Eastern Kentucky gave Kansas all it could handle for 40 minutes, but the Jayhawks did enough to escape with a win, thanks to 19 points by Andrew Wiggins.
For much of the game, it appeared as though the Ohio Valley Conference champions would be able to pull off the upset. However, SportsCenter notes the difference at the end:
Kansas survives! Jayhawks prove too much down the stretch for Eastern Kentucky. Andrew Wiggins: 19 Pts, 4 Reb pic.twitter.com/usQE12yw5J— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 21, 2014
While most Kansas fans are happy to see the team advance at all costs, there are a lot of eyes on Wiggins at this stage of his career. He responded with a solid 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting, including just 0-of-1 from behind the arc. He also had four rebounds and two blocks in the win.
Still, there is more to look at with his performance than just numbers. Here is a look at Wiggins' individual performance against Eastern Kentucky and what to expect from the talented player going forward.
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Andrew Wiggins' Game Grade: B+
This seems like a harsh grade for someone who finished with the most points for either team in the game. However, we have seen a lot from Wiggins, and it is clear that he is capable of much more.
In the first half of the game, Wiggins did a great job of showcasing the athleticism that scouts have drooled over for years. He finished a few alley-oop dunks and created plays on his own by getting to the rim.
His biggest play in the first half came on this big slam in transition:
Unsurprisingly, this brought out quite a reaction from those watching, including ESPN's college basketball account and Greg Anthony of CBS Sports:
Wiggins can leap. #MarchMadness— ESPN College BBall (@ESPNCBB) March 21, 2014
.@KUHoops Wiggins just told everybody..."I believe I can fly"— Greg Anthony (@GregAnthony50) March 21, 2014
While Eastern Kentucky hit its shot to ensure a tied game at halftime, Wiggins did his part with 10 points at intermission.
However, the Jayhawks needed even more out of their star player with fellow freshman Joel Embiid out. SportsCenter noted that Wiggins had performed well in these situations to this point:
Although he was unable to match these averages, Wiggins put together a strong performance from beginning to end.
One of the biggest shots of the game for him came at the end of a 9-0 run in the second half. Wiggins drove to the net and finished an and-1 with under eight minutes left:
Wiggins gets the and-one! Kansas leads 62-56 with 7:35 to play #kubball— Kansas Gameday (@KUGameday) March 21, 2014
This gave Kansas a six-point lead, which the squad held onto to secure the narrow win.
The only problem with Wiggins' performance was a lack of aggressiveness on offense. In the last seven minutes of the game, he only took two shots, one of which being an open dunk up 10 in the final minute.
His coach, Bill Self, explained before the game that he wanted Wiggins to be more active, via Bob Lutz of the Wichita Eagle:
I do think Andrew has a flare for the moment. That doesn’t guarantee playing great or anything like that (against Eastern Kentucky), but it gives me a lot of confidence that he will be very aggressive.
I think we’ve been trying to pull that aggressiveness out of him for a while. But looking back, I think it’s gone at exactly the perfect pace. There’s no way he could have lived up to the hype, so if he had put pressure on himself that he had to score or do this and that, it would not have been good for him or for us.
He made some big plays, but he is clearly just scratching the surface of his potential. Jonathan Givony of Draft Express gave his impression:
Certainly not Wiggins' most impressive outing, showing his well-known flaws. Still contributing enough on both ends so far to help KU lead.— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) March 21, 2014
Going forward, Kansas needs Wiggins to take a more active role in the offense, especially until Embiid returns to the lineup.
Kansas will advance to the third round to face No. 10 Stanford, which defeated No. 7 New Mexico, 58-53, in its second-round matchup.
Tim Kawakami of the Mercury News provided a quick breakdown:
Kansas-Stanford should be a pretty good game. Stanford's D probably will control the inside and force KU to shoot over the top.— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) March 21, 2014
With Chasson Randle leading the way, the Cardinal know how to score and could cause Kansas some problems. It is clear that Wiggins will have to play another strong game in order to get his squad into the Sweet 16.
Of course, this tournament is also important for the freshman as an opportunity to shine in front of NBA scouts. Watching this game, Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead felt that there would be no question on draft day:
Wiggins, silky smooth. So filthy. So under control. So obviously the No. 1 pick, and I maintain it was never in doubt.— Jason McIntyre (@jasonrmcintyre) March 21, 2014
Chad Ford of ESPN (subscription required) also reported that the Philadelphia 76ers are eyeing Wiggins in the upcoming draft.
After Jabari Parker of Duke lost in his only NCAA tournament game, Wiggins can use the rest of the Big Dance to pull ahead of his biggest rival.
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