What a difference a player makes. The first meeting with Iowa State it was Ben McLemore, who scored 33 points on 12 shots including a tying three at the buzzer. The second, it was Elijah Johnson's 39 point outburst. Last night, Perry Ellis had his coming out party, scoring a career high 23 points and propelling Kansas into the Big 12 championship game for the 6th time of the Bill Self era.
Kansas withstood an early three point shooting drought (and it didn't exactly get better, as the Jayhawks shot just 5-19 from three) but ended up shooting 65% from two and made 17 of their 20 free throws to win it going away.
Defensively the Jayhawks benefitted from Iowa State going just 9-33 from beyond the arc, but Kansas made a pretty conscious effort to guard outside, as evidenced by allowing the Cyclones to shoot 55% from two. We could play fun with small sample sizes and note that Kevin Young only played 10 minutes so maybe he is a better defender than we all thought, but I think it was more that Kansas extended themselves so much to try to limit the good looks from three.
Briefly to touch on the other game, it's nice that we ensured that no Big 12 team will have a winning record against us this year but that game went relatively how I expected. Angel Rodriguez is deceptively good as a distributor, and when he goes 4-7 from three like he did last night K State is pretty tough to beat. Of course it also helps that LeBryan Nash turned back into LeBryan Nash last night. Regardless, I think Kansas matches up fairly well against Kansas State, and the Wildcats are going to need to make a lot of threes to win it.
Statsheet hasn't updated the boxscore yet, so no four factors graph for this one:
- We start, of course, with Ellis. Andrea Hudy needs a raise to basically whatever figure she wants because he looks like an entirely different player lately. He was 10-12 from the floor, and scored on everything from dunks to mid range jumpers, and he scored on drop steps, drives and spin moves. He also grabbed six more rebounds and while I wouldn't count on that every night he definitely gives Kansas another option as a big man.
- Ben McLemore was back to passive Ben, though Iowa State did defend him pretty well. He was 4-5 from the field (2-3 from three) when he got open though. Also his technical foul was beyond ridiculous. (conspiracy!)
- Travis Releford finally shot a lot, but was just 1-6 from three and 3-9 overall. He did have 6 rebounds and 2 assists though.
- Elijah Johnson had 7 assists, but added 5 turnovers as well. He was 2-8 from three and 4-12 overall. He needs to have a lot better game against Kansas State, and I think he will.
- Jeff Withey had 14 points on 5-12 shooting and added 6 rebounds. Just 1 block and 4 fouls though (conspiracy!)
- It seems like when one point guard doesn't play well, the other steps up. It was true last night as Naadir Tharpe had 8 points, 8 assists and just 1 turnover.