In our two previous tests, against Arizona and on the road in Los Angeles against USC, we didn't play very well. Against the Wildcats, we let Chase Budinger explode in Allen Fieldhouse, allowing him to go for 27 points. Against USC, we shot about 3-a million in the first half, and didn't shoot a whole lot better in the second half. Good offense against Zona, good defense against the Trojans.
But we have yet to actually put together a complete effort, failing to outplay those opponents as well as we should have. Or at least could have. And finally, today, we did. We played awesome defense, like we almost always do, suffocating the Blue Demons' ball-handlers and forcing them into an 8 minute near-drought (1 FG). We played awesome offense, with 4 players in double figures.
All in all, we dominated the Blue Demons; much more than the 18 point margin of victory. Every single Jayhawk that stepped out on James Naismith Court had a good game, except maybe Brandon Rush who only shot 5 for 14 and is still playing somewhat sub-par defense. Sasha Kaun dominated the paint, for once, proving me wrong for calling him out. I'm sorry Sasha, you have bought yourself until conference play to establish yourself. Or re-establish yourself. After that, you are all mine again.
Russell Robinson had an awesome game, getting the first dunk I have ever seen him have, a half-sorta-dunk off of an intentional Mario Chalmers missed-layup, and playing tremendous on-ball defense. Darnell Jackson had a couple of big dunks, one off of a beautiful alley-oop pass from Russell, and did all of the little things right (again) picking up 8 boards. Darrell Arthur had a good offensive night, scoring 13 points, but didn't pick up a single rebound. He is still struggling to become the go-to guy we need in the paint, and his sophomore season is looking more and more like Julian Wright's last season. More on that later on this week.
But amid all of those fine performances, there stood one above all the rest. Super Mario. Chalmers did everything, proving once again that he is the most consistent player on this team and the leader of this team. After Russell's big dunk, Mario was right there. After Darnell's slam, there he was again, celebrating. He is almost always around with something good happens, with little showing this more than his 12 point, 9 rebound, 7 assist, 7 steal game. Honestly, that is a couple more minutes of playing time away from a quadruple-double. Player of the Game, MVP so far this season, all of that goes to Super. Despite all of the talent we are losing after this season, if he stays we will still be good next year. He has been overlooked by the Brandon Rushes and Julian Wrights of this team, who were both members of the same, over-loaded recruiting class, but if given the chance to shine next season, he will surprise a lot of people. He is All-American good at times, especially on the defensive side of the ball. He just might be the best defender in all of college basketball.
Oh, yea, and Sherron Collins came back 3 weeks early. So, just to clarify: Brandon Rush came back a month before expected, and SC came back 3 weeks early. Either we are being awfully cautious with our ETAs, our players' bodies heal at an abnormal rate or our medical staff is awesome. I am going to go with the last one, with the first two serving minimal roles, if any. Congratulations to SC for getting back on the court so quickly after his foot injury, and even more props for not looking half-bad. It was more than obvious he wasn't 100%, most of his breathtaking quickness was gone and the few times he tried to drive in the lane he was stopped. But he made 2 three pointers, a part of his game he has had to work on (and needs to continue to work on), and didn't stick out on a defense filled with studs.
This was the best we have looked all season, hands down. At least against legitimate competition, the domination of Northern Arizona, for example, doesn't count. And while DePaul certainly isn't the same quality of team as an Arizona or USC, they are a potential NCAA team and we absolutely dominated them, from the second ESPN finally switched over to the KU-DePaul game from Illinois-Arizona (with 12 minutes left in the 1st half; score was 12-11 Kansas) until the final horn blew. We started out slow, but as soon as the broadcast turned national, we turned the light switch on.
Player of the Game: Super Mario Chalmers
Moment of the Game: Russell Robinson's "Dunk"
Stat of the Game: Steals/Blocked Shots --> DePaul (8) Kansas (19)
We don't play again until next Saturday, when we battle the Ohio Bobcats in the new Sprint Arena. First game in the Sprint Arena for the Jayhawks, the new downtown Kansas City sports arena that will "supposedly" draw an NHL and/or NBA team. Supposedly. For now, it just replaces Kemper Arena, hosting random functions and, mostly, concerts. In any case, we will spend the next week on a grab bag of topics, with a combination of football and basketball.