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From a pure numbers point of view, it may be quite a while before you see Kansas play another half of basketball like the Jayhawks played on Monday night.
It’s not that Kansas won’t improve. (It’s November; they will.) And its not that the Jayhawks won’t play better competition than the Washington State team that fell victim to a 78-41 drubbing in the semifinals of the CBE Classic at the Sprint Center.
But for a KU squad that had shifted gears between mechanical and sloppy for the better part of three games, perhaps it was just a little surprising the Jayhawks could slip into overdrive this quickly.
“We knew we had to bring the energy,” senior guard Travis Releford said.
…The Jayhawks ran the floor, knocked down jumpers, and kickstarted the early run with some full-court pressure. Releford, in a three-game shooting funk, busted out by making his first six shots and finishing with a team-high 17 points.
For a player that had begun the year by shooting just 26 percent (six for 23) from the field in three games — a pretty good symbol for the rest of the KU offense actually — it was an efficient performance that will do wonders in the confidence department. And it came in his own hometown.
“It felt great,” Releford said. “Coming into this game, teammates and coaches, they continued to have faith in me in shooting the ball. And they just told me to stop thinking about it and continue being me.”
You might say the same thing for the rest of the Jayhawks.
Senior forward Kevin Young made his first start of the season at the four-spot, providing the sort of glue guy that had been absent while he recovered from a broken bone in his hand. Young had played limited minutes in Kansas’ last two games. But he’d also been sporting a padded glove on his right hand. On Monday, the glove came off. And Young pulled down 10 rebounds, making the sort of energy plays that became his trademark last season.
“Hustle plays,” Young said.
Senior center Jeff Withey continued to assert himself on defense, finishing with five blocks. But Self felt comfortable enough to rest Withey in the first half and play freshmen forwards Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor.
Early on, freshman Ben McLemore picked up where he left off last Thursday against Chattanooga, scoring 10 points in the opening nine minutes. The stretch including two three-pointers and a putback dunk that claimed teammate Traylor as one of its casualties. Friendly fire, perhaps?
11/19/12, 11:13 PM
I've never been dunked on by my own teammate before lol #poster @Humb1e_Hungry23
Jamari Traylor (@J_mari31)
Balloons and streamers didn’t drop from the rafters after Kansas University’s 78-41 waxing of Washington State on Monday night in Sprint Center.
The Jayhawks, who claimed their 200th victory of all time (against 78 losses) in games played in the City of Fountains, had no reason to don party hats despite the round-number milestone so early in the basketball season.
…“The crowd is disappointing. We’re happy with the people who were here,” Self said. "I know it’s not part of our (ticket) package at all. Hopefully we’ll have a better crowd tomorrow night. For whatever reason, there was a disappointing turnout. Also it’s 9 o’clock on a Monday night. It’s hard to get babysitters on Monday night,” added Self, who was anxious to get back to the hotel, as he was under the weather.
…“They remind me of Davidson in that they are physical. They don’t give up easy baskets,” Self said of the Billikens, who routed Texas A&M, 70-49. “You’ve got to make shots against them. Tonight, A&M didn’t. Their big guys can stretch it. The way they play they could present problems if we are not amped up and ready to go.”
Ellis, Young and Traylor combined to play 47 minutes and produced 21 points, 17 rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots. They made 5 of 9 shots from the field and 11 of 11 free throws.
They all played a part in Kansas blasting Washington State 78-41, a blowout that enabled Self to rest his starters so that they’re fresh for tonight’s game against Saint Louis University in the CBE Classic title game.
“I think it means a lot,” Young said of the trio’s production. “It’s showing how much we all improved at the four spot because all of us play hard to work for that spot, and that’s why there have been so many different changes in the lineups in the last couple of games. It pushes each and every one of us to be able to start.”
Young worked up a pre-game sweat with the rest of the squad in the layup line, and it wasn’t until the team went back into the locker room that he learned he was getting the starting assignment with every-game starters Elijah Johnson, Ben McLemore, Travis Releford and Jeff Withey. Young said it surprised him “a little bit.”
