It was a tale of two halves for Kansas and East Tennessee State on Tuesday night. Kansas dominated the first half and stretched its lead to as high as 18 points before ending the half with a 43-31 led. The second half saw ETSU start hitting from behind the arc to cut the Kansas lead down to five points on its way to a 32-32 second half tie. The Jayhawks held on though for a 75-63 win.
ETSU was at a huge disadvantage inside. They struggled with Udoka Azubuike all night and Kansas did a good job finding him near the basket for easy points.
Junior guard Bo Hodges scored 22 points for the Buccaneers on 8-for-14 shooting to go with seven rebounds, two assists and three blocks. Hodges’ weakness was turnovers. He had five turnovers in this game.
This game will likely help Kansas come tournament seeding time. ETSU has a good chance of making the tournament themselves. By playing a game like this instead of a team they beat by halftime, Kansas gains a little experience being in a close game late. Kansas is playing yet another good non-conference schedule this season.
Three point shooting is going to keep Kansas from winning a national championship this season. You have to be able to hit from behind the arc to win a championship these days and Kansas just doesn’t have the firepower. Add to that the turnovers and Kansas doesn’t look like a team that can cut down the nets in April. The number of turnovers for Kansas would be tough enough to overcome if Kansas could make a lot of three point shots. The fact that the three point shot is not currently in its game is a big limiting factor for the Jayhawks.
Player of the Game
C Udoka Azubuike was really good passing the ball in this game. There was one high low play early in the game when F David McCormack threw a high-low pass down to Azubuike. McCormack cut to the basket and received a pass back from Azubuike for what should have been an easy basket. Unfortunately McCormack didn’t go up strong and missed an easy opportunity. Later after receiving a pass from Ochai Agbaji, Azubuike passed to McCormack cutting to the basket again but this time McCormack dunked the ball.
In addition to passing, Azubuike was terrific getting space down low and presenting himself for passes and his teammates were finding him. When he received three ball down low Azubuike was making ETSU pay for it. ETSU was not able to stop Udoka as he muscled his way to the basket for easy points.
G Devon Dotson scored 19 points on 6-for-12 shooting but was just 1-for-5 from behind the arc. Dotson had six assists but turned the ball over four times.
F Silvio DeSousa saw limited playing time in this game but was good when he was on the court. DeSousa scored eight points on 4-for-4 shooting with three blocks but he had just one rebound.
G Tristan Enaruna might be on this list in almost every game this season. This freshman is fun to watch. He scored just four points on 2-for-3 shooting but also had four rebounds, four assists and four steals to go with just one turnover. He is patient and smooth on the court. Enaruna loves going to his left which will cause trouble for some defenders. When he attacks the basket Enaruna has a long reach which is difficult to stop.
Room for Improvement
Kansas’ defense struggled in the second half almost as much as it was successful in the first half. On the night, ETSU shot just 38% from the field including 30% from behind the arc so the Kansas defense wasn’t bad. In the first half, Kansas forced ETSU to run its offense a lot further away from the basket than they would like. ETSU was much more comfortable in the second half though and hit several three point shots because of it.
Kansas travels to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational starting Monday. The Jayhawks start the tournament with an 8pm game against the host team Chaminade.