E.J. Starts, KU Rolls Over Radford

Overwhelming. Excited. Energized. Those were the words KU freshman guard Elijah Johnson used to describe his first career start against Radford Wednesday night at Allen Fieldhouse.

Elijah Johnson, who went scoreless the past two games and played just four minutes in KU's last game vs. UCLA three days ago, scored a career-high 11 points to help lead the No. 1 Jayhawks to a 99-64 victory. Johnson, who picked up two early fouls, rebounded and scored nine of his 11 points in a decisive 23-8 run to close the first half and break open a 13-10 game.

"I think it went well," Johnson said about his first career start. "I felt more comfortable coming right onto the floor. I had a good feeling for the most part."

Indeed, it was quite a thrill for the Las Vegas native to start a game for the No. 1 team in the land.

"I couldn't believe it," Johnson said. "It didn't register until they called the starting five and then it really dawned on me that I was starting in Allen Fieldhouse for the first time. That overwhelming feeling was just breathtaking. ... I feel we have the best talent in the country, so for somebody to be able to start on this team, even if it's just once the whole season, I feel you've earned some respect in some sort of way."

KU coach Bill Self was pleased with Johnson's performance starting in place of sophomore Tyshawn Taylor.

"I thought Elijah played really well," Self said. "He's certainly come a long ways fast. He's starting to get it a little bit. In shoot-around today, we ran dry offense and he actually knew the majority of the things we've worked on. That was a big step because as a point guard, you got to know kind of everything. He's getting more confident and comfortable."

"I think he's a really good shooter," Self added. "Tonight, when we were laboring offensively, he made a couple of big threes in the corner."

Self talked about the reason for starting Johnson over Taylor.

"I don't think Ty's played to his capabilities ... from a defensive (standpoint) and being able to keep a body in front of him and taking pride in that," said Self, adding Taylor performed well off the bench (six points, five rebounds, six assists, no turnovers in 17 minutes). "I predict Ty will get the job back, but right now there's no reason not to play Elijah."

Johnson was one of a season-high six Jayhawks in double figures. Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins led KU with 15 points each, while Xavier Henry added 13, C.J. Henry 11 and Thomas Robinson 10. C.J. scored all 11 points in the last 2:50 of the game, including eight straight.

The 8-0 Jayhawks shot just 37.5 percent the first half, yet rebounded in the second half with a blistering 63.2 percent while scoring 63 points. KU's pressure defense bothered Radford the first half, holding the Highlanders to just 30.8 percent from the field (43.2 percent for the game.) Kansas also dominated the boards for the majority of the game, 44-29, and outscored Radford 46-22 in the paint.

The Highlanders never challenged Kansas after halftime.

"I thought we played good," Self said. "I thought we guarded the first half, really executed pretty good, (yet) didn't make any shots. We rebounded the ball good for the most part until late when the big boy (senior center Art Parakhouski, 13 rebounds and all 21 points in the second half) kicked our butt. I never would have thought we'd score 63 points in a half, probably the most efficient we've been offensively, obviously, the whole year in the second half. And the first half was about as well as we've guarded. We just haven't quite put it together yet."

"We had everybody contribute in a positive way," Self added.

That includes Johnson, who rose to the challenge with his first career start.

"I just appreciate the opportunity, but whatever's best for the team," he said.

Kansas next plays LaSalle on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Sprint Center in Kansas City.

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