Tuesday Morning Shootaround: Elijah Johnson earns his minutes
Kansas 92, Oklahoma State 65: No Tyshawn Taylor? No problem. Kansas got 42 points and 12 rebounds from The Morrii (Marcus led the way with 27, but they also allowed Marshall Moses to score 27 points despite being just a day removed from an overnight stay at the hospital), but the most impressive performance of the night came from Elijah Johnson.
Selby had first crack at the starting point guard spot, but he left the orthotic device he wears in his left shoe at home for the team’s shootaround, meaning that the starting role fell to the seldom-used but highly-touted sophomore. Johnson delivered, playing 30 minutes, scoring 15 points on 5-6 shooting (4-4 from three) and handing out three assists while turning the ball over just twice. He also played sensational defense on Oklahoma State’s Keiton Page, who finished with just eight points on 2-11 shooting.
“It was a good decision because I thought Elijah played great,” Kansas coach Bill Self said after the game. “Hopefully, this will be a confidence boost for him. I’m not going to make any brash statements on who is going to be our starter for the rest of the year. But the ball’s definitely in his court.”
More importantly, Johnson looked calm and poised on the court. He has developed a reputation for being too intense, visually showing his displeasure when he gets removed from a game. He also drew a technical foul for taunting on a dunk that came when Kansas was down 14 against Kansas State. That depth -- the fact that Kansas is able to get that kind of production out of their third string point guard -- is one of the reason’s the Jayhawks are, for lack of a better word, scary-good when they are clicking.
Syracuse 69, Villanova 64: What an ugly basketball game. Execution was not at a premium at the Pavilion on Monday night. Syracuse turned the ball over 16 times. Villanova shot 32.1% from the floor. Neither team looked like they wanted to make the plays they had to make down the stretch to win the game.
Villanova’s last two possessions were particularly bad. Twice, they had the ball, down three, in the final minute. On the first possession, Corey Stokes never touched the ball and Nova barely avoided a turnover, as the ball somehow ended up in Isaiah Armwood’s hands. Armwood drew a foul, and hit both free throws. After two Dion Waiters free throws, Villanova against could not get the ball into Stokes’ hands, as freshman James Bell threw an errant cross court pass. Rick Jackson was fouled and hit both shots for the final margin.
The first half was even uglier. Villanova missed 16 of their first 17 shots, but managed to get to within two at the half, 29-27, because of a disastrous final minute for the Orange, which saw both Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine pick up their third fouls, two lane violations on Baye Moussa-Keita, and Jim Boeheim get hit with a technical foul.
There is something missing from both of these teams. Leadership, poise, decision making. Something. Villanova hasn’t solved the problems that plagued them down the stretch last season. Syracuse is relying on Scoop Jardine (a third-team all Big East player that thinks he is an all-american) and Kris Joseph (a potential all-american that plays like a role player) to carry the load. I wouldn’t be surprised if both the Orange and the Wildcats were out of the NCAA Tournament before the first weekend is over.
Charleston 75, Samford 49: The Cougars have clinched the Southern Conference regular season title. Now its time to hope that Andrew Goudelock can lead this team into the NCAA Tournament.
UCF 74, UTEP 68: The Miners blow the lead they had in the league standings, as there are now five teams tied for first place in the loss column.
Green Bay 81, Valpo 80 OT: This is an incredibly important result in the Horizon, as it opens the door for Butler to have a shot at getting one of the top two seeds in the Horizon League Tournament.