to Allen Fieldhouse next Tuesday at 8 p.m. for a match-up with UC-Irvine that will close out non-conference play." (Twice in article)

The Jayhawks transition to conference play after UCI, but don't close out non-con until later in January when we play UK. That will be a BIG game.

Len Shaffer 6 years, 4 months ago

I was going to mention that too, Dirk; a minor detail about the Evil Empire coming to Allen.

Len Shaffer 6 years, 4 months ago

Great analysis as always, Matt, but I'm not sure I agree that a team that has lost to USD and Grand Canyon is a "good" team.

Steve Zimmerman 6 years, 4 months ago

Good read, Matt. Yeah, this time Traylor bailed us out on the rebounding stats you mentioned. BTW, I noticed at least 2 KU players allowed opponents to move freely along baseline - wide open. Is this intended? Or plain bad D?

Arthur Ankeney 6 years, 4 months ago

I am one of Greene's biggest haters. When he gets in the game I cringe. But I must say, this was his best all around game and I was excited when he was in the game. I know it's crazy since he hardly scored which is what we're supposed to know him for. But he was aggressive defensively, he moved the ball well, went after rebounds/steals/blocks with intensity. It was a side of him I had never seen before. I disagree that Self "trusts" him. But Self noted he was playing different, aggressive, and rewarded him for it. If Greene plays like that, he deserves the minutes above Svi, and I NEVER thought I would say that.

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