Failure to Launch: No. 16 Kansas Disarms Toledo, 93-83
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Needing a response to a 7-0 Toledo run, junior point guard Naadir Tharpe was happy to oblige, pulling up for a pair of threes to put some distance between his Jayhawks and the Rockets during a career-high performance that drove No. 16/17 Kansas past Toledo, 93-83, Monday night inside Allen Fieldhouse.
One of eight remaining unbeaten teams entering Monday’s matchup, Toledo (12-1) never stopped fighting during the last Kansas (9-3) basketball game of 2013. Powered by nine three-pointers as a team, Toledo racked up the most points (83) and the highest field goal percentage (46.4) by an opponent in the Fieldhouse this season – but couldn’t match the Jayhawks.
Tharpe led a trio of 20-point scorers on Monday, the first such Kansas occurrence of the season. The junior point guard missed only once from the floor as he tallied a career-high 20 points, using a personal-best four three-pointers. Tharpe also led the floor with eight assists, matching up well against Toledo’s Julius Brown, who entered Monday’s contest ranked fifth in the country in assists. Brown ended his night with nine points and five assists.
Freshman guard Andrew Wiggins picked up his 11th double-digit output of the year before the end of the first half en route to 20 points of his own, while the Jayhawk big men shined to match their guards. Sophomore forward Perry Ellis led all scorers 21 points and grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds for his second career double-double, while freshman center Joel Embiid chalked up his second, as well, putting up 14 points to match his 10 boards. No Rocket collected more than five rebounds on a night that saw Kansas handily tilt the rebounding scale, 44-28.
Four Rockets contributed double-figures in the scoring column, led by Nathan Boothe’s 15 points before the sophomore center fouled out in the final moments of the game. Toledo’s leading scorer, senior guard Rian Pearson, put up 10 points in the loss, just one shy of his season low.
Both hovered around the 50 percent shooting mark at halftime, but Kansas took off in the final frame, shooting nearly 67 percent (18-for-27) in the last 20 minutes. The heated offense not only offset a battling Toledo team, but also a lopsided turnover margin. The Rockets forced 18 KU turnovers on Monday, committing just eight of their own all night.
Two turnovers in 35 seconds forced head coach Bill Self’s hand, calling the quickest timeout of the season as KU fell behind 5-0 within the first minute of the evening. The lead was brief as Embiid and Wiggins evened the score, establishing what would be a fast-paced start to the opening frame. The Rockets hit the first three three-pointers they launched, getting the visitors out to a 75 percent shooting mark directly out of the first media timeout.
Increased pressure saw the Rockets’ hot hand cool by the second media break, missing three-straight shots and a pair of free throws, to open up a window for the Jayhawks to take the lead. Eight minutes into the game only three players on each side had scored – and Wiggins led them all with eight points after making good on a three-point play to give KU the slight upper hand, 17-15.
While Toledo ignited for a 7-0 rally in retaliation, Tharpe did them one better. KU’s floor general lit up for eight-straight points, including two from beyond the arc to put the Jayhawks back in front. There they stayed, thanks to a jumper from Ellis and a three-pointer from the corner off the hands of freshman guard Wayne Selden, Jr.
With a minute and a half on the clock, freshman guard Frank Mason converted a steal on Toledo’s end to a layup on the other. When sophomore forward Jamari Traylor rejected the Rockets’ final shot under the basket, the Jayhawks took a 43-36 lead into the break.
Leaving themselves in position to break the game open, Kansas immediately went to work on doing so in the second half. As Toledo made just one of its first six shots, the Jayhawks nailed five of their first seven – including consecutive treys from KU’s scoring leaders in Wiggins and Ellis – powering Kansas to its largest lead of the night, 54-40.
Although five-straight points from Matt Smith followed a layup from Boothe to cut KU’s lead down to seven, Tharpe put an end to the rally right away. His back-to-back threes sparked an 11-2 response and KU’s largest lead of the night continued to increase, 68-52.
With an undefeated streak on the line, Toledo refused to accept the deficit. A solid 70 percent mark from three-point land helped Toledo keep the home team in check as Pearson landed the Rockets’ seventh of the night to whittle KU’s lead back to single digits, 79-70, with 6:42 to play. When Ellis connected on another layup, Brown connected on another three.