Woolridge, who played a team-high 33 minutes, finished with five points on 2-for-6 shooting with one assist and five turnovers.
Wearing a black backpack with white headphones around his neck, Woolridge couldn’t hide his disappointment following the rout.
“I know we weren’t expected to win or anything, but to get blown out by 40 ... that hurts,” Woolridge said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s Kansas or anybody else. Just losing by a lot, it’s going to hurt definitely.”
The 6-foot-3 Woolridge did have one standout play, swishing a three-pointer with 10:31 left in the first half over KU guard Elijah Johnson.
“I should have hit a couple more,” Woolridge said, “but it happens.”
The Phoenix native met up with quite a few of his former KU teammates before the game. That included Johnson, who wished him good luck before asking him if he was ready to go.
Woolridge made sure to tell him that he was.
“Those are my friends,” Woolridge said. “I miss them, so it was definitely good to see them and talk to them.”
The sophomore admitted that he had looked forward to Monday’s game for a while, even if it didn’t turn out as he had hoped.
“Kansas came, and they played well,” Woolridge said. “There’s not really much I can say. I wanted to play (better), but their scout was really good. They knew where we were going and what we were doing.
That clicking noise you could hear Monday night at Sprint Center was the sound of Kansas coming together.
For a half, at least, the Jayhawks saw what happens when all the pieces fit. They had Elijah Johnson setting the pace, Ben McLemore soaring, Travis Releford slashing, Jeff Withey swatting and Kevin Young holding it all together. The result was a nearly flawless first half and a 78-41 victory against Washington State in the semifinals of the CBE Classic.
“That’s probably the best we’ve executed so far this year,” coach Bill Self said.
…“(Young) knows more about what he’s doing,” Self said. “Plus, they played zone to start, and Kevin would be our best zone player. We were probably pretty lucky with that.”
KU turned up the pressure on defense in the first half, which was a calculated strategy to offset the atmosphere. Sluggish ticket sales left plenty of vacant seats at Sprint Center, and the Jayhawks wanted to make sure they didn’t get lulled into a lethargic effort.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be a sold-out arena like we have back home,” Releford said. “We knew we had to bring the energy to bring the fans into the game. We figured we would get out and pressure fullcourt to bring the energy.”
Kansas great Clyde Lovellette, who was officially inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame on Sunday night, sat in the front row during the Kansas-Washington State game on Monday. Lovellette, a 6-foot-9 forward, led Kansas to its first NCAA Tournament title in 1952.
• The Jayhawks improved to 15-4 all time in the Sprint Center. Kansas lost two games in the building last season, suffering a nonconference loss to Davidson and a Big 12 tournament semifinal loss against Baylor.
• The last meeting between KU and Saint Louis came on Dec. 30, 1999, when KU won 71-60 at Kemper Arena. That victory avenged a loss to Saint Louis in 1998.
Kansas University freshman forward Zach Peters did not sit on the bench or behind the bench during the Jayhawks’ 78-41 rout of Washington State on Monday night in Sprint Center.
Peters, who has not practiced all season because of a rotator cuff injury, was ill.
“He said he didn’t feel well at all. He was under the weather,” said Self, who also revealed he personally was “not feeling well,” his voice cracking a bit during the postgame.
“We’ve got to come to a resolution soon so you guys quit asking me about it,” he added of Peters’ red-shirt status.
…Of playing a tourney in nearby Sprint Center instead of Maui like last year, sophomore Naadir Tharpe said: “It’s the same, a tournament, one we want to win. We approach it as that.”
Self on the CBE Classic being right down the road from Lawrence: “This tournament doesn’t have same feel as other tournaments. The first two games you play in nobody knows it’s part of the tournament (home wins over SE Missouri State and Chattanooga). I don’t even know if our players realized that. It is just a business trip. They are all just business trips. I like playing in Kansas City. It’s an unbelievable venue.”
