Sunday, March 2, 2008

Now That Was Fun

The Recap: The Kansas Jayhawks got their revenge and then some Saturday night in front of a national TV audience, blowing out the Kansas State Wildcats 88-74 in a game that wasn't as close as the score indicated, yet had a feel of a closer game. Brandon Rush had a season-high 21 to pace KU, including five three-pointers. Sherron Collins had his best game of the season with 18 off the bench in an extremely productive 29 minutes. Russell Robinson was solid as well, with 14 points, five assists, and four steals. The consensus #1 pick and resident K-State stud Michael Beasley had 39 points, despite spending nine first half minutes on the bench with two fouls. No other Wildcat scored in double figures. It was a solid and inspiring performance from the Jayhawks who fed off the crowd and looked focused and ready to put their February struggles behind them. “The reasons why we were better tonight, we’re running the same stuff, just guys had energy and bounce and they played with a little bit of a swagger tonight,” said coach Bill Self.

The Whup

Allen Fieldhouse in a Fever Pitch - Take it from someone who was there, the Fieldhouse was as loud as it has ever been. The opening video before they announce the team's starters never gets old and mad props to Lew Perkins and his staff for feeding the beast that is the Allen Fieldhouse crowd. New this year (to me at least) was just before tip when they played a quick montage of highlights with Bob Davis' play by play call that ended with Darrell Arthur urging the fans to get ready and go nuts. It was phenomenal. Also during a big time out in the second half, they did the same thing with highlights from the game and played ACDC's "Thunderstruck" which the crowd went crazy for as well. They have modernized the AFH experience without going overboard and respecting the traditions. There is still nothing better than the Rock Chalk chant and the alma mater. As for the game, the players fed off the emotion of a fan base and crowd who wanted this one as badly as they players seemingly did.

The X Factor was Back - Man, was it nice to see Sherron Collins turn in his signature performance of the season. With Mario Chalmers struggling, Collins stepped up his game with 18 points (three triples) and four steals. It was good to see he was on equal standing in the minutes department with Chalmers and Russell Robinson as well - Collins played 29 while the other two got 28 each. The second half was where he really took over. Sherron's 13 point outburst helped bury the Cats. In the first half, his shot looked short and he lacked legs, but that all changed after the break. "I thought he was great tonight," said Self. "That’s what we’ve been missing for the most part of the entire year to have somebody that’s that explosive who can change a game, and he certainly was a great spark tonight.”

Balance, Balance, Balance - We sound like a broken record, but the KU balanced attack was huge all night long. The offense started through Arthur early and it opened up shots on the perimeter for Rush, Robinson, and Collins. Five Jayhawks scored in double figures and Sasha Kaun just missed with nine points. Arthur and Jackson had 10 a piece despite both being saddled with foul trouble because as we found out last night, if you breath on Beasley, the whistle blows.

Let Beasley Get His and Shut Everyone Else Down – That was the game plan and it worked. Bill Walker, who torched KU with 25 in the loss at Bramlage, was a complete non-factor. Seven of his nine points came in garbage time with KU up comfortably. The unsung hero of that game, Jacob Pullen, scored just three points and played 11 minutes, an interesting move by Sopranos cast member/head coach Frank Martin. Pullen’s dribble penetration killed the Jayhawks in Manhattan and he had 20 that night. Other than Beasley, no Wildcat scored in double digits. KU also forced 20 turnovers with Robinson and Collins each collecting four steals.

The Zone Appears! – We called for it, and we got it. Bill Self showed some 3-2 zone with Brandon Rush at the top and the Wildcat shooters didn’t respond. They shot just shot just 6-21 from deep. They have seen a ton of zone lately and it’s no wonder they have now lost four in a row and five of six.

K-State’s Uniforms – We LOVED those all black “K-State” uni’s the Cats were in last night. Straight thug style, like their coach and the ball they play.

The Weak Beav

The Officiating
– On both sides, the officiating in last night’s game was as bad as we can remember seeing. The first half felt like it took an eternity, since Rick Hartzell, Mike Thibodeux, and John Higgins called a ridiculous 24 first half fouls. Both teams were in the bonus seven minutes into the game. Even more ridiculous were some of the block calls on KU defenders while attempting to guard Beasley. He should have been called for three charges in the first half that were blocks when he had two fouls. It was almost as though the refs thought “Oh, it’s Beasley? He has two fouls? It’s a block then.”

Cole Aldrich’s Offensive Game is Offensive – My man Cole needs to stick to defense and rebounding. He was awful again during his six minute first half stint where he committed two fouls, turned the ball over once and missed two shots. Next year he is going to be needed big time, but this offseason is going to be extremely important for him. He has got to develop and offensive game.

Mario’s Control Problem – While we are huge Mario Chalmers people here at MTAC, he was back to the out of control, turnover machine last night. He scored just six points and had four turnovers and overall seemed a little out of it last night. Hopefully it was just an aberration.

Bill Walker’s Attitude Issues – No wonder this kid was bounced from his high school team and left high school early. When things don’t go his way, the talented red-shirt Freshman tunes out and sulks. That’s exactly what happened last night. His third foul was a cheap-shot push in the lower back to Sasha Kaun as he was going to the glass. During a scrum for a loose-ball in the first half, Walker was right in the middle of all the action and had to be separated from KU players as he looked as though he was ready to throw down. “I don’t think he is a real tough-minded guy,” said Russell Robinson. “He got on a bad track and stayed on it.” “In the second half, he didn’t want to be out there,” said Brandon Rush of Walker. “He sat on the bench because he lost his composure, lost his poise.”

