Aaron Bowen

Kansas’ second-half surge against Georgetown shows how good they can be

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Later in the season we’ll all surely have a laugh about how Kansas was once the No. 18 team in the country. This Jayhawks team is far too talented for that ranking and showed how good they can be during a monster second-half surge in its 86-64 win over Georgetown on Saturday afternoon.

The Jayhawks played well in the first half and showed how great their defense can be, as they held Georgetown to without a field goal for over 10 minutes, but in the second half, the Jayhawks completely dominated every facet of the game on their way to the easy home victory.

Although Andrew Wiggins (12 points, 3-10 from the field) didn’t have a great game on the offensive end, others stepped up in his place, led by freshman big man Joel Embiid and reserve big Tarik Black. Embiid went for 17 points and eight rebounds while Black, the senior Memphis transfer, hadn’t scored in four straight games before unleashing his best game as a Jayhawk on Saturday, going for 17 points, six rebounds and two blocks.

With Perry Ellis leaving the game in the first half after taking an elbow to the head, Embiid, Black and Jamari Traylor (eight points, seven rebounds) all stepped up and played very well on the interior for Kansas and the three combined to go 12-for-12 from the field on Saturday as they made life for Georgetown’s bigs miserable.

Georgetown big men Joshua Smith, Nate Lubick and Moses Ayegba all fouled out during the game and none of them were particularly productive, in-part because of the depth and athleticism that Kansas has on the interior. Even without Ellis in the second half, the Jayhawks had tremendous production from Embiid, Black and Traylor and even got some minutes for freshman Landen Lucas late in the first half, as he registered two points, two rebounds and a block in limited minutes. It just shows how deep Kansas is on the interior going forward and it should help them protect the rim and rebound against any opponent in the country.

Credit is also due to Kansas’ perimeter defense. Wiggins might not have had a stellar offensive afternoon, but he did a nice job on the defensive end making it tough for D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (12 points, 4-9 shooting) while Naadir Tharpe (10 points, four assists) had a solid afternoon on both ends of the floor.

In the second half in particular, with Georgetown’s bigs struggling with foul trouble, Wiggins, Tharpe and company really buckled down on the defensive end by putting pressure on the ball and making it very difficult for Georgetown to feel any comfort running half-court sets.

The Hoyas are going to need to figure out how to play with Joshua Smith against a team as big and athletic as Kansas going forward, because Smith was a complete non-factor. The Jayhawk bigs did pretty much whatever they wanted on the interior when Smith was in the game, as Smith had only five points and zero rebounds during a tough afternoon in which he couldn’t defend anybody without fouling. Georgetown needed either Lubick or Smith to step up and ease the burden on Smith-Rivera, Jabril Trawick and Markel Starks (19 points) and they’ll need more production out of their frontcourt as Big East play nears.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.