No. 5 Kansas outlasts Georgia, wins third CBE Classic championship

Despite a slow start and mediocre performance, the No. 5 Jayhawks were able to kennel the Georgia Bulldogs on Wednesday to claim the CBE Classic championship.

Josh Jackson opened the game for the Jayhawks last night, and he did the same on Tuesday. But despite the early bucket, Kansas’ start wasn’t ideal. Georgia pushed a quick 8-0 run before Frank Mason broke the silence with a three-point jumper. Mason and Jackson were the only players to break the scoreboard early, as the two combined for all 15 of the Jayhawks’ points.

Kansas’ frontcourt struggled immensely against UAB, and by the looks of it, they were doing worse in the early minutes on Wednesday. Bragg and Lucas haven’t been able to score, but the bigger issue has been fouls and defense. Coming into the game against Georgia, Landen Lucas and Carlton Bragg were averaging a foul every five minutes. Their rebounding was even more astonishing, as Georgia was able to collect three offensive rebounds on one possession. Boxing out is fundamental in high school. In too many situations, the Jayhawks let the opponent in the paint to feast on the rebounds.

Kansas had no big bursts in the first half. KU held steady with a two-possession lead for much of the 20 minutes. Kansas closed out the half securing a ten point lead, 35-25. Again, the backcourt was putting the team on its back as Frank Mason and Josh Jackson combined for 24 in the first half. Carlton Bragg and Landen Lucas had no points in the first half, another testament to the poor big-man play.

Sloppy passing and streaky shooting made headlines in the first five minutes of a mediocre second half for the Jayhawks. Frank Mason, as usual, stepped up when the Jayhawks needed a boost. Bill Self’s four guard experiment continued against the Bulldogs, as the front court made Self grow angry as the game progressed. With 9:48 to play, Georgia found a bucket after eight straight misses. The game hadn’t gotten too carried away, as the Bulldogs kept an arm length behind the Jayhawks, trailing 16.

Georgia opened up the game 1-15 from three. The Bulldogs made their next two and they cut the Jayhawk lead to 11. Bill Self was visibly upset on the sidelines. Why wouldn’t he be? The Jayhawk frontcourt had more fouls than points, and they let the Bulldogs walk right over them like there were free food samples in the paint. Kansas looked sluggish, tired, and uninterested in the contest. Landen Lucas fouled out with zero points and Dwight Coleby joined him on the bench moments later. Kansas held on and walked out of the Sprint Center with a 65-54 victory over Georgia.

I’ve said this more than once, but the frontcourt needs a cleanup. Kansas did what they needed to win the game. But the frontcourt was abysmal. Landen Lucas fouled out after scoring zero points and only contributing two rebounds. Lucas and Carlton Bragg need to step up. I get it, it’s early. Kansas has played five games, and it would be an unfair assessment to judge the season on these unimportant non-conference games. But the frontcourt must improve.

Josh Jackson picked up the tournament MVP award, scoring 15 points on Wednesday and 37 points between the two CBE games. Frank Mason, once again, played the underdog role as he silently put up 19 against Georgia and 39 throughout the pair of games.

The 4-1 Jayhawks will take a few days off before they return to action on Friday to face off against the 2016 NCAA tournament UNC Asheville Bulldogs. Tip is at 7 p.m. in Allen Fieldhouse.

Notes:

Frank Mason: 19 points (7-13 FG), five rebounds. Mason played much like he has all season, fierce and relentless. The senior led the Jayhawks in scoring for the fourth game this season.

Josh Jackson: 15 points (6-11 FG), 11 rebounds. Jackson had some flashy dunks last night, but his all around play really stuck out tonight. He filled not only the point column, but the rebounding area as he claimed the CBE Classic MVP award.

Devonte’ Graham: 14 points (5-15 FG), two assists. Graham shadowed behind Mason and Graham throughout most of the tournament. But he was important while hitting big shots when they mattered most.

Carlton Bragg: Three points (1-3 FG), and one rebound. Bragg was almost invisible in this game. The sophomore didn’t have any points at halftime and he struggled to even control the ball on defensive rebounds.

Landen Lucas: Zero points (0-0 FG), and two rebounds.