With 11:45 left, Jeff Withey made a jump hook and was well on his way to a triple double. Kansas led San Jose State 60-36. Smooth sailing, right?
Kansas started settling for jumpers and turning the ball over and the Spartans stormed back. Kansas still held off long enough to get the win, but at 70-57, it was a lot closer than it looked like it needed to be.
Coming into the game, Bill Self said that he wanted to see his team play faster on offense. Instead, as he said after the game, they didn’t even look like a third grade team. After Withey’s shot, San Jose State went on a 14-0 run to pull to within eight points. James Kinney, SJSU’s senior guard and leading scorer on the year, had ten of those points and an assist during that stretch. Kevin Young finally ended the run with a free throw at the 4:50 mark, just under a seven minute drought. Kansas didn’t hit a field goal from 11:45 to 1:16 when Elijah Johnson hit a jumper.
For most of the run until about the six minute mark, Kansas turned the ball over five times and missed six shots. As the game drew to a close, they were far enough ahead to survive, but the offense did them no favors. This is a team still searching for a leader to turn a nothing play into something. In past years, Sherron Collins would be the guy to take the ball and drive for a score to stop the bleeding. Tyshawn Taylor would come up with a play. Right now Johnson is running the show, but doesn’t look comfortable running the offense all the time. Travis Releford can be the leader from time to time, but he’s never been a scorer and most teams will treat him that way, daring him to beat them.
Ben McLemore needs to be that creator. On Monday night, he was cold, hitting only 5 of 16 shots and missed all seven from outside. He displayed some of his athleticism on a drive in the first half where he took off from just inside the free throw line and made a layup and later as time ran down, he delivered a windmill dunk on a breakaway, but his shot was way off. He seems to be waiting for things to come to him, not unlike Paul Pierce in his first year as a Jayhawk. Both seem to be waiting for the rest of the team to let him loose – but on a team like this one, he’s going to have to do it himself by trusting his athleticism.
On a much brighter note (and one that will probably be mentioned more than the team’s performance), Jeff Withey notched KU’s second official triple-double by scoring 16 points, bringing in 12 rebounds and blocking 12 shots. His blocks are a new team record for a game. The first official KU triple-double came on March 22, 2009 by Cole Aldrich against Dayton.
That seems odd that Kansas has just two triple-doubles in its history. The catch here is that when Wilt Chamberlain was at Kansas, blocked shots weren’t an official stat, but unofficially, he had two. B.J. Born also had an unofficial triple-double.
Being the second* triple-double in the program’s history is still impressive at any rate, and Withey is a force under the basket. His offensive game is looking better as well. The offense may need to run through him for a while as the rest of the team develops.
Releford, Johnson and McLemore all scored 13 points tonight and the trio along with Withey played most of the game. Kevin Young earned another start at power forward and played 20 minutes while Perry Ellis spelled him for 14. Jamari Traylor played 7.
Kansas improved to 5-1 and faces Oregon State on Friday at 7:00 p.m. at Sprint Center.