Kansas Defeats Harvard

No. 4/6 Kansas took on the Harvard Crimson, Saturday, and came away with a much more difficult 75-69 win that one would have guessed prior to the game.

After leading by 15 multiple times in the first half, the Jayhawks struggled on the offensive end allowed Harvard to dictate the pace of the game, which was much slower that what KU would have liked, often times taking the ball well into the 30 second shot clock before hoisting a shot.

The slower pace and zone defense employed by head coach Tommy Amaker kept KU off balance, particularly in the second half and at one point helped the Crimson tie Kansas, 56-56, before Frank Mason III helped his team make a run and spread the game back open for good.

Mason ended the game with 21 points on 7-for-11 shooting, and was by far and away the catalyst for Kansas.

For the second straight game, forward Perry Ellis seemed to be out of it, mentally. Following the win, head coach Bill Self talked about the lack of toughness and competitiveness a player who gets out of the way and lets an opponent dunk on his head on his home court. While he didn’t exactly name Ellis, it was indeed his senior forward which allowed a thunderous first-half dunk, on his head and on his home court.

In the second half, Ellis was better offensively, but otherwise struggled to really impact the game as he normally does.

Luckily for the Self, his depth in the low post can make up for one or two players which may be struggling.

In his second game as a Jayhawk, Cheick Diallo was again extremely active for Kansas. His offensive output wasn’t as impressive, but Harvard did a good job of collapsing on the freshman whenever he had the ball, and nothing easy was given up inside.

Diallo’s first basket came on a smooth elbow jumper, showing his mid-range face up game which will add to his rating in the minds of NBA scouts.

Overall , the Jayhawks made enough plays to win against a feisty and well-coached Harvard team, but certainly didn’t play their best basketball.

Self’s team will have another opportunity to take the court and improve on their play Wednesday, December 9, when they host Holy Cross in Allen Fieldhouse. Tickets are on sale now for all Kansas home games. Visit Tickets For Less and choose from a variety of seating options inside Allen Fieldhouse. With zero hidden service fees, what you see is what you get on all ticket purchases. Don’t miss out on your chance to see all the action. Go Jayhawks!

Diallo Soars For KU

It was the night everyone had been waiting for.

Cheick Diallo was finally going to take the court for No. 4 Kansas, and it was as exciting and entertaining as one could have hoped.

In Kansas’ 84-61 win over Loyola (MD), Diallo overcame some early struggles (obviously nerves) to score 13 points, haul in 6 rebounds, and record three blocks.

KU played a lackluster first half, leading 40-36 at the half, but in the second half, Jamari Traylor came out with energy and helped set the tone for a 27-9 run to start the half and open the game up. During that stretch, Diallo put on a display of an array offensive moves, an extremely high motor, and the enthusiasm of a stud freshman who is quite simply a playmaker.

His first bucket came from a nice behind the back assist from Wayne Selden, Jr., leading to a two-handed flush.

Diallo would later show a smooth baseline jumper from short range, a drop step and baby hook, an ally-oop throw down from a pass by fellow frosh LeGerald Vick, and the highlight of the night, a thunderous breakaway slam on a fast break, with some added flair and eventually earning the No. 3 highlight on ESPN Sportscenter’s Top 10.

All in all, it was a good night for the Jayhawks, who played their first game since returning from a championship at the Maui Invitational, as well as Thanksgiving break.

Self certainly wasn’t pleased with his teams’ effort in the first half, and had particularly harsh words for the play from Perry Ellis, who appeared to have a very off night for KU, but the second half play made Self feel slightly better about his team being able to reign things in when they weren’t playing as well and turn the game into a blowout.

More importantly, Kansas showed just how much depth it has with the addition of Diallo.

To put that into perspective, Landen Lucas wasn’t able to play, and Brannen Greene is still serving a six-game suspension.

Self played 9 players for relatively significant minutes–Vick getting the least of the bench minutes among rotation players–and he still had two players considered important pieces to the roster, sitting.

It’s doubtful Self will go 11 deep unless the game is out of hand or a he feels like he can get more production from his bench on a ¬†given night, but the fact that he has as many talented players at his disposal gives the Jayhawks an edge most teams simply don’t have.

Down the road, it will be difficult for a player like Brannen Greene to work himself back into the rotation. His shooting stroke will always serve as a weapon for KU, but defensively, Greene is often a liability.

It should be expected that Diallo will continue to see his minutes increase as the season progresses, which means Lucas and Hunter Mickelson will see fewer and fewer minutes on the floor.

