The 2-seeded Kansas Jayhawks (25-9) probably weren’t expecting the be tied at 32 at halftime against the 15-seeded Eastern Kentucky Colonels, but they actually had to scrap and fight to forge that knotted score.
The Jayhawks shot 67% for the field in the first half but turned the ball over an unbelievable 13 times before intermission. In one of the worst performances you will ever witness from a starting point guard on a national powerhouse team, Naadir Tharpe, looking lost, coughed the ball up 4 times in the first twenty minutes.
Luckily for the Jayhawks, they found their mojo in the locker room at half.
Kansas ONLY shot 56% from the field after the break. but only turned the ball over once. Tharpe still didn’t have his head in the game, as he looks to be playing with zero confidence right now.
Conner Frankamp stepped up from the bench to turn in an eye opening performance to pick up the slack. Frankamp played 25 minutes, tallied 10 points, dished out 4 assists, and did not turn the ball over even once.
He was not the only spectacular player off the bench for Kansas Friday. Jamari Traylor had a beast of a career game against the Colonels. Traylor knocked down 17 points, 7 for 8 shooting from the field, and ripped down 14 boards. He had 2 assists and a monster block for good measure.
Andrew Wiggins continued his strong play, scoring 19, with 4 rebounds and 2 blocks. Perry Ellis went for 14 points and 13 rebounds in a very nice outing. Tarik Black was solid for 12 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 blocked shots.
It is amazing that Kansas won a game when the opponents committed just 7 turnovers, hit 12 of 31 three-pointers (38.7%), plus the Jayhawks themselves turned the ball over 13 times in the first half, and went 0-7 from behind the arc.
Kansas shot the ball extremely well for the game though, hitting 60.4% of their attempts (32-46 from 2-point range – 69.6%). They also absolutely dominated the undersized and out manned Eastern Kentucky squad, 43-19.
The Jayhawks now have to face the Stanford Cardinal on Sunday, and Coach Bill Self has to find a way to get his point guard back track. In all likelihood, the Kansas Jayhawks are not going to shoot 60% again in the tournament, or win the battle of the boards by 24 rebounds.
Naadir Tharpe has to get focused and start producing positive results – immediately. Both freshmen Frank Mason and Conner Frankamp provide some skills off the bench, but neither have the experience to necessary to led the team deeper into the tournament. Tharpe must find away to regain his shattered confidence.
That may be a tough task.
Survive and advance. That is what the Kansas Jayhawks did Friday. That is what they need to do Sunday against the Cardinal. If they keep playing hard and attacking on offense, they will hopefully make it to the second weekend of the tournament.