C: Kansas' offense -- The Jayhawks are averaging only 62 points in their past six games. They've managed to win all six, but three of the past four victories have come by five points or fewer. KU is shooting 48.2 percent from the field on the season, a mark that ranks 19th in the country. But that number dips to 44.8 percent in Big 12 play, which is somewhat concerning considering the Big 12 isn't exactly loaded with strong teams. Leading scorer Ben McLemore attempted only seven shots in Monday's win at West Virginia. KU also went 18-of-34 from the free throw line and committed 16 turnovers. "We're better than that," coach Bill Self told reporters.
…Speaking of first-year players, the race for national freshman of the year is turning into a good one. For a while it seemed as if UNLV's Anthony Bennett would run away with the honor, but Kansas' Ben McLemore and Arizona State's Jahii Carson are working their way into the mix along with Sampson at St. John's, Isaiah Austin of Baylor, Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State, Rasheed Sulaimon of Duke and Shabazz Muhammad of UCLA.
…Love his energy: Kevin Young, Kansas
…Kansas 67, vs. Oklahoma State 59: The Jayhawks' offense is struggling, but their defense has been outstanding. Oklahoma State is one of the Big 12's most talented teams, but the undersized Cowboys don't have anyone who can match up with 7-foot KU center Jeff Withey. Only a fool would pick against Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse, where the Jayhawks have won 102 of their past 103 games.
ESPN Jason King
There's gonna be a lot of transition talk in these Power Rankings, starting with Kansas guard Travis Releford, whom I consider to be an elite leak-out basket-hunter. Without sacrificing defense (which he's quite good at), Releford frequently manages to make early breaks upcourt after opponents miss shots or Jeff Withey swats them. Releford gets an amazing 35.4 percent of his offense possessions in transition, and he's the country's fourth-most efficient transition scorer, at 1.507 PPP, according to Synergy: (See link for chart)
…There must be something in the Releford blood that makes them instinctually great at getting a jump in transition, because his brother, Trevor, happens to be the ninth-most efficient transition scorer. How crazy is that?
To give you a sense of what I'm talking about -- and this is the last GIF, I promise! -- watch the jump Travis gets on the entire American team after this Withey block on Dec. 29. This is a Releford Special:
SI Luke Winn Power Rankings
On the rare occasions that Kansas has run into trouble this season, turnovers have usually been the problem, and Saturday's game at West Virginia was no different. The Jayhawks shot 54 percent versus West Virginia's 37 percent, outrebounded the Mountaineers by nine, and shot 19 more free throws, yet they won by only five because they committed 16 turnovers. With West Virginia having a pretty bad season, a game like this might make me wonder about Kansas's legitimacy. But close games have been the norm for the Jayhawks in January. Kansas hasn't been scoring too many style points recently, but what's more important is that their opponents are hardly scoring points at all, as Kansas has held each of their past six opponents to fewer than 60 points. The Jayhawks offense can be uninspiring at times, but Kansas makes up for it by having the best defense in the country, which is why I am still giving them the nod over Michigan — at least for one more week.11 That defense, combined with the Big 12 not being great this year, is why the Jayhawks will probably extend their 18-game winning streak into the 30s and enter the NCAA tournament with a huge target on their backs, which I'm sure doesn't make Kansas fans nervous.
Grantland Mark Titus' Top 12 Power Rankings
“I know we are not scoring quite as much as the past. A lot could be us not executing,” KU coach Bill Self said. Overall, the Jayhawks average 73.9 points a game while allowing 58.7. In Big 12 play, KU averages 67.0 points and allows 57.6.
“I do think defenses are getting better all the time. I do think offenses are getting more sophisticated all the time. I don’t know what the reasons are,” he added of a national trend toward lower scores.
“It may come back to officiating,” Self stated. “Not that the games are being called wrong, but games are maybe being called in a manner in which there is more physical play. My personal opinion ... I think there are less free throws being shot.
“I think there is a little bit of reason for concern. I don’t think it’s like baseball where you juice the ball to get fans interested. I don’t think we’re to that point yet. I’d have to say it’s more how the physical play has kept teams getting free throws, but as long as it’s called the same on both ends, it’s still fair,” Self added.
Self conceded that, “I do think as a coach, it’s much easier to get a team great defensively than great offensively. Maybe there’s a little more emphasis on that. I don’t know. I don’t think we’ll have any problem maintaining the interest level even though fans definitely want to see high-flying scoring plays. I think this is more a phase that can be addressed without any major (rules) changes. Regardless of how you call it and regardless of the rules, it’s still a fabulous game.”
