Kansas Over Utah – The Slow Climb Back Up to the Top

Kansas beat Utah

Nothing is coming easy this season for Kansas, even a home game against Utah in which they lead by 21 points. Eventually, despite losing that lead, the Jayhawks came through with great defense and being clutch from the free throw line, walking away with the 63-60, their 7th consecutive victory since that loss.

It seemed that everything happening over the last month or so is in the shadow of that 32-point loss to Kentucky. Kansas have risen back up to the top 10 and will find themselves even higher after their win over number 13 Utah (they also have a win against Michigan State, at home vs Florida and on the road against Georgetown) and still, there seems to be some confidence and swagger missing from a team that’s usually filled with it.

Maybe it has something to do with the lack of outstanding freshman like they had last year. Remember, for all the attention their stellar freshmen received over the last couple of seasons, Kansas never really got far in the tournament. Sometimes there are more important things. And if the loss to Kentucky can turn this unit into a better one for it (there’s nothing wrong with taking some bumps on the road to success), it was worth it.

An excellent shooting performance from Kansas in the first half turned into a terrible one in the second one, which allowed Utah, mostly thanks to the fantastic abilities of Delon Wright with 23 points, to claw their way back and even take a two point lead late in the game. However, Kansas allowed Utah to score just five points on their last 8 possessions, blocking most of their attempts, while making six-of-six from the line to close out the game.

The Jayhawks aren’t the biggest team around which might prove to be troublesome in some Big 12 games, making only 5-of-24 from the paint against Utah, enjoying a dominant performance from Jakob Poeltl with 11 rebounds and 3 blocks. However, the Jayhawks were smooth from a distance, hitting 13-of-19 from outside the paint, including 10-of-13 during the first half, when the game was a bit quicker and less congested.

This was only the second meeting between the two teams, with the previous one occurring in 1995, also in Kansas City, a game which Kansas won. It was Kansas’ first trip to the Sprint Center, where they are now 25-5, since last year’s Big 12 tournament semifinal, which they lost to Iowa State. It comes as the last difficult game before Big 12 plays begins on January 7 with a road game in Waco against Baylor.

Kansas were led by Perry Ellis with 14 points. Jamari Traylor scored 13 off the bench and Frank Mason III scored 10 points, as Kansas shot 54.5% from beyond the arc and 21-of-23 from the line.

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