The Kansas Jayhawks revealed some unsettling flaws in themselves earlier this month in Austin, when the Texas Longhorns gave them a consistent and thorough pounding. This evening’s rematch at The Phog was an entirely different story. Thanks to some inspired defensive work and the continued emergence of KU’s most highly touted member, the Jayhawks dominated UT for a 31-point victory.
The first face-off between these teams was defined by the interior play of Cameron Ridley, Jonathan Holmes and Joel Embiid. Texas’ combination of Ridley and Holmes stifled Embiid’s productivity, which we can now assume was also negatively impacted by nagging injuries. Embiid came roaring back in this game, with nine points, six rebounds and five blocks in the first half alone. At the 6:33 mark of the first half, Ridley and Holmes (who underwent knee surgery on the 9th) both had two fouls, and Ridley had yet to score.
Not only did Embiid prove to be more effective, the entire team exhibited remarkable improvement with their half-court defense. During a fifteen-minute window in the first half, KU outscored Texas 39-8. This came in large part to smooth defensive rotations and a much more tenacious defensive effort overall.
Of course, the impressive start the the game by Andrew Wiggins is what gave the Jayhawks the definite edge on Texas from the very start. With some imposing defense and prolific scoring ability, Wiggins is finally emerging as the player all KU fans want to see. At the 8:16 mark in the first half, Wiggins already had 15 points on 5-6 shooting.
Most critics of KU would agree that defense and inconsistency from their freshman will be what eventually knocks them out of the tournament in March. Now that they’re showing the capability to play intimidating defense, and their most prolific scorer is taking the reigns offensively to make the offense more consistent, KU has given the country reason to fear them yet again.
We’re looking at a team that’s inexperienced enough to lose in the second or third round of the tournament, yet talented enough to win the whole thing.