“They lit us up,” Washington State coach Ken Bone said. “They got off to a great start and it never really ended.”
The game was so lopsided that it was hard to blame fans for not shelling out hard-earned money for a 9 p.m. game against such a lackluster opponent. The earlier semifinal wasn’t much better, as Saint Louis embarrassed Texas A&M 70-49.
…The Billikens -- who were picked to finish second in the Atlantic 10 -- got a team-high 21 points from Evans Monday. They also received a huge boost from Cory Remekun, who returned to the lineup after missing the first two games with a knee injury. Remekun finished with 12 points on five-of-six shooting.
It certainly wasn’t obvious Monday, but Saint Louis has already dealt with a lot of adversity this season. Crews was named interim coach in August when Rick Majerus took a medical leave to deal with a heart condition. Last week, the school announced that Majerus wouldn’t return and that Crews was now the permanent head coach.
A foot injury that has sidelined leading returning scorer Kwamain Mitchell certainly hasn’t helped matters. The Billikens, though, have fought through those issues and appear ready to challenge Kansas Tuesday.
“We know they’re a really good team,” Releford said. “We know it’s going to be a tough game.”
Bill Self had hoped to visit with, and maybe even coach against, popular Saint Louis University mentor Rick Majerus during this week’s CBE Hall of Fame Classic in Sprint Center.
“He’s been really good to me,” Self said of Majerus, whose serious health problems resulted in Friday’s announcement that the 64-year-old legend will not return to coach Billiken basketball, where he compiled a 95-69 record in five seasons, including last year’s run to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16.
“I think everybody in coaching is concerned about his well-being,” Self added.
…The Billikens have started the season without standout guard Kwamain Mitchell, who had foot surgery in mid October. Also, Cory Remekun, a 6-8 senior, missed the first two games because of injury. He returned to start and score 12 points off 5-of-6 shooting versus A&M.
…Blue Ribbon Yearbook predicted the Billikens, who had just 12 turnovers versus A&M to the Aggies’ 19, would vie for the Atlantic-10 title and could claim a top-five seed in the NCAAs. Saint Louis was picked second in the A-10 behind Temple in the preseason coaches poll.
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If the CBE Classic was structured differently, and only winning teams advanced out of early-round games, Saint Louis University wouldn’t have played at Sprint Center on Monday.
And the Billikens wouldn’t have had an opportunity to look this impressive
The team that fell to Santa Clara last week could hardly have been sharper than in the 70-49 victory over Texas A&M in the semifinal game.
Saint Louis will play Kansas or Washington State for the championship today at 8:30 p.m.
The Billikens had plenty going for it, including a return to the lineup of forward Cory Remekun, who had missed the first two games with a knee injury.
Remekun was terrific in his debut with 12 points on five of six shooting, but mostly working in Saint Louis’ favor was its previous effort, a 12-point home loss to Santa Clara.
This is clearly a down season for talent at the Maui Invitational. The names on the front of the jerseys are all impressive -- North Carolina, Texas, Illinois, USC, Marquette, Butler, Mississippi State -- but every single program, with the possible exception of UNC, is having a down season.The USC and Mississippi State programs are in shambles. Both teams aren’t even close to being competitive against a solid D-1 team.
Texas, after being blown out by Chaminade, doesn’t look much better. Yes, they were missing point guard Myck Kabongo, but even with Kabongo the Longhorns have major issues. Chaminade shot just 37 percent from the field for the game and it still won by 13.
Illinois dominated USC, but it’s hard to tell whether Illinois is actually playing better under new head coach John Groce or whether USC is just that bad.
Marquette and Butler played the most entertaining game of the day, but it was marred with fouls, poor shooting and mistakes. Neither team boasts an elite player on its squad.
As for North Carolina -- yes it blew out Mississippi State -- but as far as NBA talent goes, the Tar Heels are having a down season too. After forward James Michael McAdoo, it’s unclear whether they have another first-round draft prospect on their roster.
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