Nov 14, 2012, 4:02 PM EDT
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.”
May 22, 2013, 4:44 PM EDT
On Tuesday, the University of Washington announced plans for an alumni basketball game to be held on June 23. Returning for the game will be former Husky stars such as Brandon Roy, Nate Robinson and Jon Brockman among many. Festivities will begin at 1:00 p.m., with there also being three-point and slam dunk competitions for…
May 22, 2013, 3:10 PM EDT
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May 22, 2013, 2:04 PM EDT
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May 22, 2013, 1:11 PM EDT
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May 22, 2013, 12:34 PM EDT
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May 22, 2013, 11:52 AM EDT
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May 22, 2013, 9:47 AM EDT
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May 21, 2013, 9:52 PM EDT
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May 21, 2013, 8:07 PM EDT
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May 21, 2013, 6:47 PM EDT
After spending one year on the coaching staff at LSU, long-time assistant Robert Kirby is once again leaving the SEC, this time to join Josh Pastner and the Memphis Tigers. Jim Kleinpeter of The Times-Picayune reports that the first-year LSU assistant resigned as an assistant coach on Monday night in order to take a similar position…
May 21, 2013, 6:02 PM EDT
Tulsa Shock guard Skylar Diggins wrapped up a great career with the Fighting Irish earlier this spring. Following her graduation from the University Notre Dame on Sunday, her sports agency, Roc Nation Sports — founded by Jay-Z — rewarded her with a Mercedes Benz. Got surprised with a new mercedes! Thanks so muchto Jay and…
May 21, 2013, 4:30 PM EDT
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May 21, 2013, 3:16 PM EDT
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May 21, 2013, 1:32 PM EDT
Montana announced on Tuesday that Washington transfer Martin Breunig would be transferring into the program. “We are very excited about signing Martin Breunig at the University of Montana,” head coach Wayne Tinkle said in a statement. “He’s a strong, athletic post player, and he really adds good size and strength to our front line.” “We…
May 21, 2013, 12:40 PM EDT
Kevin Stallings isn’t too happy about Sheldon Jeter’s decision to transfer. According to a report from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Vanderbilt head coach has blocked his former player from transferring to Pitt next season. Jeter is a graduate of Beaver Falls HS and announced over the weekend that he would be leaving the Commodores to…
May 21, 2013, 11:56 AM EDT
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May 21, 2013, 11:09 AM EDT
Around two years ago, Bruce Pearl was fired as the University of Tennessee’s head coach stemming from lies that he told NCAA investigators that were looking into relatively minor infractions. Pearl had hosted Ohio State point guard Aaron Craft at his house for a barbecue during a recruiting visit and a picture of him was…
May 21, 2013, 10:25 AM EDT
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