Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Davidson plays perfect down the stretch, knocks off Kansas

Davidson finally got their revenge.

Three and a half years after the Wildcats came with a Jason Richards brick of making the Final Four, the Wildcats made a visit to the Sprint Center in Kansas City and knocked off No. 11 Kansas 80-74. Nik Cochran had 21 points (on 5-6 shooting) for Davidson, a number that included four threes, all of which came in the second half and quelled a Jayhawk surge. Cochran's hit his final three with 1:36 left in the game to push Davidson's lead to 71-65. Kansas wouldn't threaten again.

Much credit has to be given to Bob McKillop's group for this win. His team played near-flawless basketball in the second half. They didn't turn the ball over a single time in the second 20 minutes and hit too many big shots to count. You want an idea how impressive his team was? Think about this stat -- Davidson never trailed in the second half and only allowed Kansas to draw even once. But the Wildcats also didn't extend their lead beyond six until the final minute when the Jayhawks began fouling.

Davidson was in control of this thing for the entire second half, but that was because they were never truly challenged by the Jayhawks.

And therein lies the problem with Kansas.

I don't think this team has that killer instinct. I don't see anyone on this roster that is going to be able to simply put the team on his back and carry them when they are struggling. I don't see anyone who desperately wants -- and is capable of executing -- when Kansas is in dire need of a bucket.

I love Thomas Robinson as much as anyone. He plays the game tremendously hard, he's a fierce competitor and he is a genuinely good kid fighting through a horrible family situation. He's one of the few players where I have no qualms with revealing my bias and saying that I root for him. I'd be willing to bet that there are Missouri fans that would say the same thing.

But I also don't think that Robinson is a go-to post scorer right now. His back-to-the-basket game is not refined. He's bigger and he's stronger and he's more athletic than just about anyone he is going to play this season -- see the 21 points and 18 boards he had against Davidson -- but those numbers are more the result of his motor and his physical gifts than an overwhelming amount of skill -- see the 7-18 he shot against a team from the SoCon that spent much of the game with four guards on the floor and saw their best big man battle fouls the entire game.

The issue is that Robinson is being counted on to be the Jayhawk's most reliable offensive weapon. As talented as Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson are, they are both wildly inconsistent, from game-to-game and even possession-to-possession. I don't think he is that player.

The other major issue that Kansas has -- beyond the point guard play of Taylor and Johnson -- is that Trevor Releford and Connor Teahan just aren't the kind of players that we are used to seeing Bill Self roll out in crunch time. When Teahan is the guy that Kansas is counting on to make shots on the comeback trail, you know its a down year in Lawrence.

But more than anything, what did Kansas in against Davidson was their inability to capitalize on mistakes.

Kansas dominated the offensive glass and forced all 12 of Davidson's turnovers in the first half. Yet they still found themselves down by as much as 11 in the first 20 minutes and trailing 33-32 at the break. Davidson is good enough that, when they found their rhythm in the second half, they could hold off the Jayhawks.

The Jayhawks aren't going to be winning games this season by simply rolling the ball out and playing basketball.

They have to execute better, limit their mistakes and capitalize on opportunities provided them by their opponent.

Kansas didn't do that on Monday night, and they paid the price for it.

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