Kansas men's basketball team struggling at charity stripe

The Jayhawks warm up prior to tipping off against Memphis during the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York.

The Jayhawks warm up prior to tipping off against Memphis during the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Kansas University’s basketball team — which hit 89.3 percent of its free throws during the two-game exhibition season — has struggled to a 63.9 percent mark through eight regular-season games.

Ever-quotable Marcus Morris — he cashed 15 of 15 free throws against Washburn and Emporia State but has made 24 of 41 (.585) since — on Thursday offered a reason for the discrepancy.

“I think before the exhibitions, we weren’t working on shooting free throws. We started working on them and then we started missing them,” Morris said with a smile. “So I think if we stop working on them we’ll make some more, know what I mean? That’s probably not the reason, but I mean it could be.”

The Jayhawks, who hit 67 of 75 in the practice games, have iced 122 of 191 in eight regular-season victories. Take Tyrel Reed (16 of 16) and Brady Morningstar (3 of 3) out of the mix and KU is a 59.9 percent free throw shooting team entering Saturday’s game against Colorado State (5:30 p.m., Sprint Center, Kansas City, Mo.).

“I mean it could be mental. Every time you get to the line and the team is not shooting well, you want to make the next one and you just miss,” Marcus Morris said. “I think we will get better as the season goes along.”

KU coach Bill Self was asked if there’s a danger in talking about free throw shooting too much.

“There could be. (But) I’ll talk about it now. We’ve shot it awful,” Self said. “It is the same team shooting it that shot (well) in the exhibition games. We have better shooters than what we are shooting it.

“I also think this,” Self quickly added, “if you are an opposing coach and you are looking at us, you are probably saying, ‘Well jeez, if they start making free throws they (will be tough to beat),’ because free throws have not been an offensive weapon for us, which it should be as much as we drive and get fouled. I will tell everybody I’m not worried about it changing. I believe it will, but I’d just as soon it happen now rather than later.”

The Jayhawks entered the week No. 1 in the country in field goal percentage (56.9).

“I think we take really good shots and we’ve gotten a lot of easy baskets whether it be transition or angles where we basically score with no defense because they are out of place or we throw it over the top,” Self said.

Tyshawn Taylor, who is a 57.1 percent shooter and 63.3 percent free thrower, noted: “We’ve got so many different guys that can score or just make shots, it’s hard to stop us.

“We watch other college games and compare ourselves. I sit back and think, ‘We’re better than this team or that team,’ for different reasons. I think that’s one of the reasons. We’re one of the deeper teams.”

The Jayhawks are the No. 4-ranked team in the country with Josh Selby to join the mix against on Dec. 18.

“No,” Taylor said, asked if he’s identified a better team. “I think Duke is real good, though, but I don’t think anybody is better than us.”

One more year?: Junior Marcus Morris said he was thrilled to learn KU will play Kentucky in Madison Square Garden next year as part of the four-team Champions Classic.

“Me being here my senior year and being able to compete against those caliber players will definitely be exciting for everybody,” Morris said. “I’m just waiting for it to come. I definitely was excited to see it. It’s a good challenge for us to come.”

Draftexpress.com projects Morris to be the No. 14 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.

NBA talk: Self was asked about the impact an NBA team in Kansas City might have on KU.

“Forty five games is a lot of home games. There’d be a lot of people that would want to spend their entertainment dollar on that and us and may be forced to make a decision on which they do,” he said. “I personally think it could affect, I’m not saying adversely, K-State, us and Missouri. To be honest, we’re selfish. I think we enjoy being the professional franchise, all three of us, because if an NBA team does come, that title would go away fast. There are so many advantages if we have an NBA franchise, but it doesn’t stink now is the way I see it.”

Draft: There’s talk the NBA players association wants a rule allowing players to enter the draft right out of high school.

“I am shocked,” Self said. “So now younger kids are going to take their jobs. It’s one thing to get beat out by somebody that can help. It’s another to get beat out by potential that can’t play yet. I’d think the NBA players would want it (age limit) to be pushed back.”

He said he was in favor of “letting them go immediately,” but added he thought no player should be allowed to leave unless NBA evaluators guarantee a player should be a top 15 pick. He said it was wrong that some players “don’t make their grades because they think they can just declare for the draft.”