It was just a basket, two of Kansas 92 points in the Jayhawks home victory over Baylor last season. And it came early, a few minutes into the game.
By BLAIR KERKHOFF
The Kansas City Star
But in a season of defining triumphs and moments, Thomas Robinsons soaring, one-handed snag of Tyshawn Taylors lob and authoritative slam that brought down the house stood for something more.
Kansas full finesse and power qualities that drove the Jayhawks to the national championship game were displayed in this snapshot. The Jayhawks went into that game against an undefeated Bears team still somewhat unsure of their potential.
Kind of like this Kansas team heading into Monday nights home game against Baylor.
Momentum built from a December highlighted by a lopsided victory over Colorado and conquest at Ohio State has given way to some uneasiness in three January games.
This being Kansas, concern is relative. The Jayhawks take a 14-1 record and probably a top-five ranking when the latest polls are unveiled Monday night. There are 347 teams in Division I basketball, and about 344 of them would love to deal with Kansas problems.
But any perceived crack in the foundation goes under microscope. And so it is with a KU team that trailed Temple with about 4½ minutes remaining, needed a banked three-pointer from Ben McLemore to send Iowa State into overtime both games at Allen Fieldhouse and went without a field goal for more than 9 first-half minutes at lowly Texas Tech on Saturday.
I think all three games have been different, but it does seem like weve gone downhill offensively lately, KU coach Bill Self said. We were on such a roll for about a month, but its caught up with us.
Zeroing in on a few specifics, point guards Elijah Johnson and Naadir Tharpe, who combine to shoot about 38 percent on threes this season, are a shade over 30 percent the last three games.
Center Jeff Withey is attracting defenses, which are daring Kevin Young and others who play power forward to show some offensive game.
Weve been made to play four on five sometimes because theyll put a second guy in Jeffs lap, Self said.
Young responded nicely on Saturday with 14 points, but the Jayhawks got nothing on the offensive end from Jamari Traylor and Perry Ellis, who rotate in the front court, and thats perhaps the teams most disturbing offensive trend.
Since Ellis recorded a double-double against American on Dec. 29, he doesnt have a field goal (zero for nine). Traylor has one basket in four attempts in the last three games. With Tharpe not shooting well and the big reserves not scoring, Kansas is getting scant production from the bench.
But theres something else, something the numbers dont convey. Last years Jayhawks played with bravado and an edge some opponents would suggest nastiness that this team hasnt developed.
I ran that idea by Self, and he didnt disagree.
Theres nobody out there who says, This is my show, Self said.
Except once last week, when McLemore took over against Iowa State with 33 points, and Kansas needed every one of them to subdue the Cyclones. Self hasnt had a player with McLemores skill set, and when the Jayhawks are on top of their game offensively, its as creative and fluid as any under Self.
What it appears to be missing, or at least since the calendar turned, is that edge, the stuff that was bubbling under the surface around this time a year ago and presented itself in one moment, against the same team that visits Lawrence tonight that looks plenty like last years.
Again, Baylor is long and athletic. Its lost four games and is unranked, but with veteran guards, led by point Pierre Jackson and future pro big man Isaiah Austin, talent is abundant.
Last years victory over Baylor in Lawrence changed the way people viewed Kansas and the way the Jayhawks looked at themselves.
At that point, we didnt know if we were any good, Self said. It was different after that.
And defined by one play.
To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/BlairKerkhoff