Though the effort was valiant, it wasn’t enough. Tharpe turned Ellis’ offensive rebound into a layup to push the lead back to double-digits. Fifteen seconds later, Mason and Wiggins put the exclamation mark on the evening with a textbook alley-dunk as KU closed out the double-digit victory.
Kansas will close out non-conference play when San Diego State comes to Allen Fieldhouse on Jan. 5. That game will be televised on CBS at 3:30 p.m. The Jayhawks then open Big 12 Conference play on Jan. 8 at Oklahoma. Tip time is set for 6 p.m. and will air on ESPN2.
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KU STARTERS (Season/Career Starts): Jr. Naadir Tharpe (8/8), Fr. Wayne Selden, Jr. (12/12), Fr. Andrew Wiggins (12/12), So. Perry Ellis (12/15), Fr. Joel Embiid (4/4)
SERIES INFO: Kansas leads 2-0
- Improved KU to 9-3 on the season
- Made the Kansas-Toledo series 2-0 in favor of KU
- Gave KU its 29th and final victory of the 2013 calendar year
- Gave Kansas its 68th-consecutive win against non-conference opponents in Allen Fieldhouse
- Made Kansas 5-0 in Allen Fieldhouse this season, 704-108 all-time and 166-8 under Bill Self
- Made Bill Self 309-62 while at Kansas and 516-167 overall
- Made KU 2,110-815 all-time
- The Jayhawks saw three players with 20 or more points for the first time since Dec. 4, 2002, when four Jayhawks posted 20-point outings. Keith Langford (23), Nick Collison (22), Wayne Simien (22) and Aaron Miles (20) accomplished the feat against Central Missouri State.
- After Toledo began the game hitting a scorching 75 percent (6-of-8) clip from field over the first 5:37, the Jayhawk defense held the Rockets to just 9-for-23 (39 percent) over the next 14:23 of the first half.
- Kansas out-rebounded its opponent for the 11th time this year, pulling down 44 rebounds to Toledo’s 28.
- KU’s 93 points was its second-highest point total of the year (94 vs. Duke, Nov. 12).
- Kansas shot 56.3 percent (36-of-64), marking the eighth time the Jayhawks have converted on the majority of its shots, including four of its last five contests.
- KU’s 50 percent (7-of-14) clip from behind the three-point arc was a season high.
- Kansas is shooting 41 percent (25-of-61) from three-point range in its last four games after hitting just 29.8 (36-of-121) percent in its first eight games of the year.
- The Jayhawks posted six blocks, marking the sixth time this year KU has tallied six or more blocks in a game.
- Kansas’ 66.7 percent shooting from the field in the second half marked its second-most accurate half of the year after KU connected on 69.2 percent of its shots in the first half versus Towson (Nov. 22).
- The KU bench was outscored for just the second time this year, by the largest margin of the season, 23-10.
- Kansas posted a season-high 54 points in the paint and is now averaging 39.7 points.
- Toledo’s 83 points were the most Kansas has surrendered in a non-conference home game since defeating Sienna on Jan. 6, 2009 by a score of 91-84. That came just three days after giving up 85 points to Tennessee in a 92-85 Jayhawks’ victory.
- Toledo set KU opponent season-highs for: field goals (32), field goal attempts (69), three-point field goal percentage (56.3) and tied season-highs for assists (15) and steals (10).
- Junior G Naadir Tharpe posted a career-high 20 points with the help of his 4-for-5 clip from behind the three-point line, which were also most of his career and the tied for the most by a Jayhawk this season.
- Tharpe’s 80 percent (4-of-5) from three-point land is highest percentage by a Jayhawk this year (minimum 3 made).
- Sophomore F Perry Ellis posted his second-career double-double and the first of the season with 21 points and a career-high 11 rebounds. His first career double-double occurred one year and one day ago (vs. American, 12/29/12).
- Ellis led the Jayhawks in scoring for the fifth time this season, tying freshman G Andrew Wiggins for the team lead.