…KU senior center Jeff Withey needs seven blocks in Saturday’s 3 p.m. home game against Oklahoma State to tie Greg Ostertag for No. 1 on KU’s all-time blocked shot list. Withey has 251 blocks, Cole Aldrich 253 and Ostertag 258. Chris Mihm of Texas is the Big 12 record holder at 264.
“It doesn’t matter to me at all,” Withey said, asked if he would like to set the record at home. “As long as I get it, I’m happy.”
So with a defense so dominant, why has Kansas won three of its past four games by five points or less and not scored 70 points since Jan. 9?
Well for one, free throw shooting has been spotty. Kansas shot only 18-34 from the charity stripe against West Virginia.
“That’s bad,” senior guard Travis Releford said. “Normally as a team we don’t shoot that bad. We just got to keep working on it, get in the gym, get up some free throws. That’s about it.”
The two previous games weren’t much better for Kansas from the free throw line. The Jayhawks swished only 12 of its 19 free throws against Oklahoma, and shot 13-21 from the line at Kansas State.
The other problem is turnovers.
The Jayhawks have turned the ball over more than their opponents in five of the seven conference games, including 16 turnovers Monday night against West Virginia’s nine turnovers. Kansas has committed at least 13 turnovers in six conference games.
The Jayhawks’ three starting guards had three turnovers apiece against West Virginia. Starting point guard Elijah Johnson is averaging 3.9 turnovers per game since conference play began, and his assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.52 is 203rd in the nation.
“Our guard play’s got to get better,” Self said. “Teams that pressure us and get after us, we’ve turned it over here of late. I thought we actually did some good things but we made some bonehead plays.”
On Monday night, Withey had scored 15 points in Kansas’ 61-56 victory over West Virginia in Morgantown. The Jayhawks had moved to 19-1 — 7-0 in the Big 12 — and improved to 5-0 in true road games this season. And earlier in the day, Kansas had risen to No. 1 in the USA Today coaches poll and No. 2 in the Associated Press poll.
On most days, Withey would have relished the moment and relaxed on the late-night flight back to Lawrence. So why was this any different?
“As a team,” Withey said, “we know we can play better.”
For the fifth time in seven games, Kansas had failed to score at least 65 points and the Jayhawks had committed 16 turnovers during another slop-heavy performance. The victories continue to pile up, but for the last month, the style points have been at a minimum.
“It’s a little frustrating at times,” Withey said, “but at the same time, you’re 7-0, you can’t not be satisfied. You’re obviously doing something right.”
Maybe, of course, the Jayhawks are just victims of their own dominance. A year after another Final Four run, the Jayhawks have won 18 straight, just five victories shy of setting a new single-season KU mark for consecutive victories.
KU coach Bill Self has a phrase he likes to call “Kansas math” — the idea that his program can lose all its best players to graduation and the NBA, and fans still expect to be better the next year.
Well, maybe this is a “Kansas funk” — an extended slump that appears much more serious than it really is. For instance, the Jayhawks played some efficient and smooth basketball for the first 15 minutes against West Virginia. A few more free throws would have given them 40 first-half points in a Big 12 road game. And even after struggling in the second half, Self made a clear distinction: There’s a difference between playing good and scoring more points.
“If the score was 74-69,” Self said on Monday, “everybody would be thinking we played really well. Which doesn’t mean we played well, it means we didn’t guard. But we may have played better offense.”
Kansas will put its streak on the line again on Saturday, when it plays host to Oklahoma State at Allen Fieldhouse. And according to advanced statistics, the Jayhawks still fit the profile of a top-ranked team. According to defensive efficiency numbers at KenPom.com, KU’s defense now ranks third in the country. And despite playing its least-efficient offense since the 2005-06 season, KU still ranks in the top 20 nationally on offense.
Here’s a look at Kansas’ next five games — and the likelihood of an upset:
Oklahoma State, Saturday
The Cowboys have high-end talent in freshman guard Marcus Smart and sophomore swingman Le’Bryan Nash, two players that Self recruited hard. Oklahoma State, however, has been dogged by a tough Big 12 schedule, and a victory at Allen Fieldhouse seems unlikely. Maybe in Stillwater?
Upset alert: Medium
At TCU, Feb. 6
The biggest question: How many KU fans will fill Daniel-Meyer Coliseum in Fort Worth? The Horned Frogs are 0-7 in Big 12 play and appear destined for a 10th-place finish.
Upset alert: Low
At Oklahoma, Feb. 9
At some point, the Jayhawks are going to drop one on the road, right? KU still has trips to Oklahoma State, Iowa State and Baylor on the schedule. But this trip to Norman could be another fight.
