Although Kansas took its foot off the gas in a major way last night (and probably didn’t play terribly well) they had a rather comprehensive victory over Michigan State. From the get-go, Kansas dominated on the glass and really stymied the Spartans defensively, especially in the halfcourt.
Starting with the defense, Kansas allowed just over 1 point per trip to the Spartans, but in a lot of ways it was a vintage Bill Self defense: Sparty shot just 39 percent on twos and rebounded just 19 percent of their misses. And while it is fair to say the Jayhawks got bailed out a bit by MSU’s poor free throw shooting (MSU was just 23-35), I think it’s also fair to say some (or a lot) of those fouls probably won’t be called fouls as the refs do their customary relaxing of what is and is not considered a foul.
It’s also fair to say Kansas gave up a few too many open threes last night, but conversely, teams probably won’t shoot over 50 percent from three against them too often.
The big problem on defense, obviously, was in transition. Michigan State repeatedly punished the Jayhawks’ transition defense, including after a couple of made baskets. It tied in with a general theme of Kansas not having great awareness off the ball. The good news is I think that, unlike last year, that is going to improve as the season goes along because of the length and athleticism Kansas has on the wing.
Offensively, Kansas struggled at times to get clean looks at the basket. I joked on Twitter that midway through the first half Kansas had as many post ups as they did all of last year, but by the end of the game it really felt that way. Still, that ended up proving to be a pretty good offense, as Udoka Azubuike was nearly unguardable in the post, and he did a reasonable job passing out of the double team as well.
KU also had the 3-pointer working, shooting over 40 percent, although it’s worth noting they only took a third of their attempts from three. But on the bright side, the Jayhawks left a lot of points out there in transition, and as the offense continues to get more comfortable with one another, they should be elite on that end of the floor.
- Dedric Lawson had 20 points and 14 rebounds, and it was probably a bit disappointing for him. He was just 5-16 on twos and 0-2 from behind the arc. One thing I did notice is if he went a couple possessions without getting the ball in a good spot to score he would isolate and usually end up taking a crappy jumper. It would be nice if that went away, but that might be the cost of doing business with the rest of his talents. It’s worth noting he got to the line 12 times, and a had more than a couple bunnies roll in and out, which likely won’t happen going forward. Oh, and he had 6 assists, 2 blocks, and 2 steals.
- Devon Dotson showed off a lot of the footspeed that gave him Frank Mason comparisons, and was 3-5 from deep, even if his shot takes quite awhile to get off. He also had 3 steals, showing that even if he isn’t a great defender (he played pretty well on the ball, but got lost too often off it), he can be a pest and someone to watch out for. He had 4 turnovers as well, and probably gave away another 4-6 points in transition, but once he cleans that up (and I think he will) he’s going to be very good.
- Lagerald Vick had a night to forget, going 0-4 from deep and adding a couple turnovers. He did have 3 steals though, and played adequately on defense.
- Quentin Grimes was as advertised, with 21 points and 4 assists. Somehow I don’t think he will be 6-10 from three every game, but the hope is he can shoot somewhere in the 40 percent range and give Kansas a true deep threat.
- Udoka Azubuike added some post touch over the summer, going 7-10, including a great up-and-under move as well as a great dropstep to the basket in the waning minutes. He also showed off a nice hook shot and in general was too big for Nick Ward to deal with (and if he’s too big for Nick Ward, he’s too big for everyone). Azubuike also had 4 blocks, lending credence to the theory that he was less aggressive on defense last year to avoid foul trouble with KU’s lack of depth.
- Marcus Garrett was 1-3 from two, made both of his free throws, and played pretty well defensively.
- Charlie Moore struggled to get into the flow of the game due to foul trouble, and finished just 0-1 from the field.
- KJ Lawson avoided a public dissection by Bill Self thanks to making his on the dribble three he took late in the first half, and he finished with 5 rebounds and an assist as well.
- Mitch Lightfoot had a blocked shot, as well as a nice jump hook and nice cut off the ball to get 4 points, but also struggled a bit to get into the flow of the game.
- David McCormack had 3 points, 3 rebounds and an assist in 5 minutes. It will be tough for Self to get him on the floor too much this year given that the Jayhawks have both Lawson and Azubuike, but he will be a valuable asset for when one of them is in foul trouble.