Here are a few summaries of what’s going on with Kansas Athletics this week, January 23:
1. KU takes down Iowa State 76-72 in a very fun game
Everybody was solid for the Jayhawks last Monday. Even on a gimpy knee, Frank Mason still scored 16 points and had six rebounds. Show me a better player in a power six conference! Landen Lucas and Carlton Bragg combined for 24 points and 12 rebounds. Iowa State is even thinner at the post than KU is, so the ‘Hawks were able to get whatever they wanted down low.
Josh Jackson was once again able to fill the stat sheet with six points, eight rebounds, and five assists. He has been quite a bit better in Allen Fieldhouse than on the road since the start conference play. Svi Mykhailiuk posted 13 points and six rebounds. If he can figure out how to put it all together and play smart consistently, he could legitimately be the best player on the team. The gauntlet has begun for KU (at West Virginia and at Kentucky in back-to-back games for goodness sake!). A month of very difficult basketball is underway.
2. Kansas defeats Texas 79-67 on Saturday
This game was way too close. KU jumped out to a 19-5 lead early in the ball game, but Texas was able to battle back and stuck around until about the final 1:30. The Jayhawks have to figure out how to put away lesser opponents early in games – especially in Allen Fieldhouse.
The Jayhawk guards scored 67 points while Texas scored 67 total points. Guard play wins championships. I do have to mention Texas center Jarrett Allen, who lit up the ‘Hawks for 22 points and 19 rebounds. Great performance, sir. That said, it seems like KU continues to struggle getting offensive rebounds…even though we out-rebounded Texas 40-33 overall and 12-11 on the offensive side. At times, it looks like zero of the five players on the floor want to rebound the ball. The rebounding effort needs to be consistently better if KU is going to go to Morgantown or into Rupp Arena and steal a win or two this week.
Now to some stats: Frank Mason had 17 points and seven assists. He had a solid game; he stepped up when he needed to. Devonte’ Graham scored 18 points to go with five rebounds and assists. He had a hot shooting first half and was a big reason KU was able to keep the lead in the first frame. Landen Lucas had just two points, but he hauled down 14 rebounds. The Jayhawks will go as far as Lucas will take them.
3. Predicting the brutal stretch of games KU is about to play
Tomorrow at West Virginia: If Kansas is going to win this game, it has to cause turnovers and rebound on defense. They cannot allow the Mountaineers to set up their press very often. Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham will be able to handle the press better than they have in previous years, but KU has to be able to play fast. Those two are coming off a game where they combined for 12 assists and one turnovers, so KU needs another performance just like that one. My official prediction: KU wins 71-66.
Saturday at Kentucky: This will most likely be a high-scoring game. The Jayhawks must shut down freshman phenom Malik Monk if they’re going to win. This dude dropped 47 on North Carolina earlier this season. He is easily Kentucky’s best scorer. The Wildcats have already lost at Rupp this season, and I’m not sure if they’ll do it again. My official prediction: Kentucky wins 87-82.
February 1st at home versus Baylor: The Bears have a lot of length inside and capable scorers on the outside. Johnathan Motley is going to be a problem for the ‘Hawks unless Landen Lucas and/or Josh Jackson can play the best defense they’ve played all season. However, Baylor plays zone defense and KU is very good when playing against zone. My official prediction: KU wins 80-77.
February 4th at home versus Iowa State: This was a fun game the first time these teams met this year. I don’t expect the rematch to be quite that close. It’s one thing to keep it close in your own building, but it’s another to go into Allen Fieldhouse and be competitive. My official prediction: KU wins 77-65.
4. Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura dies at age 25
Being a Royals fan, I was very saddened to hear of Ventura’s passing on Sunday morning. He had the makings of a great pitcher and personally was one of my favorite players. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends. RIP Yordano.
Landen Fields is a contributor for Rock Chalk Blog. You can check out his archive here.