The Kansas Jayhawks took the floor tonight for the first time after a nine day holiday break to take on the Toledo Rockets in Allen Fieldhouse.
Kansas got off to a rough start, unable to capture a lead for the first eight minutes before an Andrew Wiggins layup gave the Jayhawks a 16-15 lead. Wiggins was in his most aggressive form of the season right out of the gate, a change that Jayhawk fans had been longing for all year. The 6-8 Freshman led all scorers with 10 points on 4-8 shooting in the first half. Wiggins was one of four Jayhawks to score in double-digits tonight, finishing the game with 20 points and 5 rebounds.
A 22-20 lead with eight minutes remaining in the first half was the last time Toledo was in front in the contest.
The Jayhawks were explosive on the offensive end in their 93-83 victory over Toledo, shooting 56.3% from the field and 50% from the three-point line. Sophomore F Perry Ellis, who suffered a bruised nerve in his neck in their last outing, came back strong tonight with a quiet, yet game-high 21 points. Ellis also added 11 rebounds to give himself his first double-double of the season. Freshman C Joel Embiid also tallied a double-double tonight, his second of his career and giving KU two double-double performances in the same game for the first time this season. Embiid finished the contest with 14 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks on 5-9 shooting from the floor.
Junior Guard Naadir Tharpe had the hot hand tonight, shooting the lights out for a 7-8 shooting night including 4-5 from three-point land. Tharpe scored a season and career-high 20 points and added 8 assists in arguably his best performance of the season. Tharpe continues to impress and conduct himself as the leader of this young Jayhawk team. He has become a key factor in the success of Kansas moving forward. Freshman Guard Frank Mason came off the bench and gave the Jayhawks a nice contribution as well, adding 7 assists of his own.
The Jayhawks produced a trio of twenty-point scorers for the first time since December of 2002 when four Jayhawks eclipsed the twenty-point mark (Langford – 23, Collison – 22, Simien – 22, Miles – 20) according to a report from kuathletics.com
Turnovers continue to be the self-destructive element the Jayhawks can’t yet seem to overcome. Averaging 13 turnovers on the season, Kansas managed to accrue 18 total turnovers tonight through errant, lazy passes and carelessness with the basketball. With conference play on the horizon, Kansas needs to immensely improve on taking care of the basketball. If they continue to turn the ball over with the frequency that they have through the first twelve games, the remainder of the season could be a long one.
The defensive end is another aspect of the Jayhawks’ game that could haunt them down the road. Allowing 83 total points for the second time this season, the Rockets had four double-digit scorers of their own, led by the 15 point performance by C Nathan Boothe. Accompanying Boothe was Justin Drummond and J.D. Weatherspoon with 13 points each and G Rian Pearson with 10 points. Kansas struggles heavily with their off the ball defensive rotation, an issue that should be continually addressed by Coach Self in practice.
Kansas improves their overall record to 9-3 tonight with their 93-83 victory over Toledo, handing the Rockets their first loss of the season. The Jayhawks improve to a perfect 8-0 on the season when scoring 80 or more points. As the season goes on, the Jayhawks’ dirty laundry list slowly decreases. With issues like Wiggins’ aggressiveness, rebounding, and point guard play starting to turn a new leaf, turnovers and defense are two of the biggest issues that remain.
On January 5, 2014, Kansas will face off with a #21 San Diego State (10-1) team whose only loss on the season comes at the hands of the top ranked Arizona Wildcats, who defeated SDSU 69-60 back in November. Kansas is currently ranked 6th in RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) and 3rd in the new BPI (College Basketball Power Index) scale, trailing behind only Wisconsin and Arizona. Can Kansas keep the ball rolling on their explosive offense while tending to their turnovers and overall defensive performance?