- Freshman C Joel Embiid tallied his second-career double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
- Embiid pulled in a career-best six offensive rebounds, the most by a Jayhawk this season.
- Embiid also recorded three rejections on the night, the sixth time he has amassed three or more blocks.
- Ellis and Embiid’s double-doubles marked the first team two Jayhawks have recorded double-doubles in the same game since Elijah Johnson and Jeff Withey teamed up against West Virginia on March 2, 2013.
- Wiggins hit the 20-point mark for the fourth time this year and converted on at least 50 percent of his shots from the field for the fifth time this season.
- Wiggins saw his fifth perfect night from the charity stripe (5-for-5) and has converted on 22 of his last 23 free throw attempts.
- Freshman G Frank Mason dished a career-high seven assists and is now boasting a 12:2 assist-to-turnover ratio over his last three outings.
Kansas Head Coach Bill Self
“They’re good. I think we helped them a lot obviously with our poor ball handling. We had a chance to crack them several times and didn’t do it. They shot the ball well, they had some guys that hadn’t been making shots step up and make some shots tonight. They’re good and we never had total control of the game. It was probably good for us to play a game we had to execute a couple of possessions late, but obviously teams that play here shouldn’t give up 83 [points] at home and certainly give up 83 at home when you only give up 10 free throws. You could give up 83 if it’s a free throw fest, but at a time when you only give up 10 free throws that was obviously as poor of defense as a team can play, collectively, I believe.”
On the team’s play against Toledo:
“Well, they gave two of Naadir’s turnovers to Wayne [Selden] so I was obviously very frustrated with him, probably as frustrated as I’ve been with a kid to start a game that I can remember, just not ready to play in my opinion. Then he actually came in and made some shots so he showed some toughness coming back and making some shots. When you have to make shots at home to win, it’s not a good sign, and that’s what I keep telling our guys. We had to shoot 67 percent in the second half to make sure we won the game and that’s a bad, bad sign. That’s a formula for disaster. We’ve had some other teams that didn’t guard certain nights and rely on their offense, but for a team that has struggled on the defensive end all year long because of lack of juice or whatever, to come out here at home and force four steals and eight turnovers playing at home. I’ll bet you could go back to a non-conference bye game to 1990 something like that before you could ever have statistics like that.”
On Toledo managing to come back late in the game:
“They did [hit shots] and sometimes you play good defense and the other team makes shots, but we dominated the glass. We just did a great job on the glass and then obviously there late 25 [Jordan Lauf] beat us and their guards beat us on some boards. We blocked the shot and nobody else goes after the ball so we have to improve in some areas like that. The biggest thing; you scored 93 points you should win that game by a bunch of points and we don’t ever give up 70 at home let alone 83 especially when the other team only makes 10 free throws, that’s unacceptable.”
On the match-up against San Diego State Sunday:
“That’s going to be a little different because they’re good and it won’t be a game where we have to outscore them. That will be a game where we better be as tough as them because they arguably could be the best defensive team in the country. They’ll make it really hard for us to score so we have to be really tough defensively. I do think that we can play a lot better defensively and be more competitive. I think that they’re good and of course this non-conference schedule certainly should have us ready for league play because our first five league games. You can’t even basically take a breath almost. It was good that we were tested tonight, just disappointed we can’t force any havoc defensively at home though.”
Kansas sophomore forward Perry Ellis
On returning from his injury:
“The break was a good recovery. I got to be at home and really got to recover a little bit. I’m just glad to be back and play tonight.”
On playing well coming off the injury:
“I definitely tried to come back and work hard in practice. I know if you work hard in practice good things will happen, so I tried to do that.”
On what message Coach Self had for the team after the game:
“We still have a lot to learn defensively. As a group, we still have to work on a lot of things defensively and we still have a lot to get better at.”
On what the key is for the team’s defense:
“Just aggressiveness. Aggressiveness, to think and not really want your man to score. I think if we get that mentality, we will be so much better.”
Kansas junior guard Naadir Tharpe
On the message from the early timeout:
“(Coach) wanted me to pick it up. I let my man score too easy. He hit two shots right away and it got them going a little bit. He just had to let me know that what I was doing wasn’t good enough.”