Next up for Kansas is a home game on Saturday, Dec. 5 against Harvard. Tickets for Saturday’s game are available now at Tickets For Less. Don’t miss out on your chance to see Cheick Diallo and No. 4 Kansas take the court inside Allen Fieldhouse. Choose from a variety of great seating options and cheer on your Jayhawks!

KU Falters Against Michigan State

After controlling the first 30 minutes of the game against Michigan State, Tuesday, No. 4 Kansas faltered down the stretch on both ends of the court, surrendering an 11 point lead and the game to the Spartans at the United Center in Chicago, Ill., in the night cap of the 2015 Champions Classic.

KU now falls to 1-4 all-time in the tournament, which consists of Kansas, Duke, Kentucky, and Michigan State.

The Jayhawks, which on paper appear to the be the better team, and throughout the majority of the game proved to be the better team, couldn’t make shots down the stretch, while also failing to stop MSU from scoring, particularly Denzel Valentine, who ended the night with a triple double.

The loss itself isn’t a big deal for the Jayhawks, as it’s only the second regular season game of the season, but the way in which KU gave the game away is an unfortunate trend which has been on-going for the last 3-4 seasons.

Any Kansas fan which has watched the group of players knows what that means; A lack of toughness down the stretch, the inability to close teams out, and losing games in which they were in full control of for nearly the entire 40 minutes.

Another concerning aspect to the loss is the continued frustration of Self seemingly struggling to find a consistent rotation with this group, as well as taking advantage of the depth everyone claims Kansas has, but when you look at the box score, only 7, maybe 8 players are seeing significant playing time.

The biggest beef fans have had following the loss is the lack of playing time for Kansas’ two best outside shooters–Brannen Greene and Svi Mykhailiuk–when the Jayhawks’ offense slumped and shots weren’t falling. On top of that, freshman power forward Cartlon Bragg, Jr., who has made an instant impact for Kansas, as well as Hunter Mickelson, a player which Self has said has been the most improved since the end of the last season, sat on the bench behind the likes of Landen Lucas.

The best way to describe the decision to sit those players in favor of a mediocre Lucas, and Wayne Selden, Jr., (who is overall one of KU’s better players, but an average to below average jump-shooter) is at best, perplexing.

Self obviously knows his team better than any fan or media member, but with the talk of so much depth, and a guy like Greene, who is coming off an 18-point performance against Northern Colorado in which he went 5-for-5 from three point range, sitting on the bench down the stretch when KU needs points simply doesn’t make sense.

It’s almost as if Self has his favorites, but if one thing has been proven, his favorites aren’t always the players which can go win you a game, and ultimately that’s the goal each time KU takes the court.

Prior to the game against Michigan State, Self said his team is probably a month ahead of where they normally would be, thanks to their trip to South Korea for the World University Games, but if that’s the case, a loss like Tuesday’s should have never happened.

Still, it’s the second game of the season, which means there is plenty of time to improve upon things, but if you are a KU fan watching this group which, for the most part has been together for three seasons, continue to slip up in big games that they have no business losing, you have to be somewhat concerned.

Next up for the Jayhawks is a chance to get back on track against Chaminade, the host team of the 2015 Maui Jim Maui Invitational, located at the Lahaina Civic Center.

KU has played in the Maui multiple times, its last coming in 2012 when it lost to Duke in the championship game. Kansas would eventually go on to make a National Championship game appearance in which it lost to Anthony Davis and the Kentucky Wildcats. The game is scheduled for an 8:00 tip on ESPNU.

Kansas handles N. Colorado

The regular season has finally started and No. 4 Kansas opened things up by dominating Northern Colorado in Allen Fieldhouse, 109-72.

Off the bench, Brannen Greene led all Kansas scorers with 18 points, hitting all 5 of his three-point attempts.

As a team, the Jayhawks hit 15 three’s and put on an offensive display not seen in quite some time. While Northern Colorado wasn’t the best competition the Jayhawks will face this season, to come out game 1 and put up 109 on 55% shooting is a major plus for a team expecting to reach the Final Four.

Four of the five starters for Kansas reached double-digits in scoring (Jamari Traylor had 8 points), and Frank Mason III was one assist shy of a double-double, scoring 11 points and recording 9 assists to just 2 turnovers.

As Bill Self said after the game, this may potentially be the deepest team he’s had at Kansas, and because of the World University Games over the summer, his Jayhawks are probably a month ahead of where his teams usually are to start the season.

