Kansas Men’s Basketball is hitting all cylinders on the verge of Big 12 play by rolling over American University on Saturday, December 29th. The final game of 2012 brought career performances for freshman forward Perry Ellis, sophomore guard Naadir Tharpe and senior guard Travis Releford.
In just the first half, Kansas went for the jugular racking up a 20-point lead just 12 minutes in and built on it with first-half season-highs in both points (53) and field-goal percentage (69 percent). KU set season-bests by the end if the game including three-pointers made (15), field goal percentage (63 percent, 34-for-54) and three-point field goal percentage (63 percent, 15-for-24). For the sixth-straight game, Kansas shot over 50 percent while holding its opponent to under 40-percent shooting for the 10th time this year (21-for-60).
Eleven Jayhawks scored in the win, led by Releford's career-high five three-pointers to lead the all scorers with 19 points. Tharpe added a career-high 12 assists which made him the first Jayhawk to tally double-digit assists this season (of which Elijah Johnson has yet to accomplish). Ellis snagged 10 rebounds and scored 11 points for the first double-double of his career. Seniors Elijah Johnson and Jeff Withey chalked up 12 and 11 points, respectively. Like Tharpe, all of Johnson's points also came from three-point range as he tied a season-high with four three-pointers. Redshirt freshman guard Ben McLemore finished the game with nine points, his first single-digit effort since scoring nine in the season opener.
The Kansas lead peaked at 40 and hovered around 30 points at the players further down the depth chart saw action on the court.
It’s been the tale of two teams this season as the Jayhawks have taken on the persona of a confident lights out basketball team. No longer are they allowing lesser talented opponents to hang in the game with guts and determination only. Teams now face a Kansas team firing on all cylinders as Withey protects the rim, McLemore finds the bucket on offense and Tharpe and Johnson crank out assists. The only fear is that of a team peaking too early. Hopefully Bill Self finds a way to keep his team hungry for competition while blowing out teams by 30 or 40 points on a semi-consistent basis.
Once Big 12 play starts, all bets are off and it’s a new season. Hopefully Kansas can be the same team they have shown for the past 5 games.
Kansas will welcome Temple to Allen Fieldhouse on Sunday, January 6 at 3:30 P.M. (Central) on CBS to close out non-conference play. The Jayhawks, eight-time defending Big 12 Conference regular-season champions, will open league play when they host Iowa State on Wednesday, January 9, at 6 P.M. on ESPNU.