I noted in the game thread last night that winning ugly games like that isn't necessarily a trait of a national championship team (beating the absolute bejeezus out of worse teams is the mark of an elite team) but it absolutely is a big part of a conference championship team. Every year there are a few games where the contenders play poorly on the road and the perfect storm for an upset seems to happen. Conference championships can be decided on the outcomes of those games alone.
To be perfectly clear, the execution down the stretch was terrible on offense. There were multiple missed free throws and turnovers, and, coupled with a poor offensive foul call, it looked like the Missouri game all over again. Fortunately Kansas State countered with some poor execution of their own, including a lob play for Will Spradling (!?) and Kansas was able to escape with a win despite scoring just .95 points per possession.
The offense was particularly abysmal when having to run half court sets, as they shot just 5-18 on two point jumpers last night (thanks to KSinDC for that tidbit). Still, it's tough to say that you can take out the dunks and transition opportunities as a way to point out that the offense was even worse, because part of the plan last night likely was to get the ball to the rim as much as possible to get K State into foul trouble and to get out in transition as much as possible to prevent them from getting set up on defense.
But forgetting the offense for a second, the defense had another strong game, holding the Wildcats to just .85 points per trip, .14 under their Big 12 average. That included Kansas State going just 4-18 from three, with all four coming from Jamar Samuels, who is now 8-35 on the season. I am no math major but I believe that means he doubled his total in one night. For once something like that doesn't come back to haunt us.
If you were watching the game thinking that Kansas State was dominating on the glass, you were correct. They nabbed 44% of their misses, but the fact that it wasn't much higher than their Big 12 average was likely a contributing factor to the win.
The bad trend starting to take shape is the defense's relative inability to force turnovers. K State is one of the most turnover prone teams in the league but only turned it over on 17.7% of their possessions last night, and Kansas is now 6th in the league in forcing turnovers. They're starting to resemble Texas of last year, a tough defense that didn't let anyone make shots but also didn't really turn anyone over either. As we see with them, that's not a good thing. I don't think the two point defense will weaken like Texas's did last year, but it is something to watch. Plus the offense is (or should be) a little more reliant on transition opportunities than any in recent history, and forcing turnovers is obviously a big part of that.
- We start, of course, with Jeff Withey. Withey had 18 points, 11 rebounds and 9 blocks, yet again narrowly missing out on a triple double. He went 6-8 from the field and 6-7 from the line, even shooting our two technical free throws. He is no doubt benefitting from being able to roam free thanks to all the attention on Robinson, but his offensive game has improved tremendously in a short period of time.
- Tyshawn was the leading scorer with 20, but needed 19 shots to do so. He also missed a couple of key free throws late. Still without him going 3-6 from beyond the arc as well as some other excellent plays he made there's no way Kansas wins.
- Thomas Robinson had one of his worse games this year, going 3-7 and scoring 10 points and grabbing 9 rebounds. He also had 5 turnovers and 4 fouls and generally seemed frustrated by the Wildcats' big men.
- Justin Wesley: 6 minutes played, 3 fouls.
- Releford had 4 points, and missed both of his threes (though both looked good to me), but grabbed 6 rebounds and had an all around effective game.
- THARPE WATCH: 1 minute played, zeroes across the board, but should have had an assist on an awesome pass.