Releford fuels KU past American
Published on -12/30/2012, 6:54 AM
By DOUG TUCKER
LAWRENCE — Bill Self has a word for how blistering hot his shooters were.
"Unbelievable," the Kansas coach said.
Hitting 15 of 24 from behind the arc, one short of the school record, No. 6 Kansas romped past American University 89-57 Saturday night before an earsplitting and customary sellout of 16,300 in Allen Fieldhouse.
Travis Releford had 19 points and was 5 for 6 from 3-point range. Elijah Johnson put up five 3-point attempts and missed only one. Naadir Tharpe came off the bench and launched four 3-pointers, hitting three. The Jayhawks (11-1) shot a scorching 63 percent from the floor.
"Travis was on fire," Self said. "They played kind of a contain defense. We made them pay by doing that, made a lot of shots."
Kansas took command with a 21-4 spree in the opening minutes and wound up with six players scoring at least nine points against the outmanned Eagles (4-9). Releford was 7 for 8 from the floor, Johnson finished with 12 points and freshman Perry Ellis had 11 points and 10 rebounds for his first double-double.
"We've shot it better here about the last three or four weeks," Self said. "Our top-six minute guys had 23 assists and two turnovers. I don't know if I've ever had a team get that many assists with that few turnovers before. It's the best game Perry's played. I thought he looked more comfortable than he had been."
American had one little spurt, opening the second half with a modest 8-2 run, trimming a 53-26 halftime deficit to 55-34. But then Jeff Withey, with an assist from Releford, moved in for a dunk, Releford followed with his fourth 3-pointer and Ellis connected from behind the arc and the runaway was back on.
Stephen Lumpkins had 16 points and six rebounds for the Eagles, who were coming off a 65-48 beating at the hands of then-No. 15 Georgetown. John Schoof had 14 points for American and joined the Jayhawks in the 3-point fest by going 4 for 4 from behind the arc.
"It was tough to defend them," Lumpkins said. "We really tried to focus on protecting the rim and not letting them get a bunch of easy dunks. However, it's tough when a team gets going like Kansas did when they were shooting 3s."
Kansas held the Eagles to 35 percent shooting and outrebounded them 37-28.
"They were pretty good tonight," American coach Jeff Jones said. "We came in really feeling we had to guard them inside and out because Withey is such a factor. The way they were shooting the ball, we were obviously not able to get out to their shooters."
The Jayhawks drilled five straight 3-pointers during their take-command run in the first half while stretching their home winning streak to 29, second nationally behind only No. 9 Syracuse. From there, it was just a matter of how lopsided the final score would be for the visitors from Washington, D.C.
With leading scorer Ben McLemore on the bench because of two quick fouls, the Jayhawks got the run started when his replacement, Naadir Tharpe, connected on a 3-pointer from the left wing.
Johnson hit 3-pointers on successive trips down the court, then Kevin Young -- one of four senior starters on Self's 10th Kansas team -- stole the ball at midcourt and drove in for a thunder dunk.
Daniel Munoz dropped in a 10-footer for the Eagles, and then Releford and Tharpe hit 3-pointers. Withey's dunk made it 23-9 before Andrew White rimmed out a 3-pointer, ending the long-range streak. For the half, the Jayhawks were 8 for 12 from behind the arc.
"I think we just fed off each other's energy," Releford said. "One guy made a shot, got the crowd into it. Another guy made a shot. I felt like whoever shot next, it just seemed like it was going to go in."
Tharpe had nine points while Withey had 11.
When Ben McLemore canned a 3-pointer about midway through the first half for a 76-39 lead, the Jayhawks had missed only five of 18 from behind the arc. The percentage dipped a bit in the final minutes as Kansas put its reserves in the game. Freshman Tyler Self capped the near-record night with a sickly 3-point attempt that caught nothing but air and brought a wry smile to his coach and dad.
"We were going to call an attorney and see about a name change, maybe," he joked. "But his mother said she still loves him, so I guess that will probably pass."