John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas Jayhawks End Two-Game Slide with 80-63 Victory



The Kansas Jayhawks came into tonight’s game versus New Mexico trying to end their two game slide at Colorado and at Florida. Forty miles East of Lawrence, the Jayhawks entered the Sprint Center with something to prove.

Off to a slow start, Kansas was neck and neck with the Lobos the entire first half, a first half that looked eerily similar to their previous two games. The Jayhawks managed to cut back the turnovers however, only committing five in the first half. Foul trouble was still lingering as well for the KU big men as three players finished with 2+ fouls in the half (Traylor – 3, Ellis – 2, Embiid – 2). Joel Embiid, Freshman Center hailing from Cameroon, has the potential to be a significant factor in the Jayhawks success this season. Unfortunately, Embiid was only able to contribute two points and three rebounds in the first half of Saturday’s game.

Andrew Wiggins struggled all night, finishing the game with 11 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 blocks before picking up his fourth foul late in the second half and found himself on the bench the rest of the contest. Wiggins was the only double digit scorer in the first half for Kansas, posting 10 points.

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Point Guard play and Center Joel Embiid have been the two key components that Coach Self has been waiting patiently for improvement in. Tonight, Self got his wish.

After holding on to a strenuous 39-38 lead going into the half, the Jayhawks came out with a bang in the second.

Point Guard Naadir Tharpe came to life, posting a season-high 9 assists as well as 8 points. Tharpe found his groove in the second half where he compiled seven of his nine assists and more importantly, emerged as the leader the young Jayhawks were so desperately in need of.

Seven-footer Joel Embiid took over in the second half, scoring 16 of his 18 points and shooting 5 of 5 from the field (2 Pts, 0-1 FG, 2-2 FT in 1st). Embiid was also able to corral six rebounds and add four emphatic blocks. Embiid gave onlookers goosebumps, finding himself in the “Akeem” zone tonight, as he displayed perhaps the prettiest “dream shake” I’ve seen since the man himself (Olajuwon).

Perry Ellis remains the Jayhawks “under the radar” guy with all the attention on the freshmen. Ellis finished the contest with team-highs 21 points and 9 rebounds.

The Jayhawks had four scorers reach double-digits tonight, Ellis with 21, Embiid with 18, Wiggins with 11, and fellow freshman Wayne Selden Jr. finished the contest with 10 points.

New Mexico’s Cameron Bairstow and Kendall Williams both finished the game with 24 points. The rest of the team managed a combined 15.

Kansas might have possibly played their best half of the season tonight in the second half of their 80-63 victory in Kansas City. With Naadir Tharpe emerging as the leader of this team by getting the rest of the guys involved with his passing and poise, as well as Embiid gradually increasing his level of play, the Kansas Jayhawks continue pushing towards the greatness they have to potential to reach.

Kansas can be next seen in action on Saturday December 21 as they take on John Thompson III’s Georgetown squad in Lawrence.


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Tags: Andrew Wiggins Basketball Bill Self Joel Embiid Kansas Jayhawks Naadir Tharpe

  • chiefridgy

    Tharpe finally showed up

    • Ryan Peardon

      I know! It was definitely about time. If he can play like that every game and lead the team the way he should, they’re gonna be scary dominant. Especially with Embiid.

    • 6is9

      Less on Tharpe, who in my opinion has been consistent, than on Self, who understandably has wanted to let Mason playMason has shown unusual early poise for a freshman point guard, and he’s really developed over the last year as a player, and has come in even better than he was rated by the various recruiting agencies.

      Tharpe struggled as freshman, when it didn’t matter much, and for the first part of his sophomore year, when it would have helped if he had better decision making, but there was still the latitude to let that improve without it being a fatal weakness for the team. By the end of last season Tharpe had developed into the player that needs to be the starting point guard this year. Mason has a higher talent ceiling. I will be surprised if Tharpe plays in the NBA. Mason could get there. Mason has shown remarkable early poise, and unusually good ball handling a decision making for a freshman point guard. That’s something rare. It takes time to match the skill level demonstrated in running an offense in high school and AAU play, even when you show all the potential of being able to do so, when you are chosen to do it at an elite college program. It’s seldom happened at KU that a freshman has come in and shown the skill to successfully run the offense. And fortunately, KU typically has a junior or senior experienced point guard, so the pressure of having to do so isn’t there.

