The story after Kansas defeated Kansas State 83-62 Monday night wasn’t that the Jayhawks ended their three-game skid and regained a shared claim of first place in the Big 12, because as Sam Mellinger points out, nobody was going to beat Kansas that night. And with that in mind, maybe we shouldn’t put too much stock into the stellar game from sophomore point guard Naadir Tharpe. But it was hard to overlook the 8:1 assist-to-turnover ratio from Tharpe on the heels of a depressing 10-day stretch for Kansas basketball in general. The eight assists were the most Tharpe had dished out since a 32-point win over American on December 29. Coincidentally or not, that was the end of a ridiculous stretch of games from Kansas in December. They also beat Colorado by 36, Belmont by 29, Richmond by 28, and took care of Ohio State on the road by eight. Outside of the American game, Tharpe wasn’t great but he wasn’t bad either. He didn’t didn’t turn the ball over at all in four of the five games and averaged 2.7 APG, right on his season average.
That production was plenty for Kansas, because senior Elijah Johnson was playing well, shooting 50% from the field in four of those five games while scoring a little above his season average (10.4 PPG). But then came the close contests. The seven-point home win over Temple on January 6, the near-loss at home to Iowa State, saved by a banked three-pointer by Ben McLemore at the end of regulation. A five-point win over Texas and four-point win at Kansas State soon followed while Johnson’s numbers plummeted. He was 2-of-6 against Texas Tech (a 60-46 road win on January 12), 3-of-10 in the road win at Kansas State, and 1-of-11 against Texas on January 19. Johnson was either falling into his usual deep-winter slump, or the transition to point guard was affecting his overall game. The loss two weeks ago to Oklahoma State at home was a long time coming, and Bill Self ripped into his team. “We don’t have a point guard,” he said, a not-so-thinly veiled shot at Johnson, who played off the ball next to Tyshawn Taylor during his first three seasons at Kansas.