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Kansas Struggles, But Beats UT-Chattanooga

The Jayhawks came out flat in the first half, but allowed only 19 second half points en route to a 69-55 win.

Jamie Squire

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Oh wait, that was a tale of two cities. This was a tale of two halves. My bad. Either way, Kansas went into the locker room down 8, leaving a shell shocked crowd listless and agitated, but stepped up the intensity in the second half and allowed 19 points while scoring 41 and ended up with a 69-55 victory.

In truth, the first half probably wasn't as bad defensively as it looked. Chattanooga had 6 threes in the first half from Farad Cobb, and finished 47.8% from beyond the arc. It's fine to be worried if Kansas were leaving shooters wide open, but there were multiple threes hit where Cobb had a hand in his face, and Chattanooga even made one from the Jayhawk (which, granted, extends pretty far). Yes the effort wasn't there in the first half, and things got a lot better in the second half (and with Releford on Cobb), but I was far more concerned with the offense.

For the game, Kansas scored just 1.04 points per possession, which just should not happen against a team like that. Shooting 52% from two is too low, and while I can live with a bad shooting night from three, there's no way they should have to settle for 23 three pointers in a 66 possession game against UT-Chattanooga. Elijah Johnson needs to realize that taking the ball into the lane isn't a last resort kind of thing and on a team wide basis the team needs to work inside out a little bit more rather than settling for the first good jumper they see. It's early so there's no reason to be alarmed yet, but it is definitely something to work on.

Turnover wise, Kansas made the Mocs turn it over on nearly 30% of their possessions, and especially once they started turning up the pressure in the second half the turnovers started coming fast and furious. The people sitting behind me were virtually every possession telling the team to slow it down (and I don't like picking on people, but they're the ones who gave me the idea to make this point, so this is their thank you) but in a game against an overmatched opponent (especially one not as deep) the optimal strategy is to play as quickly and force the issue as much as possible. Not only does it mean there will be more possessions (and there weren't enough in this one) making it tougher for a fluke result to occur, but it turns the game into one of athleticism and talent vs. one of execution.

Kansas outrebounded the Mocs, grabbing 39% of their misses compared to 31% for Chattanooga, but it is becoming more and more apparent that defensively the Jayhawks are going to have to rely on forcing turnovers and forcing bad shots, because the rebounding does not look to be there like it was last year.

  • I could probably start an entire blog devoted to Ben McLemore at this point, but he was fantastic. He didn't shoot it extremely well (50% eFG) but got to the line a lot and did a great job at scoring in various ways. Then there of course is the athleticism. He's already one of the best athletes I've ever seen live, and I swear he was looking down at the rim on his alley oop. In case you need more, he had 8 rebounds and 3 assists, and had two hustle offensive rebounds in the final minute. He seems to have a fantastic attitude, and is by far the most talented kid on the roster. Plus it's nice to see things like this:

  • Elijah Johnson's shot looks to be all the way back. He was 4-6 from three and the two he missed were right on the money. It looks good, it looks smooth, and he is confident in it. I hope he doesn't fall too in love with the three because we need him to penetrate, but there's no doubt that we need outside shooting as well and an Elijah who can do that is a big big help.
  • Other than two or three possessions where he was trapped up top I was really impressed with Naadir Tharpe. His shot looked right on the money as well, even though he ended up just 1-5, and he had 5 assists (and should have had at least 3 more if guys could have made some bunnies) and 0 turnovers. He looks much more confident with the ball and passing it. He definitely has things to work on, but he is miles better than he was last season.
  • Perry Ellis had just 2 points and 4 rebounds, and looked really uncomfortable out there. I talked about it on twitter but his big problem is he just isn't an elite athlete. That's not to say he's not going to be a good player, because I'm still really high on him, but he has an adjustment period to go through.
  • Jeff Withey struggled big time early, but finished with 11 points on 5-8 shooting, had 10 rebounds and 6 blocks. He needs to get comfortable going over his right shoulder because everyone in the world knows what he's doing when he gets the ball in the post, but he's on track to have basically the exact type of season people should have expected from him
  • Travis Releford can't shoot and had some poor passes, but don't take anything away from the type of defense he played, really setting the tone on the perimeter. He also had 6 assists which shouldn't be overlooked either. He needs to get better by conference play but there's absolutely no reason to be worried about that.