Winning, no matter how you do it, is a good thing - especially on the road. Well, the "Octagon of Doom" ended up being a bit more Gloom than Doom for the Kansas State Wildcats on Saturday night. The Wildcat faithful did prove to be a formidable sixth man and proved their ability to have an effect on their team's play, though. The thing that struck me most surprising, though, was that it never really seemed to trouble the Jayhawks. They never seemed to get scared or go into their shell and come up small in a big moment - at least, not due to the crowd. That had more to do with bad decision making. But, we'll get to that a bit later. Enough can not be said, however, of the resiliency of head coach Bill Self's boys and the way they kept playing their hearts out - no matter what happened the play before or through injury. (I'm looking at you, Mr. Collins.)
Player of the Game: Sherron Collins - 16 points, 1 rebound, 4 assists, 7-14 field goals, 2-6 three point field goals and one game clincher in 41 minutes.
What Went Right
Cole Aldrich took 13 shots in regulation. The game plan from the very beginning, as was the case against Missouri Monday night, was to throw the ball inside to Cole early and often. Shades and memories of the 2008 team resonated with high lobs over the top to the oversized Aldrich, leaving his defenders nearly helpless and only able to foul. Twelve free throw attempts is a much better number for him than twos, threes, fours, fives, etc. that we grew accustomed to early in Big 12 play. Though he got in foul trouble in the second half, picking up his fourth foul with nearly seven minutes to go, he did a good job on defense of keeping his feet on the ground, his arms straight up and laying off the guard during ball screens.
Tyshawn Taylor back into the good graces of Bill Self. Although he came off the bench to start the game, as has been the case through the majority of Big 12 play, Taylor logged 30 of the 45 minutes, including nearly, if not, every single one down the strecth in regulation and overtime. It was oft-struggling freshman Xavier Henry who saw his minutes not only cut but completely revoked late in the game. I cannot recall Henry being in the game from the four minute mark, or so on, after his great drive to the basket and score late in the second half. Perhaps Self just didn't feel comfortable with what appeared to be his suspect ball handling earlier in the game. Or, maybe it he just felt better with Markieff Morris' zero points, zero-for-four from the free throw line statline in the game at the four spot, instead. I'm going to assume it was the first. Getting back to Taylor, though, he had twelve points and was a reliable shooter from the line and hit eight-of-nine, most of which were in overtime.
What Could Have Gone Better
Is it really so hard to toss the ball off the backboard and in from four feet away? It seemed that if they could just make the "bunnies" around the rim, the Jayhawks would have held an eight-plus point lead at the half, rather than the one point lead that came to fruition. Whether it was going up too soft, possibly being fouled or pressure from the Kansas State bigs, it was frustrating to watch and nearly was the noose that Kansas hung themselves with. On a happier note, Cole did continue to show a better turnaround shot. And, before fouling out, Marcus Morris' turnaround jumper was falling more than Kansas State's record at home against the Jayhawks.
Allowing 20 offensive rebounds gives far too many chances to score. Thanks to those 20 rebounds, I now have to stay up into the wee hours of the night and partake in an Open Game Thread at fetch9's blog Beadlemaniacs for the Roger Federer-Andy Murray Australian Open final. Joking aside, I would have been up anyway, so it's no big deal. In fact, feel free to stop by yourself and enjoy what hopes to be another epic Grand Slam final. (There's your payout for the bet, fetch. I one-upped it.) Without re-watching the game yet, it seemed that most of the offensive rebounds early in the game were on long loose balls that the Wildacts simply out-hustled the Jayhawks to. Credit must be given there. Kansas State is a scrappy, hard playing bunch of players and that will (normally) go a long way to pulling out the win.
Simply not converting in the most pivotal of moments almost cost Kansas the game. Turnovers nearly sealed a much sadder fate in this one. Weak passes and bad response to ball pressure far from the basket made the Kansas guards' heads nearly explode. There was even a five second call on an in-bounds play on Brady Morningstar. Rarely do you see that. The only player that seemed to be goof-proof was Collins. His drive to the basket in the last ten seconds was vintage Sherron, as was the finish. He did have the turnover at the end of regulation attempting to take a shot for the win then, so I suppose it can't even be said he handled the pressure that much better himself. Just aggravating at times.
In a game that we won, it's amazing that there seem to be more negatives that stick out the way they do, than positives. And, I was actually very pleased with the way they played, too. Maybe it just goes to show that they have what it takes to win a game when maybe they shouldn't and keep fighting. That mentality will be needed come March.
Random Musings from the Boxscore
- Five-of-ten from the three point line. Maybe they should have shot more. Maybe they found the formula to being successful and not falling in love with the three. Live by the three, die by the three.
- Kansas State shot 43.3 percent from the field. The streak now stands at three.
- Fifteen turnovers commited. Thirteen forced. A much better ratio than that of Monday night. (25-4)
- Wally Judge had twelve points and nine rebounds. Perhaps I should call him out more often - for the sake of Kansas State fans, that is. Not likely to happen.
- I'll say it again: 20 offensive rebounds allowed is frustrating and will not get it done against teams that shoot better from three than Kansas State did. (6-18) We did have fourteen offensive boards of our own, though. So, that almost evens it out.
- 9. The magic number of a combination of Kansas wins and Texas or Missouri losses needed to clinch the Jayhawks' sixth straight Big 12 title. Now on pace for March 3rd. In Allen Fieldhouse. Against Kansas State. On Sherron Collins' Senior Night. Let it be.