The Colorado Buffaloes have seemed to always give the Kansas Jayhawks a hard time, whether it be in Boulder or Lawrence. They rarely win, but always seem to make it much tougher on Kansas that it really should be. Such was not the case on Saturday when the number one Jayhawks of Kansas hosted the Buffs in a rematch of the overtime victory two and a half weeks ago. A fourteen point game at halftime, it never got much closer than that. All in all, it was a total team effort in this one. The more I look at the numbers, the more I can't believe how well everyone produced and pulled their own weight. What a way to head down the stretch. Magic number: two.
I challenge you to find a team that is as good as this team when hitting on all cyllinders. This year, I would say there is none. Anybody can be beaten on any given night, but seeing this performance put to bed any uneasy feelings and worries that may have crept up into my mind before this one.
But, do remember I am the eternal optimist here at RCT, so maybe I'm a bit off. Am I warranted for feeling so confident right now? Or, was this just a good performance against an inferior team?
Player of the Game - Xavier Henry - 24 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist. More on him to come after the jump...
What Went Right
Role reversal. Since conference play began, Marcus Morris had been an absolute stud, while guys like Xavier Henry and Tyshawn Taylor immensely. On Saturday, the tables were turned. Taylor made his first start since January 16 against Texas Tech and Henry continued his upswing of the last two weeks and had far and away his best game since January 2 against Temple, after enduring such horrid struggles for nearly two full moths. The thing that struck me early on about Tyshawn was the wide open three he hit in the first half. Him being able to hit the open three will be a big key come tournament time. Defenses have really begun to double down on Marcus and Cole Aldrich, leaving open a guard on the perimeter. If teams get to choose which guard to leave open, of the five that play regularly, Taylor would easily be the choice. But, if he continues to knock down open shots with semi-regularity, they can leave no one open. Taylor was six-of-seven from the floor for 17 points, while Henry had 24 points on nine-of-sixteen shooting and four-of-seven from three.
Even the negatives were positives in this one. Particularly in the first half, I noticed that things were going so well that even the shots that were not falling were great shots and the result of great decision making and great passing. The offensive ball movement was crisp and quick; no longer stale. At no point was there three guys standing around while Sherron dribbled around and looked for a crease. Henry popped to the free throw lane in space for an open shot, the Morris twins looked for Cole over the top on the big man hi-lo and Tyshawn Taylor was assertive, aggressive and judicial with driving to the basket. 94 points is a direct result of such great offensive execution.
The want, the drive and the hunger was there throughout. Xavier Henry probably lost half his arm skin in the first half diving in attempt to save an out of bounds-bound ball. Players hustled back to the defensive end after a missed shot. Tyshawn got himself into position to draw a charge on multiple occasions, although he was only awarded one call, if memory serves correctly. Thomas Robinson, known as Mr. Hustle, was his usual self, jumping and flailing after every looseball within the same zip code. Everything that you would expect from a Bill Self-coached team was on display on Saturday.
What Could Have Gone Better
It's a bit of a stretch, but the Buffs hung around within twelve to fifteen points until about the twelve minutes remaining mark in the second half. They likely should have been put away earlier on, but a quick run of defensive stops and fastbreak baskets in the next five minutes were more than enough to overcome any hopes and dreams Colorado may have had.
Turning the ball over is still a bit of a problem with this team. They did so 20 times. Markieff and Tyshawn were the main culprits in this one. They commited five and four turnovers, respectively.