Inside the numbers
Coach Williams' comments
|KUís 77-43 victory over Southwest Missouri State was over before the teams even stepped on the court. The SMSU players knew it; the fans knew it; and the Jayhawk players knew it. The game itself was not very exciting to watch, particularly in the first half. I caught myself watching SMSUís Mike Wallace more than anything. He pumped in 20 of SMSUís 30 first half points. He pounded the offensive glass and KU didnít find an answer for him until Drew Gooden shut him down (only 4 points) in the second half.
As I mentioned, it was a pretty "blah" college basketball game, but I still walked away with a few thoughts and observations.
Here we go:
(Disclaimer: If you are tired of people talking about Eric Chenowith, skip the first bullet point. You have been fairly warnedÖÖ.)
- I hate to do it again, but Iíve got to look at the big man first. Eric Chenowith started this game on the bench. I was very surprised to see this, as I did not think Coach Williams would take Eric out of the starting lineup and risk shattering his increasingly fragile confidence. For now, I suppose we can chalk it up to Coach Williams mixing the lineup a little bit, but I canít help but wonder if Coach Williams was sending Eric a message after last weekís disappearing act against Ohio State. If you look at Ericís statistics alone, you would think he had a solid game (9 pts, 11 rebs, 3 blks in 23 minutes). Unfortunately, the statistics donít really tell the whole story. Unquestionably, Eric has been doing a solid job on the glass and also has been playing very good defense. On the offensive end, however, Eric struggled. And this time it canít be attributed to Eric playing against a "quality big man", as Eric was 5 to 6 inches taller than any SMSU player. Eric scored one point in the first half and missed several short shots around the basket, including one or two of those patented turnaround fadeaway jumpers that routinely seem to miss the mark. At one point in the first half, Eric missed 8 consecutive shots. Eric rarely established good low post position and was routinely pushed around by the smaller SMSU players. Many of the fans in Kemper Arena were voicing their frustration as Eric missed short shot after short shot. Even more pathetically, when Eric hit a few shots in the second half, the fans mockingly "over-cheered" for Eric. "I just wasn't making shots, that's all," said Chenowith, who made four of his last five shots against SMSU. "When I came in, I focused on rebounds, rebounds, rebounds. We've got plenty of guys who can score. I wanted to keep my intensity and to keep rebounding."
Uh, Eric, have you checked the box score lately? Focusing on rebounds? You were 4 of 13 from the field. Your 13 shots were the most by any Jayhawk player and were the second most shots taken by any player in the game. "Rebounds" certainly didnít seem to be your primary focus. Coach Williams said after the game that he may go back to starting Eric instead of Nick Collison. Why?
I know some of you may think I am being too hard on Eric and I certainly respect your right to your opinion. That being said, I am extending an open invitation for Eric to: (A) Silence his critics and start performing more consistently on the offensive end, or; (B) Start limiting his number of shots when his shots arenít falling. Either way, keep playing good defense and keep rebounding, Eric.
- Nick Collison: Nick put together another excellent game (17 pts on 8 of 11 shooting, 4 rebs, 4 assists, 3 blocks in 25 minutes of play). More impressive is that Nick had only 2 fouls and 1 turnover. Nick is coming into his own on the court and looks completely comfortable with his game, using all of his skills to consistently put up solid numbers. It is clear, in my opinion, that Nick should be starting. Now that Coach Williams took the bold move to bench Eric, he should stick with it. If he decides to bring Eric back into the starting rotation, then Nick should start over Drew, not necessarily because he is a better player, but because Drew is effective regardless if he starts or comes off the bench. Iím not so sure the same can be said of Nick. "I play a little better starting," said Collison, who actually did most of his damage in the second half when he scored 11 points. "I get real fired up to play, and I don't like to sit there for a while before I get in." Nick has downplayed the importance of starting and has said that he will do whatever Coach Williams thinks is best for the team, which shows even more what a top notch kid Nick is. The bottom line is that Nick should be starting to maximize his effectiveness.
- Kenny Gregory had a solid game (13 pts on 5 of 7 shooting, 5 rebs, 3 assists in 24 minutes). All of Kennyís points came in the first half and it was somewhat disconcerting to see him disappear from the offense in the second half. Iím not going to worry about it too much. Tonightís game was a glorified practice and everyone got involved in the scoring.
- Luke Axtell (9 pts, 6 rebs, in 19 minutes) put on a brief 3-pt shooting display in the first half, canning his first three attempts for a quick 9 points. Make no mistake about it: Luke certainly plays the role of Mr. Offense well and can turn the momentum of a game with a few quick 3ís. Early in the season, I wrote about how Luke was showing a more all-around game after being solely a 3-pt threat last year. Well, ever since coming back from his injury, it is looking more and more like Luke is falling back into the role of being solely a 3pt shooter. I do realize that he had 6 rebounds and I think he has been playing well. Iím just hoping he starts looking to bring some more variety to his offensive repertoire. For a guy that is 6í10", you rarely see him try to take his defender down low. In addition, you rarely see him try to create a shot for himself off the dribble. I think heís got the ability to do a lot more offensively than weíve seen. I have to wonder if Coach Williamsí insistence on taking smart shots has made Luke, and others, more tentative than they need to be.
- Drew Gooden played another solid game (10 pts, 10 rebs, 4 assists, in 23 minutes). Drew only turned the ball over 2 times, which was good to see. I really liked seeing Drew and Nick on the court together. I got the feeling that they are very comfortable with each otherís games and work really well together. They certainly have a chemistry down low that I donít sense is there when Eric is on the court with one of them.
- Jeff Boschee (7 pts on 2 of 7 shooting, 3 rebs, 2 assists, in 27 minutes) continues to play very good defense, which is why he continues to get so much playing time. He also continues to struggle offensively, though he did hit two 3-ptrs tonight. He was quoted after the game saying hitting those two shots will hopefully help his offensive confidence. Letís hope so because itís been very difficult watching him miss three after three. He needs to get out of this shooting funk and he seems to know that about 98% of his problem is confidence. Hopefully heíll find his stroke in time for the conference season because weíll need it.
- Kirk Hinrich (6 pts on 3 of 7 shooting, 4 rebs, 8 assists, 2 steals in 30 minutes) played a solid game. Kirk was 0 for 2 from 3-point range and I almost had to do a double-take on both occasions because it is so rare to see Kirk miss from 3-pt land. Regardless, Kirk played a solid, dutiful point guard kinda game and I like watching him lead this team.
- The Jayhawks played great team defense tonight, holding SMSU to 13 points in the second half on 6 of 30 shooting. In short, the Jayhawks dominated this game defensively and did a great job of helping each other out. In addition, KU refreshingly kept their turnovers down (11). Iím not going to get too excited about the defense or the fewer turnovers, however, because the bottom line is that SMSU just isnít a very good team and provided little competition.
- Iím glad the conference season is upon us. We are going to see some really competitive games in the Big XII this season and I donít think this KU team will be able to take any opponent lightly. The Jayhawks are going to have to be ready to play night in and night out. If this team can stay healthy, they should win the conference, though there is going to be some stiff competition for the title. Unfortunately, I think the stiffest competition will be coming from our "buddies" in Columbia. Itís gonna be funÖÖ.