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“Ben showed a glimpse of his athletic ability tonight,” Self said. “He’s going to be something else.”
The dunks were what KU needed to energize an arena that felt pretty lifeless when Chattanooga jogged to the locker room with a 36-28 lead. That in turn fueled KU’s defense, which held the Mocs without a field goal for a stretch of more than 12 minutes in the second half.
“That’s the best we’ve played all year,” Self said, referring to a stretch that saw the Jayhawks turn a 42-30 deficit into a 49-43 lead.
Elijah Johnson gave KU the lead with a 3-pointer, and after that the Jayhawks were basically dunking at will. Most came from McLemore, although the freshman shared the wealth by lobbing an alley-oop to center Jeff Withey late in the second half.
“It’s more of a transfer, kind of a halt to what they’re doing and momentum to what we’re trying to do,” Johnson said, describing the dunk phenomenon.
The aerial assault, coupled with lockdown defense on Cobb in the second half, allowed KU to pull away.
Ben McLemore was hauling down the court, Travis Releford filling the lane to his left. One defender, a helpless bystander from Chattanooga, stood between McLemore and the basket. And Releford, running free, timed his steps for an easy dump-off pass from McLemore and two points on the fast break.
Except the pass never arrived. McLemore glided in for the one-handed slam, rising high above the Chattanooga defender and finishing with his head nearly high enough to graze the rim.
Releford followed his teammate’s flight, his eyes widening as McLemore landed near the baseline.
…On Tuesday against Michigan State, McLemore hoisted up just seven shots as Kansas fell 67-64 in the Champions Classic. Self made it clear after the game that seven shots was not enough.
For a night, McLemore seemed to get the message. He led KU with 18 shots, eight more than any other Jayhawk, even while dislocating his finger twice during the second half.
“I just came tonight with the mind-set of just being aggressive like coach wants me to be every night,” McLemore said.
Senior center Jeff Withey added a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds as KU outscored Chattanooga 41-19 in the second half. But what the heck, exactly, happened early?
Well … maybe it was just a hangover from the Michigan State loss. Or maybe it was Chattanooga guard Farad Cobb.
Cobb hit six three-pointers in the first 20 minutes. It was KU’s biggest halftime deficit against a nonconference team at Allen Fieldhouse since the Jayhawks suffered a home loss to Nevada on Dec. 1, 2005.
And it was enough to make Self remember another nightmarish home game, when Oral Roberts’ Marchello Vealy shot the lights out in an upset of KU at Allen Fieldhouse in November of 2006.
“The dude from ORU,” Self called Vealy on Thursday.
Perhaps as importantly as Self’s message to the team — it obviously worked as KU outscored the Mocs 41-19 the final 20 minutes — was a one-on-one meeting between the coach and Releford in the huddle before the start of second-half play.
"I told him to let me get him," the 6-foot-6 Releford said, asking for the chance to guard tiny 6-foot Cobb. "He was getting whatever he wanted. Elijah was in foul trouble. Jeff was having a hard time hedging because the guy was so quick. I told coach, 'Let me get him. I’ll get over the screen. We won’t have to worry about Jeff stepping over a hedge,' and the game changed from there, I guess. Coach let me take him, and we stuck with it.”
Shadowed by Releford, Cobb hit just one of two shots (both threes) the final half and was not a factor as the Jayhawks, who trailed 42-30 two minutes into the final half, finally went to work on the huge deficit.
“The difference was we learned something tonight as a staff. We probably should have known it (before),” Self said. “We’re better with Travis on the ball. We took Travis off the wing, let him guard the point guard and Elijah guard somebody else. That will probably help our team. Everybody’s comfortable,” Self added. “Tonight (the Mocs) weren’t comfortable the second half, and I think Travis had as much to do with that as anybody.”
“Cobb is a backup point guard. A backup got 21 on us. He threw in some stuff,” Self added of the 6-foot Cobb. “He threw in three or four under five (seconds) on the shot clock that were hard shots.”
Cobb went just one of two from three the final half, finishing with 21 points, thanks to Travis Releford’s sticky defense.
His six three-pointers, by the way, were most in a half by a KU opponent since Syracuse’s Gerry McNamara hit six in the first half of the 2003 national championship game.
…Withey’s six blocks were a season high and the most since he swatted seven against Ohio State in the national semifinals last year (March 31). ... Naadir Tharpe matched a career-high with five assists. He had five against Howard on Dec. 29 of last season.
"It means a lot because I know how many good players have come through this (KU) program," said Cobb, who could not stop smiling in the postgame meeting with the media. "Just to go against Kansas was a big deal for me, and I just wanted to have a big game."
To call it big would be an understatement. Cobb's performance brought to mind the lights-out display by Oral Roberts' Marchello Vealy in 2006. That night, when ORU upset No. 3 KU in the Fieldhouse, Vealy, a sophomore, drained seven of eight three-pointers despite having made just one of 13 during his entire freshman season. At least Vealy had been out there before, though. Thursday's larger-than-life performance from Chattanooga's smallest player came in just the second game of his college career.
