For at least half of a half Kansas looked like Kansas. Since the beginning of the Cornell basketball game through Tennessee and for a half in Lincoln, Kansas was a team without an identity. Sherron Collins was the only consistent offense, perimeter defense was lacking in intensity and players once thought to be substantially improved drifted back to levels not seen this year.
Top to bottom, save one rumbling bowling ball from Chicago, Kansas was struggling. The Jayhawks were able to escape at home in the "Big Red Scare", they dropped one on the road at Rocky Top, but it was the first half of the Husker game that was most concerning because it was definitely looking like this was becoming the norm. A norm that would put a 6th straight Big 12 conference in dire straits and a norm that would make nearly every goal for this team and this season difficult.
Finally in the second half things started to click, players started to play and stopped worrying about being perfect. Marcus Morris, Tyshawn Taylor, Brady Morningstar and Tyrel Reed all acted as catalysts at some point in a game where Cole Aldrich only attempted four shots in 21 minutes and Coach Self seemed a little bit determined to not let Sherron completely carry the team.
Kansas turned back into Kansas again around the 10 minute mark in the second half as they slowly pulled away with consistent, high intensity defense and smart, aggressive offensive sets. Certainly Jayhawk fans are going to want to see this on a more regular basis, but for now there is some solace in how this turned out. Especially when you consider the turn came with two pre season All American's catching a breather on the bench.
On with the rearview. Kansas won the battle of the four factors in every category but one and that is the turnover category. Not entirely surprising since Kansas doesn't shy away from running, whereas a Doc Sadler team requires every possession to be a quality one and because of that his coaching and his teams tend to do a pretty good job of valuing the basketball.
Where Kansas was absolutely off the charts in this one is the eFG%. Checking in at a whopping 72% Kansas was definitely on target last night. A big part of that was a 13 of 21 performance from behind the arc made even more impressive considering Xavier Henry, arguably one of the better shooters on the team, was only 2 for 6. It's not often that a win can look so comfortable when the other team shoots at a 53% eFG clip but Kansas matched the Huskers shot for shot through much of the game and clamped down defensively late. If I had to take a guess I'd say Nebraska was at or over that 72% eFG mark in the first half.
|3pt FG Att||21||21|
|3pt FG Made||13||11|
|3pt FG Pct||61.9||52.4|
Kansas player impact chart is exactly what you want to see from this team. Depth is a strength and it's unclear sometimes how or if it will be used effectively. With Cole in early foul trouble, his minutes were limited. With Xavier struggling to get comfortable and lacking a little bit of intensity at times it was good to see Brady and Tyrel help will the void.
On a night where Sherron Collins was once again the leader and backbone of this team when it looked to be in trouble, he hardly ended up the night the most impressive story. Tyrel Reed finished the night with 11 points in just 14 minutes of play. Reed shot 3 for 5 from the line and who can forget one hell of a block on the interior.
Brady Morningstar showed everyone why Bill Self keeps playing him regardless of any perceived lack in ability. Morningstar doesn't exactly show up in a big way when you look at the box score but during the Kansas run that would ultimately put this game away he was winning the 50/50 balls, blocking shots, grabbing rebounds and passing the ball to create easy buckets.
Tyshawn Taylor was attacking offensively as well. The man without a role was penetrating the lane, drawing fouls and getting easy points. Tyshawn also was finally the Jayhawks best perimeter defender last night. While no one could make that claim in the first half, Tyshawn was pestering, pressuring and making life difficult for the Husker guards on the perimeter.
Last but certainly not least in the night of the unsung heroes is none other than the Morri. Specifically McMorris but in general the Morri duo played well. The two were 9 of 10 from the field, including a perfect 3 of 3 from behind the arc. The only place these two missed was from the free throw line. Tack on 10 boards to the cumulative 24 points and Kansas got it's four spot back again last night. The message sent by the Thomas Robinson start seemed to be heard loudest by Marcus Morris as his 19 point 7 board effort was huge in terms of picking Kansas up when it's top big was stuck on the bench a good portion of the game.
For 10 minutes Kansas was Kansas last night. If this group and specifically the players mentioned above can find this same intensity and performance on a consistent basis, the Jayhawks will be tough to stop. The problem right now lies in finding the drive, finding the intensity and putting forth the effort for forty minutes a night. That's what Coach Self is paid for, that's what he's good at and right now I'd have to say, Coach Self...time to earn your money.