When top-ranked Kansas visited 18th-ranked Temple on Saturday, Owl fans and players had visions of…
Temple: The Morning After
I know people will say that Temple really isn't that good because of the difference in the score. But they are a decent team. And they are really tough at home. They led the nation in scoring defense. Coach even commented that we may not be able to get to the point total that we are used to scoring. Everybody thought that Temple would slow the pace down, and that it would be a game where we would have to grind through our offensive possessions. Sometimes things don't work out as expected. Once we got it going, they weren't going to slow us down.
Defense played a big role, obviously. Fernandez is a good scorer of the ball. But he's probably used to wearing down his opponent by running him through screens throughout the possession. I think I counted five different Jayhawks that took turns guarding him. We always had a fresh pair of legs chasing him. Almost every time we had a hand in his face. Sure, he didn't shoot the ball well at all. But I think you have to credit a lot of that to our defense. Tyshawn, Sherron, Brady, Tyrel, and CJ all had a turn at frustrating Fernandez. Heck, I may have missed somebody else.
It was imperative that we get off to a good start at both ends and take the crowd out of the game. It was also important for our own momentum and confidence. Sherron took care of the offensive end. He scored our first seven points. He just gave me the feeling that he could score at will. If we needed a big hoop, then he would be there. But he realizes that we are much better off with everybody contributing, and he did not force the issue. I thought he just let it be known from the first that we were going to be tough, very tough.
Among others, Cole took charge on the defensive end. He seemed to grab every rebound early on, He blocked a couple of shots again, and that immediately caused Temple to alter some of their other shots inside. He still struggled a little with his offensive moves, but he finished with a double-double. And it seemed like everytime we had a little bit of a struggle inside that Cole came back in off the bench and righted the ship. I think too often we are concerned about his offensive struggles that we don't appreciate just how much he contributes anyway. He can dominate a game without having to score a ton of points.
I thought Xavier had kind of a quiet game. Then, you look up and he is the leading scorer. It didn't hurt to go six for six from the line. He's bought into the idea that he doesn't have to look to score everytime he touches the ball. He will get his shots. I think he worked hard on defense, but he still has definite room for improvement there. The exciting thing is that we can sit him for a few minutes to get some rest or whatever, and we don't just get crushed by not having him on the court. None of our guys should have tired legs at the end of the year because they aren't having to play 30 minutes each. That's a luxury to have.
Marcus was a little amped to start the game. He missed those layups, but then he really played well. He's doing a lot better job attacking the boards. He can get some points off of offensive rebounds if he will be aggressive about it. He's got a pretty good first step, and he's showing some really nice moves on the baseline. I'll bet he will be talking for months about getting to slam the ball against his old friends. That was a strange play. It seemed like the Temple players were just walking away from the ball, and Marcus just took it and ran. Marcus has become a consistent scoring option for us, and that adds another dimension to our potent offense. People can't just concentrate on Sherron and Cole. Now they have Xavier and Marcus to worry about, too. Then we hit them with Tyshawn, Brady, Tyrel, and others.
I thought Markieff played a lot more solid game than he has the last few times out. He didn't log a ton of minutes, but he played well while he was in there. He had a couple of nice moves under the basket. I thought he played hard at both ends. I was a little nervous about them being too excited , but the twins came to play. They have really bought into Coach's system and seem happy to be winning. By that I mean they aren't complaining about being on the floor more. They just seem more than willing to be part of the team.
Tyshawn had another solid outing. He handled the ball well, played solid defense, passed it well, and didn't commit turnovers. It was great to see everybody step up to the free throw line and knock down their shots. Tyshawn is doing a really good job of playing both positions out top, and it has become pretty obvious that he understands his role a lot better. He doesn't have to make spectacular plays every time down. He just has to make the fundamental plays. His play has really made us a much better team.
Brady and Tyrel had similar games, I thought. Both of them hit a long jumper. Both of them were solid with the ball and didn't commit turnovers. Tyrel had a couple of lazy passes, but it didn't cost us anything. Brady led the team in assists. They both contributed on the boards. Tyrel guarded Fernandez for an extended period in the first half and did a more than adequate job. He had his hand in his face on almost every attempt. Brady, of course, played outstanding defense, also. It just seems like the pieces all fell together yesterday, and we can certainly hope for more of the same.
Coach obviously is getting more confidence in Thomas Robinson as he put him in the game early. Thomas has to learn not to make those fouls 30 feet from the basket. A few seconds late he fouled at the rim and was sitting on the bench. He did show one really nice offensive move under the basket. The kid has such an upside. Like a lot of freshmen, when the game slows down for him, he is going to be awesome. There's a lot of technique to learn about playing underneath at the college level. You have to learn how to body-up so you won't get those foul calls. You have to understand position and not leaving your feet too soon. Thomas is going to be really good, I believe, and he is going to get better as this year goes along. His upside is limitless.
I don't know if CJ Henry has ever seen a shot he doesn't like. But as long as he keeps knocking them down, then I don't have a problem with it. CJ adds maturity on the court. He never seems to get riled up. He works hard on defense but can just use a little more time learning that. He has good ball handling skills and usually makes solid, fundamental passes. He's obviously caught up in the numbers game as we just don't have that many minutes available. It will be interesting to see how that continues to play out.
Elijah got in the game late. He was perfect from the free throw line. I thought he might be part of the rotation of guys taking turns on Fernandez. Again, what do you do? There are a lot of guys playing well and only so many minutes to go around. EJ seems to have a terrific attitude about it, and he's going to play a whole lot before his career at KU is over. He will continue to work hard and hopefully take advantage of the opportunities he does get.
Give the Temple coach some credit. At the end when we started substituting everybody in, so did he. We have seen a lot of games where the opposing team leaves their starters in against the walk-ons to close the gap. I understand wanting to have your players play hard until the end, but I just thought it was a classy move on his part, too.
I thought we just did about everything right. I thought the KU crowd might chant something like, "You didn't want Kansas.". But it was just as rewarding to hear the Rock Chalk chant loud and clear. I'm glad the families of the twins, Tyshawn, and Thomas got to see their guys play. What a great day all around for KU!
It's a GREAT day to be a JAYHAWK! Rock Chalk.
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