…Although five different Moccasins players combined to hit 11 of 23 three-pointers during Thursday's loss, KU held UTC to just 35-percent shooting, a number that included just nine two-point field goals. In fact, during a second half in which they were outscored 41-19, the Mocs made just three of 16 two-point attempts, a feat that left Shulman marveling at KU's defense.
"Defensively, they are phenomenal," Shulman said. "You can't get a look inside, everybody's out in the passing lane and then Releford's putting gigantic heat on the ball and it's not a lot of fun, offensively. I'd just assume they have the ball."
No exit polls were conducted Thursday night as the 16,300 spectators transformed by Ben McLemore’s gravity-defying dunks from nervous wrecks into giddy noise boxes strolled out of Allen Fieldhouse. None were needed. Surely, 100 percent of those polled would have agreed that reinstating the dunk was a smart move by the NCAA. It’s reassuring to be reminded that more than 40 years after the rest of the country learned that prohibition of really fun things just doesn’t work, the NCAA got the hint.
Leap-easy McLemore had five slams and even threw a lob that Jeff Withey slammed home. In so doing, McLemore enabled the release of all that pent-up frustration from a crowd that had to watch a Kansas offense that only the game’s inventor and the first and only losing basketball coach in Kansas history, Dr. James Naismith, could have enjoyed.
…Anyway, Self loves the dunk and constantly reminds his players that theirs usually start on defense.
“How many times do you get more run-outs and more dunks when you actually guard and you don’t have to take the ball out of bounds?” he said. “We had more fun in the second half in large part thanks to defending. That’s what makes it fun.”
For everybody. Dunk you very much for rescinding the ban, NCAA.
LJW Rankings: McLemore on top
Kansas seniors Carolyn Davis and Angel Goodrich completed the sweep for the three major NCAA women's basketball player of the year award watch lists, when the duo was named to the 2012-13 Naismith Women's College Player of the Year presented by AT&T early season watch list, the Atlanta Tipoff Club announced Thursday.
The 50-player watch list was compiled by the Atlanta Tipoff Club's Board of Selectors, which based its criteria on player performances from the previous year and expectations for the 2012-13 college basketball season. The Naismith Women's College Player of the Year presented by AT&T will be awarded on April 8, 2013, in New Orleans, La.
Both Davis and Goodrich are among watch list candidates for the Wade Trophy, Wooden Award and Naismith Women's College Player of the Year. Davis currently leads the team with 18.5 points per game, as No. 25 Kansas has jumped out to a 2-0 start. Goodrich leads the squad with 11 assists and seven steals, while averaging a second-best 12 points per contest.
Kansas 2012-13 MBB Schedule
Kansas 2012-13 WBB Schedule
Chester Nez, 91, the last survivor of the original 29 World War II Navajo Code Talkers, is presented a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from KU, Monday, Nov. 11, 2012. Code Talkers transmitted messages in code that the Japanese never broke.
Big 12/College News
TCU’s first season under Trent Johnson and in the Big 12 was never going to be much in the way of wins but rather landing recruits.
TCU did that on Wednesday, but any chance of gathering a few unexpected wins took a massive shot when junior forward Amric Fields blew out his knee in the early moment’s of TCU’s loss against SMU on Thursday night.
At first it was scary to watch Fields go down. Then it was depressing to watch him helped off the court by his teammates.
This was TCU’s best player, and easily its top scorer. The Frogs roster really had two Big 12 caliber players – Fields, and guard Kyan Anderson.
Now Fields is probably out for the season. The good news, if there is any in a situation like this, is that TCU can redshirt him. That would mean he would have two years of eligibility remaining when Johnson’s first recruiting class arrives.
In the meantime, it does look like Johnson has his team playing hard. They do defend. They just can't score.
They kept after SMU throughout but were never able to take the lead, and eventually lost 64-61. The Frogs had a chance to tie the game at the end but Anderson's 3-point attempt was blocked.
TCU probably defeats SMU had Fields played. Senior Garlon Greene looks like he has developed into a nice college player.
2012-13 Early Season Events List
Big 12 Composite Schedule
11/15/12, 12:54 PM
Feels great to sign those papers! Rock Chalk baby!!
Brannen Greene (@b_greene14)
"When I watched Brannen sign with Kansas today, I was like,' Wow'," said Jeffrey Greene, who played college basketball at Pittsburg State. "I mean, that would really say it all. That's how I felt this morning when I woke up, it was kind of like this is the day that he inks that contract and it's a dream fulfilled.
"His goal was to play high-major basketball," he added. "My goal or my dream for him is to provide every tool and every avenue I could to help him reach that, so today was that dream for him realized. It was just a really, really nice moment for me."
…After taking everything in, considering all of his options, and evaluating each program, Greene, on December 20, 2011, committed to Kansas.
"Kansas came around early," he said. "They weren't about telling him things that they thought might convince him to pick them as a school. They were real open with him, and honest. He felt that honesty and that openness, and he shared that with me. Kansas wasn't the only school that Brannen felt that way about, but I'll say it was one of three schools that he felt were being truthful.
