That was, probably, the best game I have seen all year. Just from a pure basketball-loving perspective, how up-and-down the first half was was absolutely and incredibly phenomenal. I couldn't get enough. The second half was pretty sick as well, there wasn't nearly as much scoring, but the game was tremendous in another, more defensive kinda way. Before I get into how we played and such, I just want to say that Texas played phenomenal. Texas is, IMO, easily one of the top 5 teams in the country and I have them, in my most preliminary of preliminary brackets, making a trip all the way to the Final Four. I am glad we won't have to see them unless we meet each other in the National Championship game, another matchup would be epic and heart attack-inducing at the same time.
Mario Chalmers played the game of his life. There is no other way to describe his incredible performance today. He, with some help from behind the arc by Brandon Rush, took this team on his back and led us to victory, matching the incredible and unanimous All-American D.J. Augustin from the opening tip all the way through the final buzzer. That was the best performance of any Jayhawk all season long, and I can only hope someone else in the locker room has such a performance up his sleeve for our final six (hopefully) games of the year. Everyone knows about his 30 points, on an unconscious 8-12 shooting from behind the three-point range, but Super Mario also dealt out 6 assists (more on assists in a second) and pulled down 4 boards. An absolutely freakin' tremendous game, overall.
Brandon Rush had quite a game for himself, as well. He "only" scored 19 points, and he scored 18 of those from the three-point line. So, he was essentially 0-3 from two-point range, but I'll take 19 points from Brandon every day. He again had himself quite an all-around line, dishing out 6 assists of his own along with 6 rebounds. Russell Robinson was tremendously overshadowed all afternoon long by the incredible performances and outside shooting by his fellow guards. He didn't score, didn't pick up a single rebound and only had 3 assists. Only Cole Aldrich had a more disappointing line, whose three minutes went largely uneventful. Darnell Jackson was notably absent all game long, dropping some key loose balls and just overall playing a poor game. He was in foul trouble all game, and even when he was in he was playing what was probably his wrost game of the season. Not the best time to have it, and hopefully he can bounce back starting Thursday. Darrell Arthur had a much better game than I initially thought after watching the game. While he certainly got his, I did not expect to see 16 and 9 for his line. Of course, this game was dominated so much by the perimeter players that it makes sense for the bigs to be overshadowed. And with our +13 rebounding advantage, someone had to grab those boards, although the guards all picked up the slack in that regard. Still, DA was a zone-buster, just like down in Austin, although this time he was overshadowed by the even better shooting from three-point range. All things considered, I flat-out dare anybody who plays us in the NCAAs to zone us, just see what happens.
With all of those players' dissected, I want to talk about the two most important players to today's win besides Super Mario. And no, even as good as Brandon Rush played, he isn't one. No, the two players I am talking about are the two key players off the bench, two players who couldn't be any different. Sasha Kaun is white, 6'11", from Russia and is more of a defensive stalwart than an offensive go-to-guy. Sherron Collins is black, 5'11", from inner city Chicago and is an offensive energizer bunny off the bench, the offensive firework we need off the bench. Still, they both played extremely crucial roles, as Sasha played the role of the always crucial man-behind-the-zone against Texas' 2-3, scoring an underrated 7 points. He could have made a couple more FT's, sure, but he also piled up 8 rebounds and played pretty good defense all game long on Connor Atchley.
And about Sherron. No player is more important to our success than than he is, because he provides the spark needed to ignite our team. We need his spunk, we need his push-it attitude, we need his quickness, we need his playmaking ability, but most importantly we need his intensity. With all of the tremendous strengths of this team, one weakness, our biggest weakness IMO, is that sometimes we become complacent. We start accepting what the defense gives us, which is all well-and-good for plenty of teams, but not so much for us. We have to have someone reminding us, particularly Brandon Rush and Russell Robinson, to push it, to force the issue, to implement our game on the other team and not the other way around. He did that this afternoon, pushing it ahead more often than anyone else and making a couple of tremendous plays, notably his dispy-duck into the lane near the end of the first half, and was absolutely crucial to our W tonight. 9 points, 7 assists (tops on the team) and 5 rebounds round out his impressive line.
Going back to the assists point of view, I have never seen a team with better ball movement in my entire life. We were a thing of beauty to watch tonight on offense, whipping the orange around the court to find an open shot somewhere. And more often than not, the person with the open shot drilled it, which is how you shoot 49.1% from the field. Over the 40 minutes of game time, the Kansas Jayhawks made a pretty impressive 26 field goals. Twenty five of those (25!!!) were on assists, meaning that only once did a player, completely on his own, create his own shot. And while this might be a negative, I am pretty confident that we can create our own shot. In fact, the player who did it (Sherron Collins on the aforementioend dispy-duck into the lane) can create his shot almost whenever he wants to. Only, he often decides to kick out to a wide open long-range bomber, who hit the shot more often than not tonight. Plus, whenever you zone us, our ball movement will have you spinning in circles until, eventually, we find ourselves open somewhere on the court.
Bring on the zone, NCAA Tournament teams. We would be happy to oblige with another 15-25 shooting night from behind the three-point line. Not that we would shoot that well, that would be nearly impossible, but we wouldn't come crashing down to a 30% clip, if that is what you were expecting.
More on our quarter of the bracket, our first round opponent (Portland State) and the entire bracket starting tomorrow and continuing Tuesday and Wednesday.