Point Guards, Bigs Excel in Win Over New Mexico

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Quietly, Kansas hasn't had too many games this year where they have played well on both offense and defense. They had one on Saturday night, scoring 1.23 points per trip and allowing New Mexico to score just .97 points per possession. Breaking it down even further, Kansas excelled at the things that win championships (and the skills that are most repeatable).

Kansas very quietly is evolving into a good 2 point defensive team. They allowed New Mexico to shoot just 40% from two on Saturday, and are down to allowing opponents to shoot just under 44% from two on the season. Given how much it's gone down lately, combined with the defensive improvement of Joel Embiid, and there's little reason to believe Kansas won't finish the year somewhere between 40-42% allowed on twos.

On the other side of the ball, Kansas shot 57.5% from two against the Lobos, and are up to 57.1% on the season, good for 8th nationally. Bad three point shooting games (or good three point shooting games for the opponents) are going to happen, but to consistently score and defend from two is the mark of a championship team.

Elsewhere, Kansas got back to taking care of the ball, turning it over on 13.8% of their possessions. Once again they were a little weak on the defensive glass. It's unrealistic to expect a team, even one as talented as this team, to dominate in everything, but it would be nice to see Kansas limit the other team to rebounding about 1/4th of their misses vs. 1/3rd.

Kansas did a really good job of getting Alex Kirk in foul trouble, and they can and probably should be doing that to every team with a very good big man, but on the flip side they are committing way too many fouls, down to 291st in the nation in opponents' free throw rate. We can complain about the new rules (which I think have been a disaster) and the refs (I don't think too highly of college refs in the first place, but focusing on these new rules has made them worse in every way) all we want, but at the end of the day Kansas needs to stop fouling. Especially one player who we will talk about shortly:

Joel Embiid: 10. Here are the first three minutes of the second half for Embiid: forced turnover, offensive rebound (getting fouled), baseline jumper. He rendered Alex Kirk ineffective all night on both ends of the floor, he had 18 points on 6 shots from the field, 6 rebounds, 4 blocks and 3 steals. Oh and he did this:

I said it jokingly a couple weeks ago, but I'm serious now: that's your #1 overall pick.

Naadir Tharpe: 7.5 Tharpe had 4 turnovers, but I can live with it when he has 9 assists. Tharpe also went 2-5 from three and is probably Kansas's most consistent three point threat right now. I imagine his defensive scoresheet will look a little weird due to New Mexico PG Hugh Greenwood being basically unable to shoot due to his wrist, and with it being such a rare thing that Tharpe would have to guard someone like that, I'll hold off making any pronouncements about his defensive abilities.

Wayne Selden: 7.5. This is who Selden should be. He was 3-5 from two, 1-2 from three, with 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals. He had a pair of nice post feeds, including one really nice one to Perry Ellis, that illustrated him at his best. He's not a go to scorer, and he can disappear from games, but he will pitch in at everything. One thing I would like to see him do a bit more is crash the glass. He is a great leaper and at his size he should be able to bully most guards down low.

Perry Ellis: 9. I've said all along that when KU gets Ellis the ball in good spots, good things happen. He ended up 8-12 from two, and 1-2 from three, and also pulled down 9 rebounds. He's developed a mini runner that sort of looks like what Jeff Withey's post move looked like (and no that's not a typo). I wish he'd put a pin in that one and focus on getting the ball down low and scoring off a post move, but he can handle the ball and shoot it, so I suppose the dribble drive runner is the last step.

Andrew Wiggins: 6. I wasn't blown away by Wiggins in this one, and I feel pretty safe saying it is his worst game as a Jayhawk (non being sick division). Still, if 11 points, 4 rebounds and 2 blocks is the worst he will get, that's pretty good. He also had quite a few hockey assists, where he got the ball to the guards in good spots where they could make the final feed to a post player. Wiggins is starting to assert himself and get to the line more, and that can be only good things for Kansas.

Brannen Greene: 6. Greene didn't really do a lot, but he took care of the ball, had a couple assists, and wasn't bad defensively.

Landen Lucas: 7. Lucas probably wasn't a 7, but he had 2 points and 5 rebounds in just 10 minutes. He probably won't get much more playing time than he did in this game, and next year looks iffy too, but in his last two years on campus I really think he could be one of the best rebounders in the country.

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