Quick Hitters: New Mexico

Kansas basketball got back on the winning track after dropping three out of four, defeating a talented and experienced New Mexico team, 80-63, in the Sprint Center on Saturday. Here are some takeaways from the game.

1. Perry rebounds. After disappearing in the loss to Florida, Perry Ellis put on quite a show for the Kansas City crowd. I feel that Perry is next behind Tharpe in terms of his importance as a leader. Especially during this brutal road stretch, his young team needed him to step up. He didn’t live up to my expectations, stringing together some sloppy performances when the team needed him the most. But, if Perry is good for anything it is a stellar performance in the Sprint Center. He ended the game with 21 points off 9-for-14 shooting and added nine rebounds, a steal and a block. That is as solid a line as he has had this year. He still struggled containing New Mexico’s talented and physical bigs, however. Also, we already knew he can play well in Kansas. He has spent his entire career doing that. When this team goes back on the road, they are going to need him to figure out how to put together great performances away from his comfort zone.

2. Tarik Black in Self’s infamous doghouse. Black has landed himself squarely in Self’s doghouse. And with good reason. He has added almost nothing to this year’s team and, in fact, is more of a blight on their success than anything. Maybe he is contributing some senior leadership off the court, but inside the lines he has been terrible. Against New Mexico, the former starter mustered only two minutes of playing time and contributed a foul and a couple turnovers. So many guys are vying for time on this team, including Lucas, who has quietly averaged more points per 40 minutes, a much higher offensive rating, more rebounds per 40 minutes and, most importantly, 0 turnovers to Black’s eight. I am not very interested in the Tarik Black project at this point. As a senior, he shouldn’t be laboring this much to make an impact for this team. He is only around this year, so if he can’t find a way to contribute, I say let Landen Lucas have some more playing time.

3. Tharpe shows up. Despite a less-than-great shooting night, Tharpe got back to doing what he needs to do for this team to be successful. He was much better at attacking the zone than Mason has been in recent games. He looked like a point guard that has been here before. He finished with nine assists to four turnovers. The four turnovers is a little high, but he was the primary ball handler for 37 minutes while Mason mostly sat the bench so I will give him a pass for that one.

What to Watch for Recap.

1. The play of Tharpe. As mentioned above, Tharpe got back to facilitating well and attacked the zone better than anyone has for KU this season. He will need to keep taking positive strides for KU to win out the rest of the non-conference slate.

2. New Mexico’s big three. KU was going to have to shut down at least one of the three and they did that with Kirk. KU got him in foul trouble early and then took it right at him when he made appearances in the second half to try and send him straight back to the bench. He finished with five points in 18 minutes. Their big three are good for just shy of 60 points per game. Keeping Kirk out of it and not letting Bairstow or Williams make up all of the ground (the three combined for 53 points) was a big difference in the game. It was also crucial not to let someone else on the roster have some kind of career night. It seems the Jayhawks have a tendency to let that happen. The entire rest of the team combined for only 10 points. That is pretty good work on that end.

3. Winning attitude. The Jayhawks were back in attack mode from the start. Also, when New Mexico made a push in the second half, they responded by locking down defensively and putting the game away with efficiency on the offensive end.

Beware of the Blog’s Player of the Game

Joel Embiid gets better and better every time he steps on the floor. His “dream shake” caused all kinds of Twitter madness. Self said that KU fans haven’t even really seen what he is capable of or the kinds of things he does in practice. I believe him. One thing is for sure, KU is a completely different team when he is on the floor. He is probably the most important player. In only 25 minutes, he put up 18 points with six rebounds, three steals and four blocks. He also committed only three personal fouls which is an improvement. Perry might have had the better scoring night, but Joel changes the game in more ways than the box score reveals.

Current Standings:

  • 1. Andrew Wiggins (4)
  • T-2. Perry Ellis (2)
  • T-2. Joel Embiid (2)
  • 3. Frank Mason (1)

You Let The Whole Team Down Tarik Black. Now the recipient in back-to-back contests, Black continues to be a non-factor.