Upset alert: High
Kansas State, Feb. 11
It’s become a K-State tradition: Play KU close in Manhattan, and get run in Lawrence. Bruce Weber will try to change that as the Wildcats battle for second in the Big 12.
Upset alert: Medium
Texas, Feb. 16
Mario Chalmers will be in the building to have his jersey retired — and so will top recruit Julius Randle, a forward from Plano, Texas, and ESPN’s College Game Day crew.
Upset alert: Low
Perry Ellis had some good moments for Kansas the other night during its 59-55 win over Kansas State. The Jayhawks’ game against Oklahoma on Saturday afternoon at Allen Fieldhouse is an important one for Ellis. He needs to build on his performance against the Wildcats. I think Ellis is a big key for KU the rest of the way. Kansas lacks depth and Ellis could go a long way in relieving that issue.
...People always ask me how much I think North senior Conner Frankamp will play for Kansas as a freshman. A lot. He’ll play a bunch because of how young and inexperienced the Jayhawks will be in 2013-14. And I don’t expect Frankamp to have the growing pains Ellis has endured during his freshman season. They’re two different players with completely different personalities. Frankamp has a little attitude in his game, which isn’t a bad thing. He’s good and he knows it. Ellis is good, but he’s a bit reluctant to believe in himself. That’s the biggest difference.
Wichita Eagle Bob Lutz
KUAD: WBB defeats ISU postgame stats, notes, video, photos
Every bit as quick with the basketball and just as electric, it might have been easy to confuse Kansas University point guard Angel Goodrich for a bolt of lightning during Wednesday’s 78-75 overtime victory against Iowa State at Allen Fieldhouse.
One problem: Lightning is not supposed to strike twice.
With her team riding a wave of momentum but still trailing by three points with less than a minute remaining, Goodrich buried a top-of-the-key three-pointer with 13.5 seconds to play to force overtime.
It marked the second year in a row that a Goodrich three-pointer forced extra time against the Cyclones and also the second year in a row that the Jayhawks (13-6 overall, 4-4 Big 12) topped ISU when things looked hopeless.
So what is it about the Cyclones (14-5, 5-4) that tends to produce overtime thrillers against the Jayahwks?
“I guess we just love playing them so much that we want an extra five minutes,” said senior forward Carolyn Davis, who scored 13 of her 15 points in the second half and overtime.
Last season, the Jayhawks needed two overtimes before winning, and Wednesday’s victory had a very similar feel to that one.
“We were absolutely a train wreck with no timeouts,” Kansas coach Bonnie Henrickson said. “CeCe was on the wrong side and Angel just dribbled. I’m trying to yell cause it got busted and we had players in the wrong spots. Often it’s not the play you run, it’s about making a play and she made a play.”
After being down 55-37, the Jayhawks found themselves in the improbable situation of a tie ball game and after some tough defense, sent the game into overtime and eventually came up with a 78-75 overtime victory against No. 23 Iowa State. This is the third straight meeting between these teams in Lawrence that went to overtime.
Goodrich finished the night with a double-double going 10-of-18 for 24 points and 10 assists. Goodrich did most of her damage in the second half and overtime as she went 7-of-9 from the field.
Along with Goodrich, the spark to overturn the huge deficit came from sophomore guard Natalie Knight.
Knight started out the game on fire, scoring 10 of the first 12 points for the Jayhawks. But it was the second half that gave the team even more of a surge. Knight had some big steals and buckets on her way to a 21 point night, including 5-of-9 from behind the arc.
Knight came up with a steal and a layup to cut the deficit to three with a 1:46 left in the game. But Knight went down awkwardly and had to leave the game with a leg injury.
Senior forward Carolyn Davis, finished with 15 points and nine rebounds, was battling with foul trouble most of the second half and overtime but managed to do most of her work in the stretch when the team went 10-of-13 since they were down 18. She said it was her duty to make sure the team still had faith that they could come back from the huge deficit.
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Big 12/College News
The Big 12 Conference has announced a limited number of tickets for the 2013 Big 12 Men’s Basketball Championship will be available to the public.
The championship is scheduled March 13-16 at the Sprint Center.
Fans may participate in an online drawing process for the opportunity to purchase tickets to the Championship, a press release said.
Fans can visit sprintcenter.com to complete and submit the registration form to purchase up to four all-session tickets.
There is no fee and no purchase necessary to register and only one entry per person is allowed, the conference said.
Registration begins Feb. 1 at 5 p.m. CT and ends on Feb. 6 at 4:59 p.m. CT.
Registrants will be selected at random on or after Feb. 7 and if you’ve won, you’ll be notified by Feb. 11 via the email you signed up with.
All-session tickets include all six sessions for the four-day Championship and are available for $195, $330 and $350, plus applicable fees.
