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Kansas Moves Into The Top Spot In KenPom With Win Over UC Irvine

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Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

With KU's 78-53 win over UC Irvine in just 64 possessions, Kansas has now scored over a point per trip in every game except the Michigan State game, and allowed fewer than a point per trip in every game except against Michigan State and UCLA. The Jayhawks scored 1.22 and allowed .83 last night in, given the size of the opponent, maybe one of their most surprising performances of the season.

Kansas shot 56 percent from two and shot 63 percent in close. Some of that was being able to get out in transition, but that's still a good number against a team that was 24th in 2-point defense and 28th in defense at the rim coming into the game.

Kansas took a third of its attempts from three, but shot just 29 percent behind the arc in one of the lone blemishes from this game. Still, the positive spin is Kansas has shown it can score enough to win without making threes, and do so against a team full of big guys. The Jayhawks dominated on the glass as well, grabbing 40 percent of their misses and limiting Irvine to just 30 percent of theirs.

Defensively Kansas did a good job on Mamadou Ndiaye. He had a couple easy lay-ins but that is going to happen when you're 7-6, 300 lbs no matter how good the defense is. He took just 5 shots and Kansas forced him into 3 turnovers, so their best work was done usually before he was able to do anything. Elsewhere, the Jayhawks forced turnovers on 23 percent of Irvine's possessions (while committing them on just 14 percent of their own). In years' past I have mentioned that if Kansas could just keep the turnover battle close they were likely to win the game as that was their biggest achilles heel, but this year they are winning the turnover battle most games, and that's a big reason why they have the ranking they do.

Frank Mason somehow had 2 turnovers, but backed it up with 6 assists, 13 points, and 3 steals. He was 0-2 on threes but 4-6 from two and made a couple acrobatic shots at the rim.

Devonte Graham had no turnovers and 3 assists, and was 3-7 from three. He had a couple  big ones in the first half to keep the Jayhawks in it when it looked like the offense was stagnant.

Perry Ellis had 14 points and 9 rebounds, and shot 3-7 on twos and made his only 3. He also was 5-6 from the line. 3-7 isn't great, but it's certainly better than I think most Jayhawks fans were expecting, and like I said on twitter last night I imagine it's a statline people will conveniently forget when Perry has a bad game in February.

Wayne Selden was 0-3 from three and as a result is now just 15th in the nation in eFG. He was 4-6 from two, and added 7 rebounds, 5 assists, a block, and a steal, so any fears that he would let a poor shooting night go to his head can be assuaged a bit.

Hunter Mickelson got himself into foul trouble, but played some good defense with 3 steals and a block, and did an admirable job fighting down low, even if he looked like a 7th grader against Ndiaye.

Brannen Greene missed both of his threes (how many times will he and Selden combine to go 0-5?) but attacked the rim well (?!) and got 11 free throw attempts out of it. I was not actively watching Greene last night, but I thought he was generally OK on defense as well, perhaps best evidenced by the fact I never yelled at him for losing his man.

Landen Lucas played 15 good minutes and had 8 points and 4 rebounds. He also attempted a three at the end of the first half, which got blocked, in what will probably be the only one of his career.

Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk had 0 points, and although he defended well it was a pretty tough game overall for him. Irvine aggressively closed out on both Svi and Greene, forcing them to pump fake and drive, and Greene handled it much better than Svi did. He did play well defensively.

Carlton Bragg played 9 minutes and had 0 points.

Jamari Traylor played 8 minutes and had 1 point.

Cheick Diallo played 8 minutes, had 6 points, 1 rebound, and a turnover. I imagine this will be the main event in the comments, so I will summarize my position here before noting I have a longer post in the works: while I think it would have been nice to play him more minutes and take our lumps, this isn't a situation like Cliff last year. Diallo doesn't know how to play basketball yet. Some of that is the NCAA's fault in suspending him for no reason, and I do think last night would have been a good time to play him 20-25 minutes and just seen what happened, but when Diallo checked in in the first half he immediately fired up a guarded deep two. And this was at a time when KU's offense was sputtering, getting nothing but bad shots, etc. I understand why Self would yank him to send him a message. I'm also not in practice, and if a guy isn't practicing well I can see why you wouldn't play him, regardless of his recruiting ranking. I don't think Kansas will all of a sudden lose recruits they should get (nor do I think it would be a huge deal if they do) and, like Cliff, I think Diallo will show improvement in practice over the course of the year and I think he will earn more playing time and be in place to be one of our key guys in March. I just hope he has a better mom.

Lagerald Vick made a three. I should probably mention how excited I am for him in a couple years.