Sunday, August 31, 2008

a non-hockey column: NCAA champs visit Ottawa!

Jayhawks fly through Capital

Defending U.S. college champs rout Gee-Gees in preseason tour finale

By Greg Gallagher

uOttawa Gee-Gees Basketball Broadcaster

OTTAWA – They lost five key players in June's NBA draft, but you wouldn't know it from how the Kansas Jayhawks played.

The NCAA's defending national champions completed their Canadian tour with a 91-60 victory over the uOttawa Gee-Gees in front of a near-sellout crowd at Montpetit Hall, one day after defeating the Carleton Ravens in a nailbiting, 84-83 thriller at Scotiabank Place.

Freshman guard Tyshawn Taylor and junior guard Mario Little, with 20 and 21 points respectively, led a Jayhawks effort which saw several points scored on fastbreaks resulting from turnovers.

Quintrell Thomas and Cole Aldrich each chipped in with 12 and 10 respectively, while Dax Dessureault was the lone Gee-Gee in double-figures with 16.

"These guys were great players," said Taylor afterwards. "We had some tough matches (McGill and Carleton) … it was great to (get to) play this early together."

Taylor, who started the game and scored eight of his points on the fastbreak, is looking to make an impression this year.

"I put a lot of pressure on myself," he said, in reference to playing a role on KU defending its championship.

Taylor wowed the Capital crowd with not only his speed, but also his deft scoring touch, notably so on a second-half run to the basket in which he gracefully avoided a sure block from third-year Ottawa forward Nemanja Baletic.

Little, for his part, helped punctuate a solid end to the first half, scoring back-to-back buckets, including a buzzer-beating fadeaway jumper over two Ottawa players. A complete player, he also dropped a game-high eight assists and added seven rebounds.

Little and Taylor, along with Aldrich in the middle and lanky guard Travis Releford—who shone against Carleton—figure to be the main options on what looks to be another promising young Jayhawks team.

On the Ottawa side, fifth-year centre Dessureault continued to play in mid-season form, passing well out of the block and forcing the issue offensively on the 6'11" Aldrich.

Dessureault had 11 points on 4-6 shooting at halftime, keeping the Gees close at 18-15 before Kansas embarked on a 11-3 and never looked back, leading 46-31 at the half.

The Gees' first-half aggressiveness helped them on the offensive end several times when the normally explosive Josh Gibson-Bascombe's weekend shooting struggles continued.

David Labentowicz (4-5) and Dessureault (8-9) were money from the free-throw line after earning repeated trips following confident and quick team passing around the horn. The Gee-Gees were 21-28 from the stripe, while the Jayhawks were 13-19.

However, on most occasions the Jayhawks simply answered on the offensive end every time, and closing in on halftime and for most of the second half, they served notice that defence will play a major role in a hopeful second straight national championship.

Ottawa missed four straight field goal attempts during a second-half 18-4 run by the Jayhawks, which effectively ended the game.

According to Gee-Gees head coach David DeAveiro, the team, which shot 18-57 (31.6 percent) simply couldn't bury its open looks.

"We didn't shoot the ball well," said DeAveiro. "We didn't play our best (defence). It gave us a chance to play our kids.

"I think we can point to the emergence of Warren Ward, and the importance of Dax (Dessureault)," added DeAveiro. "Dax was our best player this weekend."

THIS 'N THAT: A sizeable contingent of Jayhawks supporters made the trek from the Kansas City area, filling up a good half of the 800 in attendance at Montpetit Hall. With about 30 seconds left, they began singing their traditional anthem, "Rock Jock Jayhawk," when the outcome was not in doubt … Cole Aldrich was the only Jayhawk in action vs. Ottawa that also saw minutes in last April's title game vs. Memphis, as junior guard Sherron Collins did not play … Gee-Gees second-year guard Vlad Pislaru has adopted #23, giving up #10 to rookie Warren Ward …

ROOKIE WATCH: Point guard Max Clarkson impressed in his 16 minutes, showcasing poise and particularly sharp, peripheral court vision, which allowed him to make several sharp passes on offence. He's fast, too, and could challenge for the backup quarterback role this season. The #25 coincidence aside, he bears a striking resemblance to former standout Alex McLeod … Faysia "Fuzzy" Ibrahim was the recipient of a few of those Clarkson passes. His lateral quickness is promising … Warren Ward continues to make a case for the starting two-guard spot. A late airball aside, he's putting up solid minutes and continues to impress DeAveiro. In the South Alabama game, he was particularly adept at drawing contact.

FAMILY AFFAIR: Sophomore Jayhawks guard Chase Buford is the son of R.J. Buford, general manager of the San Antonio Spurs. The elder Buford built the Spurs into four-time NBA champions (1999, 2003, 2005, 2007), while Chase won a title with the Jayhawks last year. Think winning runs in the family?

OTTAWA-KANSAS CONNECTIONS: Jay Roberts, who played basketball, football, and track at KU from 1961-64, also played seven years with the CFL's Ottawa Rough Riders. He was presented with a #55 jersey before the game from coach Bill Self, and with a #76 Gee-Gees football jersey from uOttawa president Allan Rock … Basketball inventor Dr. James Naismith, born and raised in Almonte, Ont., which is about 50 kilometres from Ottawa, was also the first head coach of the Kansas Jayhawks.