"Out of that, some other little intrinsic things started to evolve," he added. "He's a small-town kid and Kansas appealed to his sensibility of that, and I think that was more or less the deciding factor. Brannen took two unofficial visits to Kansas, and experiencing that culture, I think that just filled it for him."
Joel Embiid, a slender, skilled, still-developing big man from Cameroon, who has only been playing basketball for a year and a half, and Brannen Greene, a smooth-shooting two-guard/small forward from Georgia, on Thursday signed letters-of-intent with Kansas University.
KU coach Bill Self gushed about the two upon receipt of their letters Thursday afternoon.
Of Embiid, a 7-foot, 220-pound senior from The Rock School in Gainesville, Fla., Self said: “He will develop and be one of the very best tall guys in college basketball in just a year or two.
“He, in my opinion, has a chance to be as good as any big guy we’ve recruited. He’s long, has touch. He is literally just getting started. His potential is untapped. I think he’s just now starting to figure it out and get confidence. The way we play, we can move him around and he made me a much better coach when he put his name on the dotted line.”
…“Brannen is one of the most skilled 6-foot-7 guys in the country,” Self said. “He can shoot it. He can put it down. He’s got good vision. He’s a guy that should have a smooth transition from high school to college, in large part because he is a big guard. He’s not a guy that has been playing inside a lot.”
Last season Greene averaged 25.4 points and 14 rebounds for Mary Persons High School in Forsyth, Ga., where he was named the Macon Telegraph’s All Middle Georgia Player of the Year. Additionally, Greene carries a 4.0 grade point average in the classroom.
Greene, who verbally committed to KU in December 2011, chose KU over Louisville, Connecticut, Florida and Ohio State.
“He committed a long time ago to us and held true to his word,” Self said. “He’s been well coached by his father (Jeffrey) throughout his life and is an outstanding student. His dad was a great player at Pittsburg State and is one of the school’s all-time leading scorers.”
Signing day isn’t a time for tempering expectations, so here’s the best-case scenario for Joel Embiid, the 7-foot center who signed a letter of intent Thursday with Kansas.
“I personally believe his ceiling is the No. 1 draft pick in a couple years,” said Justin Harden, Embiid’s coach at the Rock School in Gainesville, Fla. “That’s what I believe.”
…“There’s just something special about his ability that makes him so intriguing,” Harden said. “He’s able to shoot the 3, shoot mid-range. He’s able to post-up. He can hook shot, he can dunk, he can run in transition and block shots.”
Just how good is the Massanutten Military Academy backcourt of Kansas signee Frank Mason and Miami bound Deandre Burnett? A tough-as-nails point guard, Mason is already ranked in the 2013 Rivals150 and has been putting up good scoring and big assist numbers early in the season.
…Should Wayne Selden be considered a five-star prospect? Given that the Kansas pledge is sitting just outside of five-star status it's a fair question. He can awe at times with his athleticism, physicality, defense and ability to perform in the pick-and-roll. But he can also go quiet for stretches and has been a bit of a streaky jump shooter. Recent word is that he's cleaned up his jump shooting and if that's the case he could be primed to make the jump into five-star status.
Rivals: Early signing period
Archbishop Mitty power forward Aaron Gordon, ESPN's No. 7 overall recruit in the Class of 2013, is down to three schools, according to ESPN.com. "Aaron has narrowed his list to Arizona, Washington and Kentucky in no particular order," his mom, Shelly Gordon, wrote in an email. There's no timetable on a final decision, but gone from Gordon's list are Cal, Kansas and Oregon.
The ESPN Rise National High School Invitational may not mean a lot to most high schools out there. In fact, the majority of public high school coaches have probably never even heard of it. However, for independent high schools such as Huntington Prep, it is the holy grail of high school basketball, and Rob Fulford feels that this is the best team that he’s ever coached.
“This is the most well rounded team that we have had,” Fulford explained with a sense of confidence. “I think last year’s team was a little more athletic, but IQ wise, this is a better team overall.”
New additions that Fulford points out are Baylor recruit Dominic Woodson (a 6-10 post who can shoot it out to 3), 6-9 Arkansas-bound Moses Kingsley (a big time shot-blocker with a developing offensive game), Tennesee commit Treyvan Landry (a hard nosed point guard who knows his role), and 6-5 sophomore Montaque Gill-Caesar, who many have amongst the top-25 sophomores in the country.
…Andrew Wiggins, 6-7, SF, 2013: The top player in the country played the best that I’ve ever seen him play, and he didn’t even dunk the ball. Wiggins exploded past defenders with his first step and showed that he can finish above, around, or through defenders with either hand. He shot the ball well from beyond the arc, yet also was automatic pulling up off the dribble. Andrew put hella pressure on the ball on the perimeter, but also served as a help-side shotblocker. Overall, it was the best that I had ever seen the Canadian star hoop and served as just another example of how special he can become.
My 2012 KU Alumni games, 2011-12 Border War, Legends of the Phog, KC Prep Invitational, & Jayhawk Invitational Videos, Late Night in the Phog, and more now on YouTube