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Archive for Friday, December 23, 2011

Jayhawks must embrace ugliness

December 23, 2011, 12:00 a.m. Updated December 23, 2011, 8:58 a.m.

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— Maybe FSN scheduled such a late start time in an attempt to find a temporary cure for the suffering insomniacs on the East Coast. If so, it undoubtedly was a smashing success. They’ll be rested and ready for Christmas.

Otherwise, the first half of Kansas University’s 63-47 victory Thursday against USC in Galen Center didn’t exactly serve as a shining example of how far basketball has progressed since Dr. James Naismith, born in Almonte, Canada, and buried in Lawrence, invented the game 120 Decembers ago.

USC cheerleaders, the perkiest in the business, deserve to endorse better beauty products than the Trojans basketball team. Dribble, dribble, dribble, clang. Dribble, dribble, dribble, pass intercepted and taken the other way for a dunk. Timeout. The USC cheerleaders take the court and spread their good holiday cheer, refusing to let the basketball team’s poor performance darken their moods.

It will get better for the Trojans because most teams won’t be able to defend them the way Kansas did in the first half.

In a first half that raised the question of why anyone thought it necessary to cut the bottoms out of the peach baskets, Kansas couldn’t shoot straight and still nearly doubled up the Trojans, 25-13.

It served as another reminder to a Kansas team that has just one returning starter that there will be nights it can’t shoot its way to victory and must win by keeping the other team from scoring.

Coach Bill Self isn’t convinced his team has embraced that mentality yet, but the truth is the more experienced a basketball player becomes, the smarter his coach becomes in his eyes.

Why should basketball be any different?

Ask the average teenager to rate his or her father’s intelligence on a scale of 1 to 10, and the honest answer is a lot closer to 1 than 10. Ask the same person in his or her mid-20s, and it’s a lot closer to 10.

Sure, it was an ugly basketball game, but there’s no such thing as an ugly victory. The players knew it was coming because their coach had warned them they would need to get into grinder mode.

“I listen to coach so much because he knows what he’s talking about,” said junior guard Elijah Johnson, who scored a team-high 14 points and had four steals and four rebounds. “He warns us. A lot of people let it go through one ear and out the other, but I listen. I let it stick. Whenever he warns us about something, it happens, ever since my freshman year. Even when I didn’t play, he would say stuff, and sitting on the bench I would just see it happening.”

The split-loyalty crowd of 6,431 had a particularly stale ring to it in the first half.

That happens when the action doesn’t create many reasons to get loud. Despite the sluggish pace, Kansas maintained defensive intensity throughout the first half.

“That shouldn’t matter,” Johnson said of the empty seats and quiet voices. “One thing I’m starting to realize is we’re blessed. We’re actually spoiled. We play in front of a packed crowd every night, and it shouldn’t take a packed crowd to get us motivated. We lost to Northern Iowa the first round my freshman year, and that was an empty gym. That’s a tournament atmosphere. We have to be used to playing in that. We shouldn’t need a crowd to turn us up, although it gives you that extra momentum, we should be able to turn each other up on our own.”

The more often Kansas can play in front of empty seats, the better prepared it is for March, Johnson reiterated.

“Everyone is so used to the fieldhouse, and that’s how they think every college game should be, so when we come to USC and they don’t have a full house, it’s easy to get lazy on a situation or to overlook it, and I’m trying to tell everyone we can’t do that,” Johnson said.

If KU can embrace winning without style points and realize that keeping the other team from scoring is the best path to success, it has a shot to contend as an underdog in the impending Big 12 race.

If and only if.

Comments

bballwizard 3 years ago

Tom you need a cup of coffee. USC is horrible. And this is Bills worst team he's had. USC scored 36 points against CALPOLY??? we let them score 47?? Releford is our good defender. Do you ever see johnson or Taylor get in a defensive stance? Very rarely. our fundamentals r poor and bill said as much after Davidson loss. We will lose twice to Baylor and MU and lose to Texas and Kstate @ their places and finish 13 and 6 in big 12. No Big 12 for our Hawks this year and we will lose in 1st round of NCAAs unless we make 3s. All Empires come to end right. we will be back in 2013. Next year we will be too young but really talented

lama 3 years ago

Mizzou would have 3-4 losses with KU's schedule. Illinois is the best team they've played, and they won by four on a neutral court. They'll wilt in the league, as usual.

canusayduh 2 years, 12 months ago

What a whiner! Why dog another team just because your team isn't playing well? Wow...KU fan entitlement attitude will never stop in this stupid town!

kef104 2 years, 12 months ago

Canusayduh, nobody is whinning, just relating some facts. With their amazing win against IL, MO now has improved their strength of schedule to 267. They were over 300. KU's strength of schedule is 16. While they may not wilt in the b12, they will not take any titles. Speaking of whining, if you have ever been to Columbia perhaps you would not think Lawrence is so stupid. I have a sister who lives there with her family and while I like the campus and the downtown is decent, the overall community has more in common with Topeka than Lawrence. Thank god they have Walmart money.

Anyway, the b12 should be exciting this year, no matter who takes the title.

steves 2 years, 12 months ago

get a grip..They may just surprise you!

RoeDapple 3 years ago

Must be awful to be a bitter old bench warmer . . .

lunacydetector 3 years ago

i saw the basketball team's poster. an appropriate headline.

hail2oldku 3 years ago

Poor Tommy has so much trouble getting his facts straight he can't even get the correct network. You'd think he would at least try to do that if he's going to open with it.

grammaddy 3 years ago

This is a "new" team. It might take us a year or two to learn to play together. Nobody expected a "ship" this year.

Robert Rauktis 2 years, 12 months ago

We lost to Northern Iowa the first round my freshman year, and that was an empty gym. That’s a tournament atmosphere. We have to be used to playing in that. We shouldn’t need a crowd to turn us up, although it gives you that extra momentum, we should be able to turn each other up on our own.”

Do a Gonzaga or a Michigan state for that matter and go to a REAL visitors venue. How about St. Bonaventure?

A team called Indianapolis Crispus Attacks used to go on the road in rural Indiana to play in some real white places when you were a very black team. They still kicked a$$.

Maybe the "mid-majors" of the NCAA's would be so annoying if they got used to real hostile venues.

took_the_money_and_ran 2 years, 12 months ago

Well on the plus side: The seats at the Galen Center are, it must be said, a lot more comfortable than the benches in Allen Fieldhouse. The USC pep band was great. USC charged the same price for tickets as they did for the rest of their home games, unlike UCLA's predatory pricing last year. The PA announcer seemed to be having fun. The forecast for Christmas is 77 and sunny.

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