The #10 Kansas Jayhawks used a pair of 42-39 halves to get past the Oregon State Beavers on Friday night in Kansas City’s Sprint Center.
They did so in a fashion that’s starting to become typical for this team – by building up a lead, then taking their foot off the gas. Kansas had a lead as large as 14 at one point, but let OSU back in the game. The Beavers were helped by hot shooting from outside, making 9-20 three pointers, including 7-13 by Ahmad Starks, their leading scorer with 25 points.
Kansas got most of their points from inside the paint, using entry passes to get the ball to Jeff Withey and benefiting from fast break drives by Travis Releford in the second half. Ben McLemore was dominant in the first half, scoring 15 of his 21 early, but missed much of the second half with foul trouble. Releford added 20 points, often driving to the paint and making plays. He looked comfortable all night and came up when the Jayhawks needed to make a play. Withey had 17 and Kevin Young added 10.
For stretches, KU’s offense was strong. They hit 9-11 shots before the second TV timeout in the second half. For the whole game, they shot 60%.
They let OSU back in the game though. With 3:55 left in the first half, they were up 37-27. By 2:18, it was tied at 37. With 11:57 left in the game, KU was up 64-52. At 9:01, Devon Collier went to the free throw line with OSU down just 64-61. He missed the front end of a one-and-one, but could have pulled the Beavers to within one if he’d hit them both.
Some of the problem was stagnant offense, where KU wouldn’t move much without the ball and didn’t handle pressure very well. With McLemore in foul trouble much of the night, it took a dynamic playmaker out of the rotation for stretches, and Elijah Johnson ran into foul trouble of his own, and also got shaken up on a foul that sent him to the floor in the first half. He still dished out nine assists, but only scored six points. When he was out, Naadir Tharpe tried to help out, but made mistakes. Other players were making lazy passes and Johnson himself made four turnovers.
Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor have been less involved than in the first couple of games. Part of that is due to Kevin Young, who’s been playing well since coming back from a fractured hand. Part of that is because they’re freshmen. Traylor is athletic and aggressive, but very raw, and in some of these games, he’s just not working within the system. Ellis has shown his talent in spots, but he isn’t playing with a lot of authority. When opportunity is there, he’s able to make moves and has shown savvy, but he’s not making his own openings. Young, however, has looked much more comfortable on both ends of the court.
Right now, Kansas is loaded with talent, but they’re still refining their offense and learning with each other. It’s frustrating, especially when leads dwindle, but as they get more comfortable and Bill Self makes adjustments, they should get on track.
Here’s the play of the game – a must-watch steal and dunk by McLemore:
Kansas improves to 6-1 on the year. Their next matchup is on Saturday December 8 back at Allen Fieldhouse where they’ll host Colorado who is currently ranked 19th in the country. Tipoff is at 1 p.m. CST.