Kansas cruised to a very easy victory on Wednesday night by a score of 82-57. It was also Senior Night, as KU honored Tarik Black, Niko Roberts and Justin Wesley. Here are 4 observations. I normally do 5, but this was a pretty straightforward game.
1. It was Tarik Black's night.
This was a night that Tarik Black will likely remember for a long time. He was clearly the best player on the court tonight, scoring 19 points on a perfect 9 for 9 from the field (an offensive rating of 179). He also had 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, 1 steal, 0 turnovers and just 2 fouls. Black has been playing well for a while now, but he really stepped it up tonight and unquestionably played his best game as a Jayhawk. This is fortunate for Kansas, as they were playing without star center Joel Embiid, who is sidelined for at least this game and the next game with a lower back strain. Tarik then followed up his dominance by having a wonderful, charming speech. I'm sure the speeches will be up somewhere online tomorrow, but the highlight was: "You know you're getting recruited by KU when you get that text from coach Self like, 'Hey stud.'" I have a feeling that Tarik Black will have quite a role to play this next month if KU is going to make a long run.
2. No one knows what to expect from Naadir Tharpe anymore.
Naadir Tharpe is having some incredible inconsistency down the stretch of the Big 12 season. Not all necessarily in a bad way, just that he lately has either been amazing or awful. Last game against Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Tharpe was 2 for 8 from the field (with his two makes being on ill-advised shots anyway), had 6 turnovers and got picked apart on defense. Tonight, he 4 for 7 from the field, actually got to the line 5 times and made all 5, and had 5 assists with 0 turnovers. Additionally, while he wasn't necessarily good on defense, he did have a couple steals and was active with a lot of effort tonight. Tharpe is still an incredibly important player for the Jayhawks going forward, mostly because you don't quite know what you're going to get with him. I still have a fear that he will have a night where he goes 2 for 12 with 5 turnovers and Kansas gets bounced, but he also has the ability to have an incredibly efficient game and bury important shots to save Kansas. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.
3. KU's defense had one of it's good nights.
The defense of Kansas has been rather subpar this season due to Bill Self's normal standards, but they somehow now have the best defense in the Big 12 from an efficiency standpoint (to go along with by far the best offense). While they still give up more than 10 points per 100 possessions more than last KU's team did, the overall offense in the Big 12 has been better this year. Tonight, KU held Texas Tech to just 35.3% from the field, 21.4% from three, and just 0.86 points per possession. KU's defense will be something to monitor closely as postseason play approaches. It will be interesting if KU has an extra gear defensively for when it really matters.
4. Senior Night at Kansas is an incredibly cool event.
I find it very awesome that so many KU fans stay each year to listen to the seniors give a speech and get recognized and honored by the university. Even on years where there are no really relevant seniors, the fans still stay. I will mention that Bill Self did recognize the other members of the team briefly, citing that they did have a few members of their talented recruiting class that likely won't make it to a Senior Night. They then showed Andrew Wiggins on the screen, and he was tearing up a bit. I couldn't help myself from letting out an audible "AWWWWWW." I'm sure the tradition of Senior Night will go on forever, but it really is a cool thing to experience as a fan.
Farewell to Allen Fieldhouse for now. Heed will not receive any payments for about another 8 months. Kansas will look to go 15-3 in the Big 12 when they play West Virginia at 11 AM Central on Saturday, and then postseason play begins.
How are you guys feeling at this point in the season? Do you have a favorite memory or play from this senior class? Let me know in the comments, as well as any observations of your own you had on tonight's game.
10 wins to go.
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