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Threes And Pressure D Lead To Kansas Victory over UNLV

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

We are starting to see a pattern that there will be good news and bad news in every game this year. At times we see the team that we all thought we would see at the beginning of the near. The team we thought could compete for a national title. And then at times we see the team that lost to Kentucky and Temple.

On one hand, Kansas had 8 of its shots blocked, and took 28 percent of its shots from three despite making just 45.8 percent of its twos and 42.1 percent of its threes. On the other hand, that's a higher percentage than UNLV gives up inside the arc on average this season, the shot blocking numbers were equal to the Rebels numbers, and Kansas owned the glass. Kansas rebounded 41.5 percent of its misses and rebounded 80 percent of UNLV's missed shots. UNLV took roughly a third of its shots from three, which is probably a good number given Kansas's rim protection issues, and they shot just 30.6 percent behind the arc.

Kansas shot 16-28 on dunks and layups in this one, or 57 percent, which raises its season average on the season, and while some of that is in transition, the Jayhawks did a much better job at the rim in the halfcourt in the second half (just a coincidence it coincided with Cliff Alexander playing, I'm sure).

The Jayhawks forced steals on 10.3 percent of UNLV's possessions, above the national average, and while the overall turnover numbers weren't great, the trapping defense frustrated the Rebels into taking tough jumpers, and of course provided the Jayhawks with numerous runouts. It also helped frustrate UNLV leading scorer Rashad Vaughn, who had just 10 points on 4-10 shooting and four turnovers.

I of course would be remiss if I did not mention the hustle play in the first half by Wayne Selden saving a ball that looked like it was going out of bounds and led to a layup by Frank Mason. I'm not a huge believer in momentum, but I think that play, and other hustle plays, plus the ensuing runs, showed the team that if they played this way they can beat anybody.

And, to finish the lede I buried in the first paragraph: hustle plays, a talented point guard, a short bench, and a team that has to reinvent ways to score and to win every game. Kinda sounds like the 2012 team.

  • Frank Mason was incredible again in this one. 18 points on 7-11 shooting from two and 1-3 from three, 4 rebounds, 7 assists, just 2 turnovers, 4 steals, and overall really good pressure defense. He's probably not going to get first team all Big 12 with guys like Morris, Staten, and Anderson in the league, but at this point I'm not sure I'd take anyone else over him.
  • Wayne Selden had what could best be described as a bad game disguised as a good game. He had the great hustle play and shot 4-8 on threes, but just 3 rebounds, an assist, and two turnovers. He also struggled on off ball defense. Still, the threes were huge and if he can reinvent himself as a good on ball defender who makes 37 percent of his threes, that's not a bad player.
  • Kelly Oubre was great again, and though he shot just 1-6 on twos, he was 2-4 from three, got to the line consistently, had 10 rebounds, and was a terror defensively. He defended Vaughn well, and everyone else really, and though he's only credited with 1 steal in the boxscore he forced multiple turnovers.
  • Cliff Alexander took a team high 12 shots in 21 minutes, making 5 of them. He also had 5 rebounds and a block and had the rare game where Kansas played well when he was in there but it didn't necessarily show up in Cliff's numbers.
  • Perry Ellis started rough, and it doesn't seem like he had a great game, but was 6-10 on twos, 1-2 from three, and had 9 rebounds against potentially the second best front line Kansas has seen all year. If he has figured out how to score against these types of front lines (and I'm not convinced he has) then watch out.
  • I'll go into more detail into why I think Jamari Traylor plays a lot in the future, but he had 9 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 2 assists in 27 minutes, helping to cover up his 2 turnovers and the fact he shot just 2-6.
  • That's about it for who played. I wish Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk would have played more, and Brannen Greene is recovering from a neck injury, but a quick note on the big men who didn't play. Because of UNLV's big front line, I don't think this was the game for either Landen Lucas or Hunter Mickelson. Kansas's strategy defensively clearly was to get out on the perimeter and pressure guys, and Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor are the better guys at that. Likewise on offense, Mickelson is basically a zero there and the strategy, especially in the second half, was clearly to pull out the big guys and try to drive around them, which is more Ellis and Traylor's strength than Lucas'. Further, UNLV isn't a great rebounding team, which lessens the need to have Lucas out there. I expect we'll see him against Baylor, which relies on the offensive glass to score.