After cruising to a win over Kansas State and snapping a three game losing streak, Kansas was able to exhale a bit as Texas came to Allen Fieldhouse. The 73-47 victory sent the crowd home happy, but there was a lot more to like about this game than just the box score.
It was a night when Kansas dipped into its past, welcoming back Mario Chalmers for a jersey retirement ceremony, replaying his miracle shot against Memphis that sent the 2008 NCAA Championship into overtime and gave the Jayhawks the momentum that carried them to victory. It was a night when Chalmers wasn’t the only returning star, either. With him in the crowd behind the Jayhawk bench was Wayne Simien, Nick Collison, Thomas Robinson, Xavier Henry, Marcus and Markieff Morris and Tyshawn Taylor among others.
I should also mention that #2 overall recruit Julius Randle, a 6’9″ forward from Texas, was seated with the group, watching the program recognize its past and showcase its present. I’m sure he came away impressed.
As for the game, Kansas had Texas locked down all night, holding them to 21.8% shooting and only 12 field goals (three of which came off of offensive rebounds and putbacks). Texas couldn’t get inside and they shot just 2 of 21 from outside. Nearly half of their points came from the free throw line, as they made 21 of 32 shots.
After the game, Bill Self noted that he was pleased with everything but the team’s rebounding efforts. The defense held Texas to 11 points in the first half until two late possessions got them to 15 before halftime and Texas ran into shot clock violations on consecutive possessions, unable to get around the defensive pressure in the halfcourt.
That left the offense to play with confidence. They missed some shots in the first half and watching the game and then looking at the scoreboard, you might be surprised to see the halftime score was only 28-15. Unlike the KSU game, Ben McLemore was fairly quiet in this one. Travis Releford and Jeff Withey led the team with 15 points each and Elijah Johnson woke up, putting up 13, hitting 5 of 10 shots and finishing inside more than he has during his slump. Hopefully this is a game that kickstarts him towards a strong finish in conference play and into March.
While McLemore didn’t repeat his 30 point performance from Monday night, he still put his own exclamation point on the win, taking a steal down the court on a breakaway and delivering a 360 dunk. The play ended up as the top highlight of the night despite the NBA’s Slam Dunk contest taking place on Saturday night.
Kansas will travel to Stillwater on Wednesday trying to exact revenge on the Oklahoma State Cowboys. OSU defeated KU on February 2nd in Lawrence and started the Jayhawks three game losing streak. Both teams are 9-3 in conference play and tied with Kansas State for the conference lead.