      Self has huge challenges this year. He’s not been able to get the best out his two prior super high ranked recruits (Josh Selby and Xavier Henry. Though Selby didn’t help himself.) How to handle all this young talent at once? How to win when the talent level and the commitments made in recruiting demands for you to put those players out there when they don’t have their game figured out at the college level yet, when they aren’t yet familiar enough with the offense, when they haven’t had to handle college level pressure defenses or zone defenses, or how to play under the fan and media pressure KU always has, magnified this year because of the ridiculous hype of Wiggins.

      (Wiggins was, by the way, if you didn’t see it, completely overshadowed by Seldon in the McDonalds game, nor did he stand out in the Jordan Classic). Only someone who did not watch him, or who had somehow forgotten how good LeBron actually was at that age, could have compared Wiggins to LeBron at his age. LeBron had an NBA body in high school. Hell, ESPN started showing LeBron’s High School games because he was so good. Nobody ever broadcast high school games nationally before then, other than the McDonalds game.)

      It’s tough, because sophomore Andrew White was a very high level recruit. Jamari Traylor was a high level recruit who redshirted along with MacLemore, and was described by KU alums who’d played in the NBA or against and with NBA players at KU and elsewhere, as having NBA-level talent, and whom Danny Manning described as reminding him “The Manimal”, Kenneth Fareid, and who probably needs only to play to bring that out. Or Brannen Greeene from this years group, who comes in higher ranked than Mason — he’s a top 50 player. That’s a higher rated talent than what Self has recruited most years. He’s higher rated than the twins were, or Thomas Robinson. Or Conner Frankamp, a huge scoring talent, despite the fact that he’s missed nearly every shot he’s taken. He won the three point competition at the All Star game they play at Venice Beach every year, the name of which escapes me, but which many of the McDonalds guys also played in and was nationally televised. He could not miss. It was unbelievable. Wait until he gets a rhythm in a game. Just feed him the ball, baby!

      Self’s got new challenges this year for sure. How well the team does could actually be compromised because of the talent level and the issues of playing together, and because we have four first round draft picks starting now — two certain lottery picks, and a third potential lottery pick. These kids — they are still kids — will never have to face a zone defense after this year. They’ll be multimillionaires seven months from now. That’s a different mindset to reach than the kid who may have a shot at the NBA through a Summer League invite of the D-League draft, or who may get a nice offer to play overseas, if he gives everything he has to help the team win and get maximum exposure and who gives a hundred percent to doing everything the coaches tell him, because they know that’s what others who came before them did.

      But I’ve wandered far from Tharpe! Tharpe demonstrated at the end last year he would be able to lead the team. What the Colorado and Florida games showed was that this team, including Mason, not only has trouble with the zone, but is going to have difficulty handling the intense crowds at conference road games, and the intensity with which every team in the conference will bring to their game with KU. Hilton Coliseum, Historic Gallagher-Iba Arena, and everywhere else will be unforgiving pressure cookers. I was surprised and thought Self made a mistake not putting Tharpe in charge in the second half if not sooner at Florida. In the ends I thought it may have been the difference between the the loss and a possible win. He’s played both of them at the same time quite a bit this year, with pretty good result. He can’t do that a whole lot, but how often do you have the luxury of that option? My favorite play of the year so far was the lob from Tharpe to Mason for a dunk in one of the earlier games. (Or was it the other way around? I forget now!)

      Tharpe, who won more championship games as a high school and AAU point guard than any player in pre-collegiate amateur basketball history, has the game experience this team is going to need this season. Mason can spell him or play at the same time and get major minutes for a freshman KU PG, but this ought to be considered Tharpe’s team unless his play warrants otherwise. That’s a KU tradition that should be held in this tradition-challenging season

      • chiefridgy

        Dude, no one is going to read a comment that long. It was longer than the article.

  • 6is9

    This is the definitive game photo? What a weird picture. Might it have been chosen because there was just enough visible to validate as a game photo, but also because it was so bad, and representative of absolutely nothing of any significance to the game, that no one would want to claim the rights to it, and so no one would have to be compensated for its use?

    • Ryan Peardon

      I’m sorry but what picture would you be referring to?