Winning the gold and going undefeated in South Korea was rewarding, but having freshman learn plays and grasp Self’s system early on to gain readiness for the 2015-16 season may have been the ultimate reward.

In most cases, Self’s teams usually begin to clock following Christmas break when they’ve played a dozen games and have unlimited practice time over the holidays.

Now, the Jayhawks have the benefit of being prepared for the season at the outset, much like Kentucky was last season after playing in Puerto Rico over the summer.

For Greene, a streaky player that has had an up and down career at Kansas, exploding for 18 points off the bench and post-hip surgery which kept him from playing following the end of last season is a bonus for Kansas in terms of its offense.

Greene has proven to be Kansas’ best three-point marksman, but disciplinary issues and frequent visits to Self’s doghouse have kept him from fully blossoming in Lawrence.

Defensively, Kansas held the Bears to 39% shooting from the floor, and just 33% from behind the arc.

With new rules in place, making it tougher for players on the defensive side of the ball to be physical with on-ball defense, coaches have been worried about foul trouble, particularly early on in the season while everyone adjusts.

KU recorded just 24 personal fouls for the game, and with its depth, only saw one player–Landen Lucas–have more than 3 fouls on the night.

On the flip side, the Bears ended up with 35 personal fouls and had three players foul out of the game, including two starters.

Next up is a date with Michigan State as apart of the Champions Classic, this time in Chicago. The tournament, which enters its fourth year, features Kansas, Kentucky, Duke, and Michigan State. This year is a reboot from the first edition, with Kentucky taking on Duke in the first sessions, followed by the night capper between the Jayhawks and Spartans.

Kansas’ next home game at Allen Fieldhouse will be December 1 against Loyola (MD).

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No. 4 Kansas Wins Exhibition Opener

Wednesday night marked the beginning of a new season of Kansas Basketball, as the No. 4 Jayhawks opened their 2-game exhibition play against Pittsburg State with an 89-66 win.

Bill Self, for the first time in many years, has a team loaded with experienced players. Perry Ellis, Wayne Selden, Jr., Jamari Traylor, Frank Mason III, and Landen Lucas, have all been in the program for multiple seasons.

When speaking to the media earlier this week, Self spoke about his team potentially practicing poorly of late due to boredom and needing to face someone other than themselves on the hardwood.

Whether it was starting off a little too amped and fired up, or just the rust of having not played in an actual game, the Jayhawks struggled in the early going against a Gorillas team which always comes to Allen Fieldhouse with a nothing-to-lose mentality.

Shooting, in particular, was atrocious for both team throughout the first half. Despite the poor shooting, however, Kansas’ defense wasn’t where it needed to be in terms of intensity, and with 8 minutes to go before the break, KU was clinging to a meager 19-16 lead.

Self, after calling several timeouts and letting his players know about their lackluster play, watched his team go on a spurt over the course of the final three minutes, turning a once close game into a laugher.

Perry Ellis led Kansas with 22 points, and looked to be in great form with his play. While it was a good sign to see KU’s top player performing at a high level, the surprise of the night went to freshman forward Carlton Bragg, who scored 14 points to go along with 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks in 21 minutes of action.

Bragg played so well that Self gave him the nod to start the second half in place of Landen Lucas.

Arkansas transfer Hunter Mickelson also displayed his improvement over the summer by providing Kansas with great energy on both ends of the floor and showing that he knows how to get himself around the ball.

Mickelson, who Self said would likely be considered the obvious most improved player in the eyes of the fans, put in a highlight-reel dunk after a Bragg miss, jumping over the top of a defender and flushing the ball home with one hand.

If one thing is certain, it’s that Bill Self has plenty of depth at his disposal. Prior to halftime, Self had played 11 players in total. While he would like to see his rotation stay around 8-9, knowing you have additional depth beyond that will create plenty of competitiveness in practice and will keep players hungry to earn playing time, particularly on the perimeter where Mason, Devonte Graham, and Wayne Selden, Jr., are likely to the majority of the minutes.

Two players Kansas needs to see major improvement from in order to have the type of success expected this season, are Brannen Greene and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk.

Greene is a deadly outside shooter and can change the course of a game quickly with his ability to knock down shots, and Mykhailiuk, also a sharp-shooter, is projected to eventually be a top 10 draft pick.

If Self can get production out of those two, both of which posses plenty of size and athleticism on the perimeter, Kansas will remain one of the title favorites throughout the year.

Next up for Kansas is a Nov. 10 (Tuesday) exhibition game against Fort Hays State before opening up the regular season versus Northern Colorado on Friday, Nov. 13.

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