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"Just Play" -- Kansas 87 Kanssas State 71

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“Sherron told me to stop thinking, just play,” Taylor added" -- KU Sports

That's it. That's the key for our freshmen. Just to play. Early on in the year, all of our freshmen progress was incredibly encouraging. They were starting off the year fantastically, getting better every game. Life was good. And then, crash. Boom. Snap, crackle, pop.

Freshmen walls were hit by just about everyone. Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris, Travis Releford. All of them went ka-pow. But, most of all, there was Tyshawn Taylor. Tyshawn Taylor, who started off so fabulously, had sunk into typical freshman mistakes. Stupid turnovers. Lazy passes. Mediocre defense. In general, just a fairly average performer. You could see it in his eyes; the thoughts, trying to think through every situation. Hard to blame the kid. I mean, he is starting, after all, for the defending National Champs.

But then, he followed Sherron's advice. And, really, everyone did. No more freak outs, no more mental mistakes, no more missed opportunities. We went out and simply played. Pressure-free, mistake-free, fun-filled basketball. Not for 40 minutes; we are such a young team, consistency is darn-near impossible to achieve. But for those first 5 minutes, on our 18-0 run, we played the best basketball we've played all year. And in other, assorted surges, we played very well. Which was really, really nice to see.

These are the games, like I said, we need to win. This was the first test. There are many to come. But it was a fine performance in our first test, a performane that should suit us just fine as we go through the rest of the season.

Player-by-players after the jump...

  • First off, the inspiration for the opening pargraphs; Tyshawn Taylor. That is how he is supposed to play. This was, easily, the best game of his collegiate career. I know it wasn't his prettiest stat line, but this K-State team is considerably tougher than New Mexico State, where he put up 25. Plus, he had to step up and lead the team for awhile in the first half once Sherron got in foul trouble. He didn't go out and wow everyone, giving a speech at the 8:00 minute timeout or anything, but he did a fine job of maintaing a reasonable lead. And he had some nice leadership moments, too. As RCT reader labbadabba pointed out in the OGT, he showed Markieff Morris the correct way he should have played defense after he committed a stupid foul, right then-and-there. You don't see that every day, and it was defniitely cool to see. Of course, his game wasn't all about leadership and intanibles. Dude can drive, too, and it is about time we saw that side of him come out again. He can get to the backet crazy quick, and since his early season case of the yips, he has been money inside five feet. But, again, here's where we get to the important shit; no stupid turnovers. That's the key. Player of the game, easy. No question.
  • Another fine, ho-hum night from Cole Aldrich. Honestly, we don't get the ball in to the big guy nearly enough. So, while his line looks pretty awesome, with 15 points, 8 boards and 2 blocks, it should be a lot higher. He wasn't perfect, though. He picked up a couple of stupid fouls, which is always a killer when it comes to Cole. Because he is such an active shot-blocker, he is inevitably going to pick up a foul-or-two going after rejections. Which is fine, obviously. But when he couples that with some head-scratchers, he is in foul trouble really quick. Still, he played well with 4 fouls, which is important. Not a tremendous performance from Cole, but it wasn't simply because he didn't play well. We need to work on ways to get the ball in to him, it's just too easy when he gets the ball within 8 feet.
  • So, I'm looking at the box score, and I can't believe the Morris twins just scored a combined 8 points. It seems like they were so much more active. And, honestly, they were. Marcus, in only 15 minutes, picked up 7 rebounds, and Markieff picked up 5 in 23 rebounds. Sure, those aren't great numbers, but both are significant improvements over the latest outputs from them. Plus, both played pretty solid D. Markieff continues to pick up incredibly stupid fouls, and Marcus isn't completely immune from them either, but both are getting better in learning how to play solid, legal defense. Sliding your feet, keeping your hands off for the most part. Y'know, fundamental defense. Improvement, to say the least.
  • Despite Cole's solid reboudning output, and the improved numbers from the Morris twins, and a solid performance from other assorted players, we were still outrebounded? Why? Simple. Two of our key rotation members, both of which will line up as the 3 oftentimes, combined to pick up all of zero rebounds. None. These two players would be, of course, Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar. And it isn't that I'm expecting to pile up the boards, either. But they need to at least be active players on the boards, tipping the ball around and creating opportunities for others. Brady is alright at this, but Tyrel isn't quite as adept. Both are productive players, still, and deserve PT. But they both need to at least participate in the game underneath the glass if we are going to not get completely outrebounded all of the time. Brady actually had a pretty poor game, although his three pretty much sealed the deal, and that was nice. Tyrel is getting better on D every game, and he is more active on the offensive side of the ball, but his shot still is just not falling down as much as it needs to be.
  • Finally, we get to Sherron. Y'know, last night was quite refreshing, in a sense. All year, people have generally agreed that we will only go as far as Sherron takes us. And, likely, this is still true. Yet, last night, Sherron didn't play his best. I'm probably severely understating his performance, as he did end up scoring 24 points and all, but it wasn't the same, offense-runs-through-Sherron show. We showed that we are fully capable of running our offense thorugh others (particularly TyTay) if we have to, which is really nice. And important. Sherron only played 27 minutes last night; less than three other players on the team.
  • Before we go, one quick, little note on Mario Little. I thought he played fantastic. Obviously, he isn't your typical 4, and he isn't going to be the same player he was recruited to be. At least this season. But he looked much, much better health-wise last night, and his jump shot looked really solid as well. Now, it's all about gaining confidence and continuing to play tough against bigger opponents. He is, essentially, an incredibly undersized 4. And while that isn't the slasher, offensive-machine we all read about when we recruited him, that's what we're going to get for now. Honestly, it's a sacrifice he has made. I mean, imagine that you are a scorer. A slasher. Reigning JUCO player of the year. But when given an opportunity to play at Kansas, you get hurt. Then, when you're coming back, you get hurt again. You're then offered a chance to play, but only if you redefinie yourself. Or, you can wait until next year when you're healthy, and you can play like the player you've been your entire life. I'm really impressed with his decision, which is definitely a good thing from where we're standing. He, without doubt, makes this team a better team. Thanks Mario. We all appreciate it.

All-in-all, like I said, a generally positive game. Not fully perfect, by any stretch (I mean, they did take it down to 3 at one point), but still a fine performance.