Will I ever learn? I'll be the first to admit, when things start looking bad, I prepare for the worst. Last night against the Aggies of A&M, Kansas struggled from the outset, or at least the outset that I was able to see thanks to ESPN and the Big East. All game long it felt like a game the Jayhawks were losing by a dozen or so points. The truth of the matter however, found the Jayhawks down no more than four points at any given time during the game. This wasn't pretty, it was a struggle, but then again A&M is a ranked opponent. Kansas once again went in and found a way to win one on the road against the best of the rest that the Big 12 has to offer. 11-0, magic number is 2 and only one team stands within three of the Jayhawks. I don't expect Kansas can win all of them, but they keep proving me wrong.
On the team side of things the Aggies took 17 more shots than the Jayhawks in this one. 17 more shots but still came up short on the scoreboard Some of that comes from the 20 offensive boards they were able to snag, but a lot of that comes from settling for jump shots. The Aggies shot fairly well in the first half, but when the opportunity to pull away continued to present itself in the 2nd frame, they couldn't convert.
Another bi product of this style of play is the lack of free throws as the Aggies only took 11 from the charity stripe. Considering Kansas was there 26 times and the foul differential was only three, it's pretty clear who was attacking the basket a little more on the evening.
Biggest area the Jayhawks need to improve in this one is on the defensive glass. A&M is an athletic bunch and when Cole goes swinging that 8 foot tree trunk he calls an arm looking for a block, he isn't always quick enough to turn around and get the rebound too. Cole changes shots on the interior so you obviously want him doing that whenever he can, but that means the other four on the floor have to find a way to get in position and get the rebound. Obviously part of the struggle was the foul trouble with the Morri, but it's definitely an area that can change the complexion of a game and should be addressed.
All in all though it was a workman like effort for Kansas. The defense continued to keep A&M at bay and away from easy baskets, the offense was efficient inside and one big winner on the night was the free throw shooting of the Morri who finished 9 of 10 on the evening.
On the individual side of things Xavier Henry continues to find ways to make a difference. It's no secret he's a player that continues to frustrate me as a fan, but that's probably more due to the fact that he could be great with a little more work.
The end of the story obviously isn't written yet, but I sure hope Xavier gives this another year, works on his ball handling, finds his shot again and becomes a more confident finisher when going to the basket. If those three things are working, he can be a great player. Right now, he's a good player who's finding ways to contribute and make a difference. Last night's 12 points and 6 boards were once again a quiet key to this game. Xavier's 6 for 8 shooting night from the free throw line were also important as they provided points for Kansas when they couldn't find other ways to get going offensively.
If his ultimate goal and path is that of a one and done, let's hope he finds a way to turn it on over the next month and a half and really starts to find his groove both attacking the basket and from outside.
Other than Xavier, Cole had his usual double double with a side of blocks to go with it. 12 points, 10 rebounds and 5 blocks on the night. A limited Morri went for 21 and 9. Sherron continues his recent struggles but as someone pointed out in the open thread, he seems a little tired perhaps injured. I'd say the tired part could certainly have applied to Cole last night as well. A&M is just a tricky matchup for the Jayhawks and there is still one or two teams on the schedule that fit that same mold. I'll be interested to see how those two games go for Cole.