USA TODAY Sports
The Jayhawks struggled all game and lost to Oklahoma State for their first loss of the conference season
The good news is the offense was better than it had been in previous games: The Jayhawks scored 1.11 points per possession against the third best defense in the league. The bad news is, well, everything else: Kansas allowed 1.18 points per possession, let the Cowboys shoot almost 50% from two, let them grab nearly half their own misses, and on offense Kansas turned it over on 22% of their possessions and shot just 39% from two.
The tone was set early by Markel Brown, who ended up with 28 points on 7-10 shooting from three. Quite the day for a shooter who entered the game at 35% from three. But although Kansas got some good luck from Phil Forte only making 1 of 8 threes, if Brown hadn't gone off in the first half (along with a couple other things we'll get to later) Kansas probably wins: Marcus Smart had 8 offensive rebounds, but take those out (he's not a great offensive rebounder on the season, Elijah Johnson and Naadir Tharpe just were allergic to boxing out) and he had a very pedestrian day: he was 0-5 from three and had 5 turnovers compared to just 3 assists. LeBryan Nash, the other Cowboy who shoots a lot, was just 2-7 from the field and fouled out of the game.
The bottom line, though, is that this team has been walking on eggshells for a couple weeks. There has been either a slow start or a huge lull in each of the team's previous handful of games and while this team is talented enough to beat most opponents that way (and even should have won this one) that won't work in March. The biggest problem with the offense used to be what happened when the shots weren't falling, but Kansas was 9-20 from three in this one. The new biggest worry has to be that even a token press tends to render the offense so ineffective, despite four Seniors, that any semi athletic team could employ one and pressure Kansas out of the tournament.
The sky isn't falling yet though. While the offense still does really struggle at times, Kansas still has a two game lead on everyone in the conference other than Kansas State, and with a home game against the Wildcats remaining they have a great shot at a 9th straight Big 12 title.
- I never blame losses on just one person because it rarely is ever that easy and they're college kids, but I'm going to this time: Elijah Johnson was flat out terrible. He was 2-7 from two, 1-7 from three, and 4 killer turnovers (including on the last possession when Kansas was down three and he still for some reason tried to drive the lane despite Ford saying that Oklahoma State wasn't going to foul. Which is a dumb strategy but not when the other team doesn't attempt a shot). Also not reflected in the boxscore was that his inability (or unwillingness) to block out led to Marcus Smart's offensive rebounding bonanza. I have to assume that there is still something bothering his knee because there is no other reason for his extreme drop off in performance lately.
- Ben McLemore also had four turnovers but was 6-11 from two and 3-6 from three. He could have shot even more for my taste but he had the type of game Kansas needed from him. His next step in terms of development is getting to the line: he is one of the best free throw shooters in the league but only took two of them yesterday.
- Jeff Withey was 4-8 and had 8 rebounds and 3 blocks, passing Cole Aldrich on the all time list and placing him four shy of Ostertag (assuming my math is correct on both counts).
- Naadir Tharpe was 2-4 from three and had 4 assists compared to just 1 turnover and probably should have played a heck of a lot more.
- Kevin Young confounds me a bit: he was 3-5 from two and had 12 points and also had 7 rebounds and 4 steals. But he had a key turnover as well as a terrible shot on consecutive possessions late in the game. As a bench energy guy he would be elite, but as a starter he is a bit limited.