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November 5, 2012One final exhibition remains for No. 7 Kansas before the start of the regular season. Monday night Washburn makes the quick trip from nearby Topeka, Kan., to take on the Jayhawks.
In its first exhibition game, the Jayhawks were - in many ways - better than advertised against Emporia State. Freshmen stars Ben McLemore and Perry Ellis led the way for Kansas while senior guard Elijah Johnson quietly chipped in with double figures.
Aside from McLemore and Ellis, sophomore guard Naadir Tharpe stepped up, even starting the game over Johnson who was late to class, and played very well for the Jayhawks.
At the end of the day, its exhibition play against an outmatched team, but nonetheless, Kansas looked impressive. Defensively they will look to step it up as well as cut down on turnovers against Washburn, an area of great concern for Bill Self.
To the surprise of many, Kansas saw most of its production from underclass players last Tuesday against Emporia State.
While Elijah Johnson started on the bench, Naadir Tharpe looked completely comfortable on the floor, getting teammates into offensive sets and knocking down several shots during a 19-1 run in the first half to blow the game open.
KU started relatively slow, but with so many new players trying to perform against someone other than themselves in front of a packed house can bring on a level of nerves the majority of the roster has never dealt with.
With the full starting five not yet set and senior Kevin Young out with an injury, it's going to come down to whichever big man is practicing well.
Lately it has been red-shirt freshman Jamari Traylor. An athletic forward, Traylor is often compared to former forward Thomas Robinson because of his size and equally if not more impressive athletic ability.
Freshman Perry Ellis played significant minutes just as he is expected to throughout the year and is in the running for the likely final starting spot. Ellis was perfect from the floor and led all scorers with 15 points and hauled in seven boards.
Ellis isn't overly flashy, but highly effective and efficient.
In terms of the seniors, who are expected to lead the way for Kansas this season, Johnson looked completely satisfied with getting his teammates into the flow and not pushing hard to get his own points. Johnson knocked down several jumpers but more or less was looking for teammates to get involved.
Center Jeff Withey appeared to be a little rusty and struggled on the offensive end of the floor.
Self gave high praise to freshman Rio Adams, as well as Landen Lucas. Lucas seemed to always be around the ball and was a solid rebounder, while Adams played very well defensively and was a ball-hawk for the entirety of his minutes. Self said after the game that he hasn't had a player with on-ball defense like Adams since Jeff Hawkins.
His length and quickness makes him a threat on both ends, but on the defensive side against smaller point guards, Adams will have a big advantage.
In all it was a successful debut for Kansas and Self was able to see what he has with an incredibly deep roster. If the younger players can perform as they did against Emporia State, KU will be a much better team than most are already giving them credit for.
G - Elijah Johnson (Senior, 6-foot-4, 195 pounds)
G - Ben McLemore (Freshman, 6-foot-5, 195 pounds)
G - Travis Releford (Senior, 6-foot-6, 210 pounds)
F - Jamari Traylor (Freshman, 6-foot-8, 220 pounds)
C - Jeff Withey (Senior, 7-foot, 235 pounds)
Bench: Perry Ellis, Andrew White, Justin Wesley, Naadir Tharpe. Rio Adams
In its first two exhibition games, Washburn has shown flashes of being a very solid team. Both against Kansas State and Oklahoma, Washburn ended up with losses by double digits, but during stretches, competed with both Big 12 teams.
Senior guard Will McNeill led all scorers with 19 points and was a perfect 12-12 from the free-throw line. The game was tied midway through the first half before Oklahoma went on a run. The lead was cut to six later in the half after a 3-point play from forward Christian Ulsaker.
In the second half, Washburn again was able to cut the lead to six but during an 11-minute stretch, Oklahoma would extend the lead out to 21 and take complete control of the game.
Washburn would never get any closer than 15, but the fight and effort from the Ichabod's was quite impressive. With plenty of seniors and experience, Washburn should be able to compete with Kansas in the first half.
KU's size and depth will eventually become a problem, however, with so many young players and being fairly turnover-prone, Washburn can give KU problems with tough defense and hitting the glass hard on both ends as well as going after 50/50 balls.
Washburn had 23 turnovers of their own against the Sooners, and with Kansas trying to pressure defensively on the perimeter, turnovers will lead to quick and easy baskets for the Jayhawks, something Washburn cannot afford against a team with some much talent.
G - Martin Mitchell (Senior, 6-foot-0, 190 pounds)
G - Alex North (Junior, 6-foot-6, 215 pounds)
G - Will McNeill (Senior, 6-foot-1, 195 pounds)
F - Bobby Chipman (Senior, 6-foot-8, 220 pounds)
F - Zack Riggins (Senior, 6-foot-6, 225 pounds)
Bench: Joseph Smith, Christian Ulsaker, Jared Henry
The Edge: Kansas
The Jayhawks are once again too big, fast, and too deep. Washburn has looked impressive in stretches and it wouldn't be terribly surprising to see them hang with Kansas during the first half, but KU is excellent at getting turnovers and going on extended runs. Against Emporia State, who led for a period of time in the first half, Kansas used a 19-1 run to open the game up for good.
Look for Elijah Johnson and the other seniors to play a much better and more aggressive game than they did last week. Self would like to see Withey get going offensively as well as continue to see the other freshman big men step up once again.
KU - 87
Washburn - 60