One of the more overused saying in sports is that good teams find a way to win close games. They do, in a sense, but in reality good teams blow out teams they're supposed to blow out. Fortunately, Kansas did well enough at scoring and refusing Oregon State to score from inside the arc that they pulled off a 76-70 win in an ugly 40 minutes of basketball.
At 74 possessions, the game was a little faster than Kansas has played this year and they let the Beavers dictate the pace a lot, especially considering where the game was played. Despite the ugly nature of the game, Kansas didn't force too many turnovers with Oregon State turning it over on just 16.2% of their possessions. They also continued to expose Kansas's defensive rebounding problems, grabbing 34.1% of their misses.
However, their 1.05 points per possession was mostly due to them shooting 45% from three, as Kansas was their normal dominant selves inside, holding the Beavers to just 38.6% shooting from two. It's not going to paper over every crack there is, but two point defense is the most important part of a good defense, so there is no reason to worry about that side of the ball.
Offense though? Woof. 1.13 points per possession is above KU's season average, so statistically there perhaps isn't much to worry about, but I don't think they're going to shoot 65% from two too many times, and in a related story they're probably not going to only need to take 9 threes out of 55 total field goals.
Turnovers were an issue last night as well with Kansas turning it over on almost a fourth of their possessions. Unlike the last couple years this year's team just isn't good enough at shooting to overcome those possessions where they don't even get to attempt a shot. They also grabbed a paltry 30.8% of their misses, further showing why they need to take care of the ball better.
- Jeff Withey scored 17 points despite taking only 9 shots from the floor. I don't think he's a guy that they could run the offense through and double hit shot totals, but at this point it doesn't really hurt to try it out for a few games. He pitched in with 3 blocks and 5 rebounds, and while some of the defensive rebounding woes have been from him going out to challenge shots rather than sit back and rebound, Kansas really needs him to go block (and challenge) those shots. It is the biggest reason why teams simply can't score inside against Kansas and trading all of that advantage for a few more rebounds simply isn't worth it.
- Elijah Johnson is reportedly still not 100% with his knee, which leads me to ask why he is playing right now. They don't, or shouldn't, need him to win these types of games, and this is a good way for Self to see what he has at the backup point guard position. Tharpe has had a bad last couple of games, but he is still by far the best option with Adams offering nothing offensively and White not being a point guard. If Tharpe continues to slide Self might be forced to have McLemore be the de facto backup point guard. But back to Elijah, he had 9 assists, which is nice, but 4 TOs and took just 4 shots and was dominated defensively. Hopefully the week off before the next game helps, and if not hopefully he can sit while Kansas plays some cupcakes over the break.
- Travis Releford with yet another awesome game in Kansas City, going 8-10, all from two, and grabbed 7 rebounds, had 5 assists, 2 steals and was one of two people who looked like he wanted to play defense. I'm not sure if he can keep up this offensive production, especially with all of the concentrating on defense he will have to do, but it's nice to know he CAN do it if needed.
- Ben McLemore is awesome. 5-10 from two, 3-4 from three and he had yet another highlight reel dunk. He didn't rebound as much tonight, but he asserted himself offensively like we have all been hoping he would; now he just needs to keep it up.