Before last night’s game between Kansas and Kansas State, I tweeted that KU was a “sinking ship”. Clearly, I could not have been more wrong. The Jayhawks made a statement to their (many) doubters with a 67-49 thrashing of Kansas State at Phog Allen Fieldhouse.
Travis Releford led a balanced Jayhawk attack with 16 points and 11 rebounds, Thomas Robinson continued his brilliance with 15 and 14, while Jeff Withey just missed out on a double-double with eight points and nine rebounds.
The story of the game was rebounding. The Jayhawks managed to out-rebound the Wildcats 48-24 for the game, a shocking margin, especially considering that Frank Martin’s teams usually out-rebound their opponent. This season the Wildcats have had to generate a lot of offense off of rebounds, and that was nearly impossible last night. Without easy put backs and run outs off of defensive rebounds, the Wildcats were forced to run a rather ugly half court offense. The result was a lot of contested, long jump shots, and 31% shooting from the floor.
For a brief time in the second half, mostly as a result of Kansas turnovers, the game was close. A couple of Jamar Samuels three-pointers cut the Jayhawk lead to three, but K-State couldn’t defend well enough to ever get closer.
For Kansas, this game was a reminder that they are every bit the force in Big 12 play that they have always been. Winning at Allen Fieldhouse is the hardest thing to do in the Big 12, and a talent drop won’t change that. Kansas’ half court defense was great, contesting every shot, making passes difficult, and preventing offensive rebounds.
That defense made up for a pedestrian game on the offensive end, which Bill Self still needs to clean up. Thomas Robinson, who is considered by many to be the best player in the conference, goes long stretches without touching the ball. Considering that Robinson has solid range out to 15-18 feet, and is even capable of creating a jumper off the dribble, that is unacceptable. Robinson should be getting 15-20 shots a night.
While Travis Releford’s stat line looks nice, and Releford did hit some big shots, he is one of the main culprits of not getting Robinson the ball. Releford tends to over dribble and put himself in questionable positions, he was guilty of it a few times last night. Since the result was 6-11 shooting and 16 points, it can be ignored for once game.
Finally, Tyshawn Taylor. He’s incredibly good at driving to the basket, and does a good job creating for his teammates at times. He is also going to be the downfall of the Jayhawks this season. Last night Taylor had eight turnovers, and is averaging almost four a game. That has been the issue all season, and it might be too late to fix. Against teams with quick guards, like Baylor and Missouri, Taylor is going to be in for a long night.
Kansas and Kansas State are both really good teams. The Jayhawks used last night as a reminder that they are still the force of the conference, and that the Wildcats will have to wait their turn. I was ready to put the Wildcats in the top 3 of the conference, but that will have to wait until Frank Martin finds a better way to generate offense. I was ready to write off the Jayhawks, but that will have to wait too.
K-State hosts Missouri on Saturday, while Kansas travels to Oklahoma.