Kansas' Bench Highlights Impressive Victory
Feb. 8, 2011
LAWRENCE, Kan. –
In order for a team to make a serious run at the NCAA Final Four and the National Championship, it is essential to get contributions from players off the bench. That may seem like an obvious statement, but in Kansas’ 103-86 victory over Missouri on Monday, the team showed just how valuable bench contributions can be. In a game where freshman guard Josh Selby was injured, there was a lot of talk about who would get his minutes. Fortunately for the Jayhawks, the team had its best all-around performance of the season.
There were many standouts in Monday’s win as the team shot nearly 61 percent and five players scored in double figures. Of all the great contributions, perhaps none was more impressive than Mario Little’s. Little, a redshirt senior from Chicago, took charge scoring a career-high 17 points after going 7-for-9 from the field, including 3-for-3 from beyond the arc.
“I just made shots early,” Little said. “I actually came in and shot before the game, so I felt good when I was shooting. After the first one went down, I felt comfortable. I just try to play my game and bring something to the table every night.”
Little has shown he is capable of putting up points in the past. He scored in double figures against Texas A&M Corpus Christi and Baylor earlier this season. Monday’s game, however, was a bigger stage and a bigger game and Little was determined to make a statement.
“It’s always a good atmosphere and you want to get up and play your best against a rival like Missouri,” Little said. “It’s great to have that energy and feed off the crowd’s energy.”
“I’ve been talking with Coach Dooley and he told me to stop rushing things, don’t try to hurry up and score,” Little added. “I was in the game for a while and I think I had a couple of rebounds. After that I felt like I had been in long enough for me to put up a shot. I think Marcus (Morris) passed the ball to me and it went in. Next, Tyshawn (Taylor) gave me the ball and I hit a three and then I realized I was feeling good and I tried to be more aggressive.”
Little was not the only player to step his game up in the Border Showdown. Sophomore Travis Releford connected on four of five shots en route to 10 points. Morris believes that solid bench contributions like the one on Monday will only make the team that much tougher to beat.
“It makes us a lot better,” Morris said. “When you’ve got guys that come off the bench and do what our guys did tonight, it makes us one of the deepest teams in the country.”
Selby figures to be back for Saturday’s game against Iowa State. With him back in the starting lineup, Kansas fans can only hope that guys like Little and Releford can continue their great play off the bench. If they continue to produce, a trip to Houston may be in the near future.