Best available tickets will be assigned in the order of random selection, a release said.
Kansas State's 83-57 victory over Texas on Wednesday at Bramlage Coliseum began in the unlikeliest of ways.
Rodney McGruder, the Wildcats' leading scorer and best player, picked up two quick fouls and spent the majority of the first half on the bench. Then, Will Spradling suffered a broken nose and left the floor entirely. Not exactly a recipe for K-State success.
When Iowa State turned the ball over with 0.8 seconds left Wednesday night, trailing 78-76, the Cowboys seemed to finally have control of a key Big 12 win.
Not so fast.
On the ensuing inbounds play, Michael Cobbins fired down the floor, with Le'Bryan Nash called for a foul on ISU's Chris Babb. Initially, officials ruled a 1-and-1 trip to the foul line for Babb, with the opportunity to tie it. And Babb stood there, ready for his first foul shot, when officials gathered and reviewed the play, changing the call to a player-control foul, since the Cyclones never had possession, resulting in an Iowa State inbounds play instead.
“I'm glad they figured it out,” said Cowboys coach Travis Ford. “That's good. What a crazy deal. I guess we were a second away form him shooting free throws. The referees were in their spots.
“One of them said, ‘Wait a second here.'
The OU men's basketball team held off a late push to take a 74-71 victory against Baylor in Waco.
Key stat: 75. Junior forward Amath M'Baye's field goal percentage against the Bears.
Key player: M'Baye paced the Sooners with 20 points and seven rebounds.
Key opponent: Freshman center Isaiah Austin used his 7-foot-1 frame to push OU around all night, finishing with 19 points and 20 rebounds.
What it means: OU moves into second place in the Big 12 and now owns a 5-2 record in conference play.
What's next for the Sooners: OU returns home to take on No. 18 Kansas State, which beat the Sooners in Manhattan two weeks ago, at 4 p.m. Saturday.
So much for that undefeated Pac-12 Conference record.
Carlos Emory scored 12 points and Arsalan Kazemi had six points and nine rebounds in No. 10 Oregon's first league loss this season, a 76-52 rout at new nemesis Stanford on Wednesday night.
In an otherwise dour season, USC players will probably remember nothing more than storming the court at Pauley Pavilion at the end of an overtime victory on Wednesday night.
And why not? The Trojans shocked UCLA 75-71 in front of an equally stunned 12,821 who probably expected a comfortable Bruins victory in the crosstown rivalry.
LA Daily News
All Missouri needed was a basket, something to keep the momentum on its side against the worst team in the Southeastern Conference.
Only, disaster struck — and it was not in an unfamiliar way. Another quick shot, this time by junior point guard Phil Pressey, who hoisted the kind of hurried three that Missouri coach Frank Haith has been trying to wean his team off of for weeks. Another miss.
Another road loss.
“We were driving the ball, and we needed to keep driving the ball,” said Haith, whose team fell to LSU 73-70. “So much time in the game … we said that in the timeout.”
But to Haith, that possession — while clearly distressing — was indicative of a larger problem for the Tigers, who once again took too many quick shots on the road despite their coach’s pleas before a crowd of 8,804 at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
The loss is Missouri’s third straight on the road in SEC play and follows blowout defeats to Florida (83-52) in Gainesville on Jan. 19 and Mississippi (64-49) in Oxford on Jan. 12, games in which the Tigers also struggled offensively. But while both those teams are ranked, there’s no cushioning the fact the Tigers fell to an LSU team that improved to 11-7 (2-5 in the SEC) but entered the game dead last in the conference standings.
Following @Humb1e_Hungry23 footsteps
Can't wait to play for Kansas
Julius Randle completed his third of five official visits this past weekend.
The Prestonwood Christian (Tex.) power forward is the top available senior not named Andrew Wiggins, and was at North Carolina State last weekend for the Wolfpack’s win against in-state rival North Carolina. The prized recruit, who has previously visited Florida and Kentucky enjoyed his time in Raleigh, according to Eric Bossi of Rivals.com
“I got there late Thursday night and overall I think it was my best visit yet so far as official visits go,” Randle told Bossi on Sunday. “I got to hang out with Rodney (Purvis) a lot and he’s one of my best friends. So that was good.”
Mark Gottfried has already signed two big men for next year’s class, BeeJay Anya (DeMatha Catholic/Germantown, Md.) and Kyle Washington (Brewster Academy/Champlin, Minn.), however Randle likes how the Wolfpack’s style suits his game.
“A lot of schools tell you about how their system fits you or how they will change it to fit you once you get there,” said Randle. “But, their system already fits me without having to change anything and they showed me that on film while I was there.”
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