Saturday, March 19, 2016

Laying it on the line: Jayhawks aware of UConn’s free-throw prowess

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick, left, guard Brannen Greene and Kansas forward Cheick Diallo (13) lace up their shoes in the locker room before practice, Friday, March 18, 2016 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick, left, guard Brannen Greene and Kansas forward Cheick Diallo (13) lace up their shoes in the locker room before practice, Friday, March 18, 2016 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.


— There’s something No. 9 seed UConn does better than (overall) No. 1 seed Kansas University — as well as all other teams in the country.

That’s shoot free throws.

The Huskies (25-10) have converted a nation’s best 79.3 percent of their charities entering today’s second-round NCAA Tournament South Regional contest against KU (31-4). Tip is approximately 6:45 p.m. in Wells Fargo Arena. The Jayhawks counter with a 70.8 percent mark, which ranks sixth in the Big 12 and No. 138 overall.

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Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Bill Self on UConn's strengths, KU's progress

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self answers questions from reporters as his top-seeded Jayhawks prepare to face Connecticut with a spot in the Sweet 16 on the line. Self gets into the Huskies' strengths, KU's progress and much more.

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Ellis and Graham on avoiding another 2nd-round letdown

Kansas basketball players Perry Ellis and Devonté Graham meet with media members the day before the Jayhawks' second-round meeting with Connecticut in the NCAA Tournament. The Jayhawks discuss avoiding another second-round letdown and other topics.

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UConn, which hit 22 of 23 free throws in a 74-67, first-round win over Colorado, has seven players — six regulars — shooting better than 80 percent. KU has one player over 80, and that’s Brannen Greene, who has limited sample size (42-of-50 for .840).

KU’s top starter is Perry Ellis, whose .782 mark is solid, but worse than the Huskies’ entire team combined.

“Honestly, that’s crazy. That’s big-time for them, actually,” said KU junior guard Greene, well aware of UConn’s numbers. “We know if we foul like we did yesterday (in 105-79 first-round win over Austin Peay, in which the Governors made 25 of 37 free throws), we know we’ll be in for a long day.”

Inquiring minds in the media sought reasons for the Huskies’ accuracy from the foul stripe during Friday’s mandatory media sessions.

“At the end of the practices, sometimes I make the guys make 11 in a row, 12 in a row,” said fourth-year UConn coach Kevin Ollie, who directed UConn to the 2014 national title “And if they do it on the first time, the coaches run. We never ran this whole season, so they didn’t make it on the first one. But that’s kind of their goal, and they get real, real mad when they don’t make 11 in a row. But it spurs them on, and they like it and get a kick out of it.”

The Jayhawk players can see how that would work.

“That’s a pretty unique thing to do. I think that kinda helps them out with their free throws. They probably concentrate on making it more, but I definitely think we could make 11 in a row if we had to watch the coaches run,” said sophomore guard Devonté Graham, a 74.7 percent free thrower who did not score, but had six assists, no turnovers in KU’s win over Austin Peay.

“I agree that would be cool to do, just a motivation factor, try to knock those down just to see them do that (run),” said KU senior Ellis, who takes a 16.8 scoring average into today’s game, coming off a 21-point outing vs. the Governors.

The Jayhawks, who hope to advance to Thursday’s Sweet 16 in Louisville, realize a key factor in advancing could be foul shooting.

“We have to be smart on defense, try to keep them off the line as much as possible,” Ellis said. “They are knocking those shots down. It’s obvious it’s something they have a lot of confidence in. They have great focus at the line.”

Greene, who has been suffering from back spasms lately and didn’t score versus Austin Peay but had four assists and three steals in 11 minutes, acknowledged, “UConn is a great driving team, so it will be tough (to avoid fouling). We will pick up a couple tick-tack fouls. They are really good drivers, really good guards. It’s about being focused, locked in shrinking the floor, making sure they can’t drive and get in the lane so Perry doesn’t have to pick up those fouls and Landen (Lucas) doesn’t have to pick up those fouls.”

Lucas, who had 16 points, eight boards and just two fouls against Peay, said, “If we get in foul trouble like yesterday, and the refs are calling it close, we have to make sure we do something to adjust. They will step up to the line and knock things down. If they can do that and control the pace of the game, that could hurt us.”

Noted junior Wayne Selden Jr.: “You can’t put them at the foul line early. We’ve got to guard, see how the refs call it then adjust.”

KU coach Bill Self realizes UConn can win a game at the stripe.

“Based on how we fouled yesterday, that wouldn’t bode well tomorrow for success,” Self said. “We fouled 27 times yesterday, and certainly when you foul a team that shoots like that ... we’ve got to play good defensively. We’ve got to play aggressive, but we’ve got to play with our head and our feet and keep them off the free-throw line.

“Certainly we know that’s a big part of their offense because they do drive it as well as anybody probably we played against all year. West Virginia would probably be a comparable-type team to look at when you look at their perimeter players and how well they drove it, and I think UConn’s players do the same thing.”

The Huskies have four players averaging between 12 and 12.7 points a game, including guards Rodney Purvis (6-foot-4 junior, 12.7), Sterling Gibbs (6-2 senior, 12.0) and guard/forward Daniel Hamilton (6-7 soph, 12.6).

