Kansas Rolls Through K-State in the Phog: What We LearnedPosted by KoryCarpenter on February 12th, 2013
You can’t make up for an atrocious loss to TCU in one game, but Kansas (20-4, 8-3 Big 12) came close last night, sweeping its closest competition in #10 Kansas State (19-5, 8-3 Big 12) by a convincing score of 83-62 . Here are five things we learned about both teams.
1) The Big 12 championship still runs through Lawrence. Many Jayhawk fans thought the season was over after Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma, KU’s third loss in a row. Kansas State had sole possession of first place in the Big 12 for 48 hours and gave Manhattan drinking establishments plenty of clever ideas, like the sign below:
Now the in-state rivals are tied for first place at 8-3 in the Big 12.
2) The Jayhawks may have solved their point guard problems. It’s still too early to tell, but in the first half, as Elijah Johnson sat on the bench in foul trouble, sophomore Naadir Tharpe ran the offense beautifully. There were fewer forced three-pointers and more penetration, opening up space for guys like Kevin Young, Jeff Withey, and Ben McLemore to have solid scoring nights. At halftime, Bill Self said Tharpe’s role wasn’t any different than before, he was merely filling in for Johnson while he had two fouls. Kansas fans should be hoping that Self was just being politically correct after repeatedly stating that Johnson was his guy last week. The thinking is that after watching the game tape of Tharpe’s eight assists and only one turnover against K-State, Self might be inclined to make a change.
3) If the Jayhawks make a run in March, Ben McLemore will be the reason. On his 20th birthday, the redshirt freshman guard had 30 points on just 13 shots, going 9-of-13 from the field and 6-of-10 from three-point range. He now averages 16.3 PPG on only 11 attempts per game. For Kansas to be successful down the stretch, he needs to raise that to closer to 15 shots per game.
4) Not only is Jeff Withey a shot-blocking machine (263 for his career, one shy of tying the conference record), but he is efficient as well. It might also explain why Withey isn’t a household name like Kentucky’s Anthony Davis was last year. Withey’s blocks don’t end up in the third row and on SportsCenter. They end up in his teammates’ hands.
5) Finally, we learned that the regular season championship might come down to the final day of the season, March 9. Kansas State has three tough games left: Baylor twice and at Oklahoma State. Oklahoma State (7-3 in Big 12 play) has Oklahoma, Kansas, and Kansas State at home and travels to Iowa State as well. The Jayhawks still have to travel to Iowa State, Baylor, and Oklahoma State. On March 9, Kansas faces Baylor in Waco and the Wildcats and Cowboys meet in Stillwater. I’d be surprised if the 2013 Big 12 conference champ was crowned before that weekend.