Analysis: The Jayhawks played well and got a big time confidence boost with the way they played on both ends. The offense worked inside out, but Shady and Darnell Jackson both went a half literally doing nothing. Shady came out firing and nailed three jumpers early, but after that, he wasn’t really involved. When K-State went zone, with Shady on the bench, the Hawks had real trouble scoring. In the second half, with the threat of him in the middle, KU’s offense expanded. Rush’s jumper was on, Collins was “back,” and Robinson played the type of game we want to see out of him, playing stifling defense and making good decisions at the point. Do we think KU has their swagger back? Maybe a little, but we’ve got to see this all the way through the Big 12 Tournament. To us, both Texas and KU will win out and tie for the regular season title. Whoever wins the Tournament will get that coveted #1 seed in the NCAA’s. The goals are all within reach now, thanks to the Texas loss at Texas Tech. The Hawks just have to reach out and grab them.

Game Quotes (courtesy of

Russell Robinson on the crowd: “The crowd in Manhattan was good, and our guys were 10 times better. And it was so loud, I couldn’t even hear coach Self. Just a lot of emotions, and Game Day, all that stuff was in it. We just came out and played with a lot of ears were ringing, as well, and I love it. It just kept us intense. And since we had so much energy, it made up for a lot of our mistakes.”

Russell Robinson on taking Bill Walker out of the game mentally: “We got him in foul trouble, which got him thinking a little. And I don’t think he’s a real tough-minded guy, and once he got on a bad track, he stayed on it. And we were able to just not let him get back into it.”

Sherron Collins on the progress of his right knee: “Once you get the energy going, the adrenaline flowing, you forget about a lot of stuff, especially injuries. I probably felt it twice, pain-wise. Other than that, everything was going good. I’m a little bouncier right now...I wouldn’t say (it feels like) years (since feeling at full-strength), but I’d say it feels like months. It was just good to get out there, get a little bit back and finally turn the corner on getting healthy.”

Bill Self on the home crowd: “The crowd was fabulous. It was a good setting for a basketball game. Matter of fact, you could take the game in Bramlage and the game here and combine it, and it’ll be the best atmosphere in a rivalry game in the country this year. Hands down.”

Bill Self on Sherron Collins: “The last two days, he’s moved better, the doctor says he’s just going to keep getting better, the bruise is going to continue to heal and he’ll be where he’s pain free here real soon. But I thought he was great tonight. That’s what we’ve been missing for the most part of the entire year to have somebody that’s that explosive who can change a game, and he certainly was a great spark tonight.”

Bill Self on what was different Saturday from late February: “The reasons why we were better tonight, we’re running the same stuff, just guys had energy and bounce and they played with a little bit of a swagger tonight.”

Bill Self on the Texas loss at Texas Tech: “I don’t think we needed that as motivation, but there’s no question we caught a break today. This is how geeked-up our players were. At pregame meal, after we eat, we always turn on the TV and watch the games while we eat, we always do that. We turn on the Texas Tech game, I asked the guys if they want to watch it, they said no...It may have been a little bit of motivation, but I don’t think it had anything to do with us playing well.”

Bill Self on Brandon Rush: “He was terrific offensively. He looked like a pro jumping up and shooting the ball. He was aggressive, he looked good shooting it, if you look at his stats, he still didn’t shoot an unbelievable percentage, but he was good beyond the arc.”

Bill Self on Russell Robinson: “Russell, that’s Russell. Russell was good defensively and created havoc and also made some shots, we just haven’t had consistent perimeter play like we got tonight. And so hopefully this can kind of springboard our guys into better performances closing out the year.”

Bill Self on Michael Beasley: “He’s hard to guard because I don’t really know how you guard him because he creates contact. And when you create contact and shoot a lot of free throws, he’s hard to guard. We saw Durant last year probably have if not his two best games, two of his best four games against us both times. And I think that’s fair to say when he had outscored us 20-12 both games 10 minutes into it. So I feel like we’re kinda experts on good performances, and tonight ranks right up there with what Kevin was able to do last year against us. He’s a fabulous guard, and he’s the best player in the country. He may not win National Player of the Year, but he’s the best player. Hansbrough’s having a fabulous year, and you can make a strong case for him, but from a talent standpoint, this guy’s got some stuff that there’s not a lot of guys in the (NBA) that have everything he’s got.”

Bill Self on the senior class, which will finish its home career Monday: “It’s an unheralded class. There’s no McDonald’s All-Americans, there’s just guys that came and basically gave their heart and soul to this place...107-23, which isn’t the winningest class ever at KU, but it ranks right up there pretty high. A lot of guys get more attention, but this has been a fabulous class. I hope that everybody - all our fans and of course our other players and coaches - we need to make sure they go out in style on Monday, and it won’t be easy because we’re playing a team obviously that should be pretty confident because of the way they performed today.”

Up Next: Monday Night, Texas Tech, 9 PM ESPN. Senior Night at Allen Fieldhouse as we say goodbye to Sasha Kaun, Russell Robinson, Darnell Jackson, Rodrick Stewart, and Jeremy Case. Will this also be the last Fieldhouse appearance for Brandon Rush, Darrell Arthur, and Mario Chalmers as well?


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