While watching Georgia play Indiana, I took notice of the zone defense that Indiana was playing and tweeted that a good zone defense would probably be fairly effective against us this year, especially in the early going. With so many young bigs, and bigs I didn't think were too adept at passing the ball, the only recourse would be to shoot over the top, which, while I think it will come around, given that we are shooting about 27% from beyond the arc so far this year is fairly troubling.
Whether Washington State plays zone defense regularly (and I have no idea as I generally adhere to the life principle of "who cares about Washington State") or they thought they could force Kansas into shooting mostly deep jumpers, they deployed a zone defense and......it didn't go well. Kansas scored over 1.5 points per possession in a 50 point first half, and it was not solely done from beyond the arc either: the entry passes looked good, and the interior passing was great. Rarely did a player take a shot when a better one was available by a teammate, and while the second half was nowhere near as explosive offensively it's tough to fault Kansas when they went into halftime with a 30 point lead.
Perhaps most impressively, Kansas had only 9 turnovers in the game, turning it over on 14.3% of their possessions. They did a much better job on both the offensive and defensive glass, and their two point defense, which had struggled early, was back to its normal self, allowing the Cougars to shoot just 37.1% from inside the arc. Kansas is going to win a lot of games allowing opponents that kind of two point percentage, regardless of how they do from three, but when an opponent goes 4-22 from three like last night it results in Kansas allowing just over 40 points.
- Travis Releford is back! Kind of. He had a great shooting night (4-4 from two, 2-3 from three) and played his customary solid defense but had just 1 rebound and 1 assist. Perhaps Kansas will need him to step up a bit more this year but I get the sense we will be at our best when he has an 8 point, 5 rebound, 3 assist type night.
- Jeff Withey had just 8 points, but chipped in with 6 rebounds, pretty good for this slow of a game, and had 5 blocks. He looked pretty disinterested in the team's first couple of games, but it's safe to say that's over.
- Ben McLemore didn't really assert himself, taking 2 twos and 4 threes, but he had a monstrous put back dunk, 2 offensive rebounds and 2 blocks. I'd like to see him attack the basket and rebound on the defensive end a bit better, but if he shoots that well from the outside it will only help us (obviously).
- Elijah struggled from beyond the arc, going 2-8, but most of those shots were in and out and his shot still looks smooth and he's shooting it with confidence. He was a streaky shooter last year so maybe we are in for another year of that, but for some reason I feel more confident that he is going to make a three when he takes one this year (analysis!)
- When watching, it didn't really look like Naadir Tharpe did a lot. He played well on three, made a three and made an ill advised two with his foot on the line, but he wasn't too noticeable. However, that's before looking at 4 assists and 0 turnovers. Washington State didn't really pressure the ball a lot but he looks a lot more comfortable and while it doesn't always lead to an assist he has great vision on the court and gets teammates in good spots all the time.
- Kevin Young had a game high 10 rebounds, and oddly (for him) most of them, 8, came on the defensive glass. Defensive rebounding isn't always the most important ingredient to a dominant defense, but I think we are going to struggle in that area this year so having Young pitch in was a nice surprise.
- I was really impressed by Perry Ellis. He had 12 points, was 2-3 from the field, and made all 8 of his free throws. He also 3 boards, 2 assists, a steal and a block. He is an extremely smart player and is really patient with the ball, a rare quality for a Freshman. But, and I hate to keep coming back to this, I think a big part of his good game had to do with the fact that the Cougars weren't very athletic in the front court.