Beware of the Blog’s Player of the Game is Jamari Traylor. KU was missing two key players in their second round matchup with a feisty EKU team, their freshman center Joel Embiid who is still out with a stress fracture in his back, and junior point guard Naadir Tharpe, who was nothing but a liability in his 21 minutes of action. KU has the luxury of a deep bench, and it needed guys to step up to fill those gaps in this one. For Naadir, Frank Mason and to a greater extent, Connor Frankamp rose to the occasion and ran the team. Connor had his best game as a Jayhawk going for 10 points on 50% from the floor. He had no turnovers and 4 assists in 25 minutes. He also had the best +/- on the team at +20. Naadir was the only KU player with a negative +/- at -16.
But the story of the game was red-shirt sophomore Jamari Traylor who also put up his best performance. Traylor has quietly been having a productive season in his limited minutes, but their was nothing quiet about his performance last night. He was a ball of pure energy and toughness when KU looked rattled by EKU’s frantic pace and crazy three-point shooting prowess. In his 22 minutes, Traylor poured in 17 points missing only one of his 8 FG attempts. He also snatched a team best 14 rebounds split evenly between the offensive and defensive variety at 7 apiece. The big man also added 2 assists and a monster block. It was very impressive and something of a breakout game for the sophomore from Illinois. I don’t expect his role will change much this year because of this perfomance, especially if KU is fortunate enough to have JoJo back in the lineup at some point. However, it does go to show you that even if Joel leaves this season along with Tarik Black, KU can be confident in Jamari as a solid contributor alongside Perry and the talented freshman big men on their way into the program.
- 1. Andrew Wiggins (10)
- 2. Perry Ellis (6)
- 3. Naadir Tharpe (5)
- 4. Wayne Selden (4)
- 5. Joel Embiid (3)
- T-6. Frank Mason (2)
- T-6. Tarik Black (2)
- T-7. Jamari Traylor (1)
- T-7. Brannen Greene (1)
You let the whole team down Naadir Tharpe. There is not much to say here. If I had to come up with one word to describe Tharpe’s performance it would probably be “impotent”. He was awful, plain and simple. It isn’t even a numbers thing (he finished with 4 points, 3 assists and 4 turnover). It was about the way his game looked. Again, Tharpe was unable to keep his man in front of him which put his teammates in bad position to recover to the three point line. He seemed entirely flustered by EKU’s pressure on defense and got the offense sped up, forcing the Jayhawks into bad shot after bad shot. Only when he was on the bench did KU show life and claw back into the game.
Look, I like Tharpe. I think he is a good leader for this team, but he is not backing it up with his play, and hasn’t been for some time now. It’s March and he is practically a senior point guard at this point. The way Connor came in and handled EKU’s pressure was impressive. He was calm, cool and collected and even tossed in some buckets when he was open. In general, Connor seems to handle pressure just fine and we all know what kind of a scoring threat he is, although he hasn’t shown it much this year. And get this, Tharpe is averaging 3 turnovers per 40 minutes. Connor? Just 1.
I am not saying that Naadir shouldn’t continue to be KU’s starting point guard. But I do think that Frank and Connor have come a long way. They are practically sophomores now and I would not be opposed to seeing what we saw last night. If Naadir is playing that way, him the early yank and put Connor in. Experience tells us that if he starts a game that way he is very unlikely to finish it well so you might as well let somebody else run the team that day.