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November 16, 2012Yes Kansas fans, you can exhale now. All in all Thursday's 69-55 win over Chattanooga may have been what Kansas needed. Sure, it probably wasn't in Bill Self's pregame script to go into the locker room down 36-28 at halftime.
Kansas had played soft, a word that Bill Self hasn't hesitated in using to describe this year's team. If you watched Self's face in the first half it varied between anger and genuine disgust.
It also didn't help that Chatanooga didn't let Kansas off the hook for their poor play. Guard Farad Cobb in particular. He might as well of spray painted a message on the court in big and bold letters that said: "Farad Cobb Was Here." By halftime he was 6-7 from the three point line with 18 points.
"I don't really like for people to come into Allen Fieldhouse and have a game like that," Elijah Johnson said. "It doesn't happen too much, and I know it's not what the fans came to watch. I didn't really like the fact that he was on a roll like that."
Halftime adjustments are often times overrated, but in this case it may have saved the game for Kansas. Self decided to put Travis Releford on the point guard, and sure enough the Kansas defense tightened up.
Releford's length and quickness got the Chattanooga ball handlers out of their comfort zone. For the first time, they struggled moving the ball and finding open looks.
"Travis was the best senior we had in the second half," Self said. "We learned something tonight: Travis is our on the ball defender and Elijah needs to be playing off the ball. We put Travis on [Cobb] and we set the tone off of it. That's what we needed. We haven't done that yet this year. We didn't do it against Michigan State and we learned something as a staff I think, tonight."
Offensively, guard Ben McLemore made the difference in the second half. His athleticism was too much for the Chatanooga defenders and he ended up with 25 points and 8 rebounds. His dunks that got the Fieldhouse rocking were likely foreshadowing what's to come.
"We had to take our chances with building that wall and seeing if they could make some shots, but he's so explosive," Chattanooga coach John Shulman said. "He hangs up there for a while and we knew he would be phenomenal on the glass. He's a special guy and a special player. He made a huge difference."
Self said afterwards that he knew the team was more active in the second half because they fouled more. To him it showed that were at least getting after the ball and playing more physically. In the first half they fouled just three times.
"It's a game of pressure," Self said. "You got to get into people's comfort zone, and in the first half we didn't do that at all."