KU suffered a setback this past Saturday in what was arguably the worst performance this year, losing 53-68 at Iowa State. With a huge make or break game against Texas coming up Monday, this result was certainly not welcome. Things had to change, and quickly, and change they did. KU did not trail all game, was only tied for one possession, and completely owned the paint against Texas, scoring a whopping 50 points in the paint. KU won 88-80 over what is a very good Texas team and showed arguably their most complete team performance all year.
Complete in many ways, really. The defense, albeit leaving some open (and sometimes, quite lucky) shots throughout the game, looked spectacular, causing turnovers, pressuring the perimeter, and not getting bullied in the paint. To capitalize on the great defense, the transitions commanded the tempo of the game, causing Texas to play on the backfoot for basically the entire game. Dajuan Harris, Joe Yesufu, Gradey Dick, and Kevin McCullar all benefited from and contributed to a concerted effort to suffocate this high scoring Texas offense into making mistakes, and if it weren't for a few boneheaded moves on the offensive end, KU would have won this game by a lot more.
That certainly does not mean the offense was inefficient or in any way bad, far from it actually. Those 4 I mentioned? All four scored double digits, 21 for Dick, 17 for Harris, 16 for McCullar, 14 for Yesufu, as well as KJ Adams, who scored 10. Balanced scoring was the story for KU, a story that has been quite elusive for KU this year. KU has had to depend a ton on their stars, mainly Jalen Wilson, who has had a stretch of 20+ point games. Hardly anyone else during that stretch got above 10. This game was opposite day, as Jalen Wilson only scored 2 while everyone else did the scoring. Doesn't mean he wasn't involved, he had 6 rebounds and 2 assists, but imagine if he wasn't held to that low of scoring? Imagine if we saw the Jalen Wilson we've seen over the past couple of games yesterday? KU would run Texas out of the building. However, this does not take away how complete of a team performance this was. It was incredibly refreshing to finally see bench scoring, and on a day were 3 bench players were ruled out. Joe Yesufu played with a chip on his shoulder and showed he belongs here, scoring 14 as mentioned above while also grabbing 5 rebounds, with a pretty sick dunk to put an exclamation point on his performance.
One of the biggest credits we should give though, for this great game, go to the freshmen that stepped up. Not just Dick, but Ernest Udeh and MJ Rice for stepping in and gaining some very key experience and minutes. They did well too, Udeh forced Texas to take some bad shots and even grabbed a couple steals, all while getting 6 points, 2 rebounds, and 1 assist with a great pass (that I watched three or four times over to make sure it was real.) MJ Rice, although not a huge contributor scoring-wise with 2 points, also forced Texas to stay out of the paint and take less than ideal shots. He was physical, suffocating on defense, and grabbed boards and steals throughout. Overall, this game was huge in getting those young guys really good experience, and hopefully it continues. Hopefully the bench scoring continues as well, not just freshmen production.
KU faces a tough road test against Oklahoma, a team that definitely gave them problems when they faced them at Allen. It doesn't get easier from there, as another road test awaits against a sneaky Oklahoma State team that also gave the Hawks a run for their money in Allen. Then Baylor again at home, a road game against their toughest matchup in TCU, then two not exactly gimmes but much easier games in West Virginia and Texas Tech, both at home. KU has to keep building on this performance in order to continue winning and to have a chance at the Big 12 regular season title. This game was a very good sign that the Hawks are finally making a turnaround from their January slump, you just can't have any more meltdowns like you did against ISU. Stay the course, stay healthy, and continue to have production from your bench ALONG WITH having production from your stars, and KU will make this a very good February. A February that could result in yet another Big 12 regular season title, and hopefully a February that will bring about a magnificent March to finish off the season with a repeat national title.
Burn Notice: 10/10 Burnt orange is a super ugly color (No the orange that I use in my logo is neon orange, not burnt. My logo's orange doesn't look like vomit THANK YOU VERY MUCH)