USA TODAY Sports
The Jayhawks moved to 5-0 in Big 12 play in defeating K State 59-55
Kansas has won 23 of the 25 games they've played in Bramlage Coliseum, and at 5-0 with a road win over probably the second best team in the league, the quest for 9 straight is well within reach.
Last night's affair was actually a bit more offensive than I expected, with Kansas scoring exactly a point per possession and Kansas State scoring .93. To start with the most troubling stat first, Kansas forced turnovers on just 16.9% of the Wildcats' possessions. Part of that is because the game was played at a slow pace and relatively under control and part of it is that K State was at home, but when considering how many unforced turnovers the Wildcats had there is no doubt that Kansas's inability to force turnovers is getting to be a big problem. Again, not so much a problem for the defense, but for the offense, which could use some easy transition baskets.
Other than the turnover issue, the defense played well. They held the Wildcats to 41% shooting from two and they held the #2 offensive rebounding team in the country to just a 28% offensive rebounding rate. Though it should be noted that a lot of that number is due to how many threes Kansas State shot (30, or over half their field goals), that tidbit highlights the deficiencies of Bruce Weber perfectly: The Wildcats aren't a very good shooting team. They shoot better proportionally from three than two, true, but don't attempt many at all. Their best offense, on the other hand, is grabbing offensive rebounds. But three point shooting teams don't grab many offensive rebounds as a rule. Nonetheless, Weber decided to abandon his best offense (and really only offense) because he was so scared of Jeff Withey that he decided they needed to do something they hadn't done all season. In a way it highlights both Weber's shortcomings and just how valuable Withey is: he takes away half of an offense all by himself, and that is why despite Ben McLemore being the most talented Jayhawk I have ever seen I would take Withey every time.
Meanwhile, Kansas managed to grab 36% of their misses, and shot 51% from two on a not bad two point defense. The jump shooting wasn't great, but they compensated by attacking the basket and as a result went to the line for 21 free throws, making 13 of them. Kansas is now shooting 74% from the line on the season, and their primary ballhandlers other than Johnson are all over 88% (!), giving them a huge edge in close games. (though, sidenote: at the end of the game Releford, shooting 89% from the line, took the ball out of bounds. Granted Tharpe is shooting 91% now, he has only taken 11 free throws all year. I get that Releford is a good passer and steady player, but he's the first guy I want at the line so I'd design it to go to him. That's all)
- Ben McLemore had just 11 points, but it was an efficient 11 points, going 3-5 from two, 1-2 from three and 2-3 from the line. He had to sit for the majority of the first half with foul troubles, but he played really well in the second half (especially defensively, with 2 huge blocks). I do want to point out how silly it is that Bill Self has a near ironclad "2 first half fouls and you're out" rule: I get that he wants to save him for the end of the game, but they had a chance to put the game out of reach in the first half......but their best offensive player is on the bench. It goes against common American sports fan thinking, but points that come at the end of the game aren't more important. Each point counts the same. Also, McLemore had just 1 more foul the rest of the game, so it's not like he was ever in any danger of fouling out.
- Travis Releford definitely gets the game ball. He had 12 points, going 3-3 from two and 2-3 from three, 3 assists and a steal, and he helped hold Rodney McGruder to 4-12 shooting.
- Elijah Johnson struggled again, making only 2 of his 7 twos and turning it over 5 times.
- It was nothing compared to the struggles of Kevin Young, however, who was just 1-6 from the field, missing three easy bunnies. Wait, how did we win this game again?
- Another pretty good game for Perry Ellis, going 3-4 from the field and grabbing 4 rebounds. His basketball sense is so good that with a year under Hudy I think he's going to have a very good year next year, and then potentially explode the year after. It will be interesting to see how he develops, because he's basically there from an IQ standpoint so we won't see huge jumps in production when he starts figuring it out, but we will see it when he gets strong enough to hang with Big 12 defenses.