If there is one thing we saw with yesterday's game, it's how important Travis Releford is to the team. And Jeff Withey. And Kevin Young. And Elijah Johnson. And Ben McLemore.
And that's the point. Not since the (gulp) 2008 team has a Kansas team shared the ball this well and had so many players offensively who are comfortable with the ball and can take the big shot. Ben McLemore has been the big go to guy for most of the year, but with him not very assertive and Travis Releford struggling with foul trouble Elijah Johnson erased a four point deficit late in the half all by himself. He hasn't been much of an assertive player in his career, but he did what Seniors do and attacked the lane. It honestly reminded me of what Tyshawn Taylor did for the team last year, but we (probably) won't have to see it as much as we did last year when it was pretty much only those two scoring.
But we did see the importance defensively of Releford and Withey. With Releford out, Temple's Khalif Wyatt scored 26 points (though to be fair he had just a 50% eFG) and only turned it over once. Ben McLemore has all the tools to become a great perimeter defender, but there's no doubt that Releford is still the guy on the perimeter. Meanwhile, Jeff Withey had 9 blocks and affected numerous others, and the Kansas defense saved the day once again.
Kansas continues to show that they are the best defensive team in the country (they're 6th in KenPom but let's drop the charade, they're the best defensive team in the country. The end.) but they are struggling in terms of forcing turnovers. Just 4 yesterday (6.1% of their possessions) which puts them at forcing turnovers on just 19% of their opponents' possessions on the season, placing them outside of the top 250 in the nation. As I have previously mentioned, it won't affect their defense at all, but it will (and already has) impact the amount of easy baskets they will get, which is something this team needs.
Still, they allowed the Owls an eFG of just 33.3% and allowed them to grab only a fourth of their misses, continuing to show that they are a lot better on the defensive glass than I thought they would be.
- Despite the fact he played in only 23 minutes thanks to foul trouble, we'll start with Travis Releford because he was a perfect 5-5 from the field (3-3 from two, 2-2 from three) and perfect from the line, giving him a 72.7% eFG and 75.5% true shooting percentage on the year, both of which lead the nation.
- Jeff Withey had 8 points, 11 rebounds and 9 blocks, barely missing out on his second triple double of the season, but he was just 3-10 from the field and missed several bunnies. Nothing to be worried about, but he does need to be better.
- Kevin Young made all 6 of his free throws, raising his season percentage almost 10 points. He finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds
- Kansas went a not awful 5-14 from three, but Ben McLemore and Elijah Johnson were just 2-9 between them.
- I am starting to get a bit worried about Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor. Ellis because I'm not sure he can compete athletically in the Big 12 this year, and Traylor because, while his ceiling is incredibly high, he is extremely raw and not good at all right now offensively.