They’re not all masterpieces.
At one point in the second half of Kansas’s 64-59 win on Saturday at Texas, they turned the ball over five times and watched the Longhorns go on a 12-0 run and push the home team to a 42-31 lead. Kansas had fought back from a season low 26 points at halftime to even be within two points at the break. As late as 1:50 left in the first, Texas was up 28-21.
The whole first half was a mess for KU. They turned the ball over. They only made seven field goals. Ben McLemore only shot three attempts. Texas broke free for open shots. Kansas went from 16:06 to 10:50 without a field goal made until Kevin Young dunked, then, they went almost ten minutes without one until a Jeff Withey basket with 57 seconds left.
McLemore got more involved in the second half, shooting seven more times, including a dunk on a lob from Elijah Johnson at the 4:29 mark to put KU up by one at 54-53, their first lead since McLemore hit a three-pointer at 18:13 to put the Jayhawks up one at 31-30 (after which Texas went on their run). As a team, Kansas made 13 of 24 shots in the second half and made all ten of their second half free throw attempts. McLemore scored 16 to lead Kansas.
Being able to come back is a good thing, but even better would be to not fall behind in the first place. Kansas was lucky to escape with a win, considering that they shot so poorly in the first half and fell behind so far in the second half. Texas cooled down from outside in the second and KU was able to get to the free throw line often, making 21 of 25 on the day. Texas only made 2 of 8.
Elijah Johnson had a rough game. He missed a number of layups and ended up with just one field goal in ten tries. He turned it over three times but only had two assists. Naadir Tharpe wasn’t great off the bench either, but the two shots he made were big ones. First, he hit a three-pointer with just under five minutes to go in the game to pull Kansas to within one, then he made a layup with 2:22 to go that put Kansas up for good. Julien Lewis had a chance to tie the score with a three-point attempt with 15 seconds left, but he missed and KU hit two free throws later to get to the final score.
Kansas didn’t get much out of its bench today, with only Tharpe and Perry Ellis playing more than ten minutes. They combined for nine total points. Jamari Traylor added one. Tharpe has looked fine in most games, but he’s inconsistent offensively, often shooting too soon or going cold. Ellis is improving and showing more of a willingness to get inside and get physical. If he can finish at the basket better, he’ll be a quality substitute.
What would really help Kansas as they get deeper into conference play, is a point guard who can slice into the lane. In the past, KU might start getting stuck on offense, but had Sherron Collins or Tyshawn Taylor available to isolate and drive. Johnson isn’t always that kind of player. If there’s an opening, he takes it, but he’s not as adept at creating those opportunities. In transition, Travis Releford is great at getting to the basket, but not off the dribble when the defense is set. McLemore could use some of that as well. Imagine if he could shoot from outside and get to the basket more in set offenses. Eventually, one of these off days will end in a loss, but for now, Kansas keeps rolling.
Next up is a Tuesday night matchup with intrastate rival Kansas State in Manhattan. Tip off is at 7 p.m. CST against the 16th ranked Wildcats.