A few thoughts as Kansas survives Texas to move to 4-1 in Big 12 play
1. Kansas consistently gets better looks than its opponents late in games.
Last night, the Jayhawks consistently got Dedric Lawson 1-on-1 post-up opportunities late in the game, while the Longhorns had to take quite a few guarded shots (of course, they had a couple open threes as well). Consider the final possession, when Texas was forced to take a guarded almost double clutch three thanks in part to Kansas (likely) knowing what was coming.
2. Don’t worry about the free throw shooting.
Kansas shot just 11-21 from the free throw line last night, prompting some people to (correctly) state that if they had shot a little better, it would have been a semi-comfortable win rather than the nailbiter we had. However, I wouldn’t be too worried. Non-Udoka Azubuike Jayhawks are shooting around 71 percent from the line for the season, and Kansas will most likely have Devon Dotson (78 percent) or Dedric Lawson (74.5 percent) taking the bulk of the free throws down the stretch.
3. Agbaji impresses again.
Although Ochai Agbaji did not make a 3-pointer last night, he was 2-3 on twos, added 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal. He also is clearly a part of Bill Self’s end-of-game lineup. After watching him defend multiple positions the way he did last night, it’s not hard to see why. Perhaps the only blemish on his line last night was passing the ball to Marcus Garrett for the final two free throws rather than using the timeout the Jayhawks had in their pocket.
4. Devon Dotson finally had a somewhat poor defensive game.
Texas guard Matt Coleman finished 5-9 on twos and 2-3 on threes, while posting 8 assists and 0 turnovers. While Dotson wasn’t his primary defender for that entire statline, Coleman consistently was able to get into the lane when Dotson was on him.
5. The defensive rebounding wasn’t that bad.
After the abysmal effort on the defensive glass in the Baylor game, Bill Self made it a point to challenge his Jayhawks’ effort in that department. There were a couple instances of the Longhorns grabbing multiple offensive rebounds in succession, but overall the Jayhawks held them to rebounding 35 percent of their misses, which is not great (and above Texas’s season average), but it is still on the upper end of acceptable for a one-game sample.
6. Marcus Garrett: 3-point assassin.
I can’t believe I made it this far without mentioning Marcus Garrett’s night. He was 3-4 from three, and also did a good job of taking advantage when Mitrou-Long was guarding him, taking him off the dribble multiple times. His 20 points were a career high, and he added 3 assists and 3 steals.
7. Kansas needs Lagerald Vick to play well in order to win a title.
There is no doubt Vick raises KU’s ceiling. They probably don’t win last night without him going insane from deep, to the tune of 5-8 from three. Also important: zero turnovers. Also also important was how engaged he was defensively. It’s not always pretty, but even him giving effort to contest threes or stay in front of his man makes a big difference given his length and athleticism. This doesn’t mean Kansas needs him to play well six games in a row to win the national title, but there will definitely be a game in the tournament when five or so Vick threes will be needed.
8. David McCormack has earned some more playing time.
There is no doubt McCormack can get clumsy out there. He also plays like the ball is a ticking time bomb that will go off if he doesn’t put up a shot within five seconds of touching it. But there’s also no doubt his energy helped propel Kansas last night. He had half of the team’s offensive rebounds in just 8 minutes of playing time, and while it’s an obvious point to make that guys will attack the glass harder if they know they aren’t playing as much, McCormack deserves the opportunity to see if he can rebound like that with more minutes.
9. The offense is close to getting it.
After Udoka Azubuike got hurt, Kansas needed to adjust its offense on the fly. While they currently sit 6th in the league in points per possession, they’re first in 2-point shooting and in eFG. They still need to score more to be a truly elite team, but they’re getting better looks as of late (thanks to Devon Dotson getting more comfortable) and shooting a few more threes, which will open things up inside for Dedric Lawson.