As the non-conference portion of the Kansas basketball schedule draws closer to an end, there’s little doubt that one of the most dangerous teams this season will be the Jayhawks.
Already playing at a high level, the fact that they can and will most likely improve more and more has to send a message to the nation. On Saturday night, Kansas was at it again, drubbing American University 89-57 behind 15 three pointers, which was one shy of a school record.
Adding to the team’s overall improvement was a stellar performance by sophomore guard Naadir Tharpe, who dished out 12 assists and chipped in nine points and four rebounds off the bench. Tharpe’s emergence of late could be a game changer, as the Jayhawks continue to grow.
“He helps us,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “There’s no drop off when we go to the bench, at least there hasn’t been the last three or four weeks with Naadir. He’s getting better and he’s getting more comfortable and aggressive defensively.”
Tharpe has been one of the many reason, the Jayhawks are thundering along at 11-1, as the new year approaches.
“Ever since our team started playing well, you could look back and say he’s a big reason why,” Self said.
Another reason is senior forward Travis Releford, who was one of four Kansas players in double figures, scoring 19 points, while hitting five triples and shooting seven of eight from the field.
“Coach told me I need to shoot the ball more and my teammates have stayed on me too,” Releford said.
Fellow seniors Elijah Johnson and Jeff Withey added 12 and 11 points respectively, while freshman forward Perry Ellis enjoyed his best game of his young career, notching 11 points and 10 rebounds.
“He was aggressive, he went after the ball, I thought he looked more comfortable than he’s looked,” Self said.
After a slow start, the Jayhawks ran away from the Eagles (4-9) and never looked back, scoring season high 53 points in the first half in building a 53-26 halftime lead.
In the second half, Kansas built as much as a 40-point lead, as self emptied the bench late.
After waiting seven days for Saturday’s game, the Jayhawks will have to wait eight more days before hosting Temple, next Sunday afternoon in Allen Fieldhouse. The game with the Owls, will complete the non-conference portion of the schedule.