On if this was the best game he has played at KU:
“I wouldn’t say it’s my all-around best game, because I still had a couple mishaps on the defensive end, because they scored a lot of points. I shot the ball pretty well. I guess this is one of my best shooting games I’ve had here. I still had five turnovers, so I have to do better on that, but I thought I played good and I thought my team helped me out. They encouraged me to keep on shooting and to stay aggressive.”
On his improved shooting over the last several games:
“I just try to stay aggressive and shoot the ball. I’m going to miss shots, but I feel like I can shoot the ball well and I feel like the next shot I shoot is going to go in. If I keep that mentality and my teammates keep on encouraging me, as well as the coaching staff, I’m going to be able to keep on shooting this well.”
Kansas freshman guard Andrew Wiggins
On if it helps the young players when Naadir Tharpe plays well:
“It is very easy. He shows leadership and gets everyone easy shots and makes the game easy.”
On if he is getting more comfortable offensively:
“Yeah, I am getting used to how we are supposed to play. The game is slowing down to me. I’ve picked it up quickly and it seems easier than it did at first.”
On his defensive effort:
“Yeah (I felt I played my man well), especially with the out-of-bounds plays, where they were running picks for him and trying to get him the ball. I had to stay alert, because he is a good post player; he can shoot the ball, dribble it well, so I had to stay alert and stick to him the whole time.”
On Joel Embiid’s play:
“Even when you think he’s not playing good, he’s playing good. He affects the game in so many different ways it’s unbelievable.”
On his three-point shot:
“I think I’m a pretty good shooter. I’ve been trying to take a lot of shots, take open shots, shots I can make to stretch the floor.”
Toledo Head Coach Tod Kowalczyk
On his team’s approach against Kansas:
“Our team has a lot of pride and self-confidence and I’m happy with our offense’s approach to Kansas’ defense. We came in confident. Our problems weren’t offensive; they were inside defense. We did what we could against their height. I think game plan-wise we played them the right way, no regrets.”
On playing in Allen Fieldhouse:
“Two reasons why I wanted us to play here: one, so Rian Pearson could come back home (Raytown, Mo., native) and two, so our guys could experience the best atmosphere in college basketball. Our young guys weren’t shaken by the atmosphere and I think we will go home better after this game.”
On Toledo’s youth:
“We have a young team, only one senior starts and another one comes off the bench. I think our three freshmen were really good off the bench tonight. Nathan Boothe, our sophomore center, had a great game tonight. We just had a hard time covering their length.”
Toledo Junior Guard Justin Drummond
On the hype surrounding the atmosphere of Allen Fieldhouse:
“I think we were pretty stuck on playing Toledo basketball. Our guys are very poised; tonight we just didn’t get the win. I think we played great if you ask me. We just need to learn and get better with league play starting up and we want to start that strong.”
On falling behind in the second half:
“You just have to keep battling back, even though that’s kind of hard in the second half. We’re a great second half team; we just got outplayed and the length really hurt us in the end. We tried to come back, but they got a couple offensive rebounds, a couple and-one’s, and (then) a couple tip-outs just hurt us.”
Toledo Senior Guard Rian Pearson
On the effort the team gave:
“I thought we played very hard. Like Justin (Drummond) said, we’ve never played a team that big with length. We had to adjust during the game so that was pretty tough, but I think our guys fought hard and we are going to learn from this game. We can’t do anything but get better.”
On Kansas’s play in the paint:
“The seven-footer inside (Joel Embiid) and Perry Ellis, we knew they were going to attack us inside. They’re very good.”
On how they would rank Kansas’ offense:
“Our strategy was to limit their transition, (Andrew) Wiggins and Naadir (Tharpe) are pretty good in transition so we tried to pack it in on defense. I thought we did a pretty good job on defense.”
His impression of Andrew Wiggins after guarding him:
“He’s athletic. I was trying to play off of him a little bit and make him shoot the three-pointer so he could not use his length or get the first step on me to drive. I thought I did a pretty good job on him.”
On the excitement of playing Kansas:
“We were very excited to come here 12-0 into Allen Fieldhouse. My house is 45 minutes from here so I was very excited. The players were excited for me and I was excited for them.”