It was more of the same at Allen Fieldhouse during the Kansas Jayhawks 67-54 win over the Oklahoma Sooners.
Kansas improved to 6-0 in conference play in their 16th straight win of the year, a game where they never trailed past the game’s opening minutes. Both teams were a little flat in the first half when Kansas took a 29-21 lead to the locker room, but things picked up in the second half. Ben McLemore scored 11 of his team-leading 18 points in the second half, including hitting three three-pointers.
The Jayhawks have played sluggish basketball in January, trailing to teams they should beat easily, being pushed to overtime, or just missing shots and looking sloppy on offense. Oklahoma stayed in it, but KU usually held a lead of eight-to-ten points during the second half. They weren’t shooting well in the first half on Saturday either, but in the second half, made 12 of their 24 shots, including six of their seven three-pointers. They also forced some fast breaks and got out to run a bit, even showcasing Withey running out on the break a couple of times.
Kansas outrebounded Oklahoma 41-31, aided by Withey’s nine and McLemore’s seven boards. Withey is expected to be involved in crashing the glass, but getting some from McLemore is a great bonus. Two came on the offensive end, resulting in an easy putback. Releford, Kevin Young and Perry Ellis also had five rebounds.
Naadir Tharpe filled in for Elijah Johnson for much of the first half when Johnson picked up two fouls. Johnson still hasn’t shown much improvement this season, but his overall numbers look better than those of his last few games. His scoring is down and he’s committing more turnovers though, and if he’s going to be running the point, he’s got to take better care of the ball (he had four turnovers on Saturday).
It would help if he were able to get inside and make some driving layups to add another layer to the offense. It’s a weak Big 12 this year, but once the NCAA tournament starts, KU could run into a tough matchup that holds McLemore in check and can keep Withey from getting involved and Johnson would need to step up at that point. Releford has been a consistent producer, but Bill Self may not be comfortable having to make him the main part of the offense. Teams will let Kevin Young have any open shot past 15 feet any time he wants to shoot it and he’s more of a source of hustle points.
Having two offensive producers in McLemore and Withey is great, but Johnson turning it on and building on last year’s numbers would make everything look so much better.
His next opportunity to get back in gear comes on Monday night against West Virginia. This will be the first Big 12 matchup between Kansas and WVU so it could be a hostile environment on the road. The Mountaineers are 9-10 this season after a loss to Oklahoma State on Saturday.