Nov 14, 2012, 4:02 PM EST
ATLANTA – With 5:07 left on the clock against Michigan State on Tuesday, Kansas was firmly control of the opening game of the Champions Classic.
Travis Releford and Jeff Withey combined to score six straight points as the Jayhawks opened up a 59-54 lead, and with the momentum fully in their favor, Bill Self’s club looked like they were on the verge of handing Sparty their second loss in five days to kick off the season.
Kansas had the ball eight times in the final 5:07. One possession ended in a pair of Elijah Johnson free throws. Another ended with an and-one layup in transition by Ben McLemore off of a (foul-assisted) Keith Appling turnover. The other six possessions, which resulted in four missed jumpers and two turnovers, were just as ugly aesthetically as they were in the box score. In the end, the Jayhawks lost, 67-64.
No one wanted the ball in crunch time for Kansas. No one was ready, willing, or capable of demanding the ball and saying, ‘Clear out, I got this’. And that, more than anything, is where Kansas truly misses Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson.
“The thing about playing a game this early is somebody is going to lose,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said after the game. “If you look at it, I thought we were pretty good for about 35 minutes. I thought we played probably about as I good as I thought we were going to play.”
“But games are decided in the last five, and they were much better in the last five.”
The conundrum for Kansas lies in their roster makeup. They are one of the more experienced teams in the country. Three seniors start, two of whom are in their fifth-years. Another fifth-year senior comes off the bench. With the exception of Perry Ellis, every member of the Kansas rotation was part of the program last season when they made the national title game.
The problem is that all of those veterans are role players. Jeff Withey is arguably the most intimidating defensive force in the country, but he’s still not much of a threat on the offensive end of the role. Johnson is a nice complimentary scorer, nut he’s yet to prove he can handle being the focal point offensively. Releford is a glue guy, a defender that will hit open threes, and not too much more.
The supreme talents?
The potential first round draft picks?
They’re all freshmen.
“Our freshmen are going to be good, but they’re pretty green and naive,” Self said. “They’re not your typical heralded freshmen that have had a lot of exposure. They’ve been pretty sheltered as far as experiences.”
McLemore is the guy expected to be the star for this group, but he still has to learn about to play that role. He may have been a top 25 recruit, but he wasn’t even the go-to guy when he played at high level events in high school. In AAU ball, he deferred to Bradley Beal, last year’s No. 3 pick in the NBA Draft. There are things that McLemore, who played just his second collegiate game after redshirting last season, has to learn to be able to do to thrive in that role.
“Plugging himself in where he knows where his shots are coming from, putting himself in the game where he’s more of an impact guy,” Self said of what McLemore needs to develop. “He’s a pretty efficient player, but seven shots for him is not enough. He needs to take more shots. He’s just so talented and he’s going to learn. It’s just all new to him. He’ll get. It’s going to take a while, but he’s going to get it.”
Ellis is a finesse player at this point in his career, and while nothing has changed about his ability to put up points, finesse power forwards aren’t exactly the ideal. Traylor showed off some unbelievable athleticism, with a ridiculous put-back dunk and one of the best fast-break blocks you’ll ever see, but right now he has Thomas Robinson’s motor without his skill set.
Those guys will learn and they’ll develop and they’ll get better as the season goes along, but throwing them into the fire in a nail-biter against a Big Ten contender on national television in the Georgia Dome isn’t exactly bringing them along slowly.
Give them time.
“I thought this was a good game for us,” Self said. “I’m not leaving out of here discouraged at all. I’m not happy we lost because you’re up in that situation, you’ve gotta close, and we didn’t close. But there were some good things that happened.”
“I think this will all be a pretty good teaching tool for us.”
Feb 28, 2015, 5:13 PM EST
Having just seven scholarship players hasn’t kept the Flyers from playing a major role in the Atlantic 10 race.
Feb 28, 2015, 4:48 PM EST
The Shockers are once again champions of the Valley.
Feb 28, 2015, 3:45 PM EST
Kansas will be without Cliff Alexander against Texas on Saturday.
Feb 28, 2015, 2:27 PM EST
All the bubble winners and losers from Saturday’s college hoops action.
Feb 28, 2015, 1:55 PM EST
Jake Layman didn’t want to get dunked on.
Feb 28, 2015, 12:21 PM EST
Robbie Berwick is not going to like seeing this highlight.
Feb 28, 2015, 11:15 AM EST
Auburn will be without second-leading scorer Antoine Mason as he deals with the death of his father.
Feb 28, 2015, 10:00 AM EST
Marist’s Khallid Hart made the game-winning layup with 1.5 seconds left for the win.
Feb 28, 2015, 9:00 AM EST
A huge Saturday with 150 games and a lot of bubble action.
Feb 28, 2015, 12:17 AM EST
Here’s the rundown from Friday night.
Feb 27, 2015, 10:20 PM EST
An off-campus altercation back in 2010 led to a year-long suspension for the Villanova forward.
Feb 27, 2015, 9:15 PM EST
Jim Boeheim goes back almost nine years to describe Rakeem Christmas’ importance to this year’s team.
Feb 27, 2015, 7:20 PM EST
The starting guard has missed the last 11 games.
Feb 27, 2015, 6:00 PM EST
This isn’t the first time he’s done this in a game.
Feb 27, 2015, 4:45 PM EST
The Vandy coach was quick to apology following last night’s incident.
Feb 27, 2015, 4:25 PM EST
Derrick Walton Jr. hasn’t played in just over a month, but he’s still bothered by an issue with his right foot.
Feb 27, 2015, 3:20 PM EST
Floyd was ejected with 10:05 remaining in the Miners’ 77-60 loss at Louisiana Tech, and he failed to leave the court in a timely manner.
Feb 27, 2015, 2:59 PM EST
Billy Donovan would like to see his veteran forward make some strides in the commitment department moving forward.
Feb 27, 2015, 2:16 PM EST
On the heels of St. John’s last NCAA appearance in 2011, seven players joined the program. Three remain, and their aim is to get to the Big Dance as seniors.
Feb 27, 2015, 1:32 PM EST
Also of note is the second meeting of the season between rivals Iona and Manhattan.
- No. 11 Wichita State wins the Missouri Valley by knocking off No. 10 Northern Iowa 0
- Bubble Banter: St. John’s with a huge win, N.C. State with an ugly loss 1
- NCAA tournament berth the final step for St. John’s senior class 0
- Bracketology: Kentucky reigns and March arrives 5
- Weekend Preview: Saturday will be the season’s best day of games 1
- Bubble Banter: Just how safe is Michigan State, and did Ohio State punch a ticket? 2
- Report: Former Louisville guard Chris Jones charged with rape, sodomy 12
- Report: Former Louisville guard Chris Jones charged with rape, sodomy (12)
- Roy Williams calls out North Carolina fans following win over Georgia Tech (11)
- Bill Self crushed, Jamari Traylor targeted during Kansas State court storm (VIDEO) (11)
- Dez Wells, Melo Trimble lead No. 14 Maryland to upset of No. 5 Wisconsin (9)
- Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings apologizes for postgame outburst directed at freshman guard Wade Baldwin IV (9)