The Huskies are also strong defensively, applying some full-court pressure. UConn is fourth in the country in field-goal percentage defense (.383, to 27th-ranked KU’s .398 mark).

“I think it’s different than West Virginia’s pressure. I think with West Virginia, they go trap a rebound. I think that UConn does it differently,” Self said. “But I also think that they do it soundly, too. I don’t think they give up a lot of easy baskets by their pressure. So not that West Virginia did, but it was just a totally different mind-set,” Self said. “I think UConn’s half-court defense is really good, and their stats back it up, their field goal percentage defense and everything backs it up. But they’ve got some guys, and especially Daniel Hamilton, his arms are so long and, you know, as far as seems like to me they pick somebody every game.

Yesterday, you know, in that game, I don’t want to say Colorado had control but, you know, it turned on a dime when the pressure was ratcheted up. So we certainly have to be prepared for that.”


Suzi Marshall 3 years, 3 months ago

Playing against guards that can drive the ball well is nothing new. Every team in the Big 12 has elite guards that drive it well. We can also drive it well and if their guards get in foul trouble, they don't have all that much quality debt.

After watching nothing but BBall the past two days only to re-watch the Kansas - APSU game again, I'm convinced more than ever this is the year for the Hawks. I thing we will beat UConn by double figures.

What in the world is wrong with the Big 12 when it comes to the NCAAs? It's all up to KU, OU and ISU to show the leagues toughness. UT, BU, WVa, and TTU are making us look bad.

Kent Richardson 3 years, 3 months ago

Arguments we are over rated hold more sway now for sure. Seeing our top defensive team unable to make four foot passes shows there is a different level of commitment in other tourney teams. WSU and SF Austin are two examples. WSU's effort against Arizona was eerily like last year against us and SFA's frenzy which prohibited WSU from making three foot passes was amazing. I think this kind of all in effort is hard to sustain just two nights later. take a week off and yep you can do it again. Kansas this year vs last is its ability to score from Perry and outside consistently unlike AZ and WV. This is why we need Svi, Carlton and the rest of our bench to keep shooting well and playing hard. Cheick is so athletic and Brannen can rebound even when he is S(s)elf scared to take open looks. If UConn is only in the game because of a FT's made disparity I like our chances over them in regulation or OT.

Marius Rowlanski 3 years, 3 months ago

In truth, UConn's free-throw shooting never came into play. If it wasn't for a few extended mental breaks, Kansas dominated this game for the most part.

Steve Macy 3 years, 3 months ago

I was listening to local sports talk yesterday, interesting stats about UConn. It basically came down to KU, or any UConn opponent, hitting their 3's. That bodes well for KU. Over like 34% and 6 made 3's, opponents have a winning percentage against UConn, under they don't. I hope I remembered them accurately. RCJH go KU>

Kent Richardson 3 years, 3 months ago

It's the good kind of scared which includes excited as in we are more complete than last year. Not perfect but better.

Marius Rowlanski 3 years, 3 months ago

Honestly Keith... I prefer blowouts that occur early in the first half and NEVER relinquished the lead.

Mike Barnhart 3 years, 3 months ago

This is going to be a very stressful game because there's not much to like about this matchup! Wayne and Frank can't stop dribble penetration and our rim protectors tend to foul a lot! Yikes! On the other end, Perry might have trouble scoring against their bigs.

It would be nice to build an early lead by making outside shots and winning the toughness battle. Even if it's a tight game, we're battle tested, I don't see us wilting under the pressure.

Buckle-up Jayhawk fans!

Kent Richardson 3 years, 3 months ago

Do you see a more a more ballsy Jayhawk attitude? Based on Spell Cheick data only and its lack of love for our player's first names we have that outsider edge and attitude from DeVonte to Svi.

One more thing, Isn't it telling that the dominant sports reporting platform, ESPN, puts out so little effort when they are not personally in the games. Showing Perry's dunk from two different angles was about it. Pathetic.

Bryce Landon 3 years, 3 months ago

On another note, I like how Kevin Ollie has gotten his team to shoot FTs so well. Maybe Bill Self could take a pointer from him on how to get his team to improve FT shooting, because it hasn't been all that great lately.

Bill Jacobson 3 years, 3 months ago

I believe the single most important factor hurting the Big 12 tourney success is the way the games are being officiated in the past 3 years. This year especially. The focus on tight calls in an effort to let the offense "move freely" is a huge disadvantage to the physical play the Big 12 brings to the table. West Virginia is a perfect example of this, when you are not allowed to put pressure on the ball, you get into foul trouble and put lesser skilled teams to the line to shoot easy buckets.

This style of officiating also favors the more aggressive, driving offenses. That is where Bill Self has failed to realize that in tight games in these tourneys, you need to attack at all times and drive to the basket. That is not the style Bill Self is comfortable with and it has cost him.

Yonatan Negash 3 years, 3 months ago

Can't wait to watch tonight's game.

If Kansas comes out aggressive and dictates the tempo of the game we'll be fine.

However, if Kansas allows UConn to be the aggressor and allows them to dictate the tempo of the game, things could get complicated.

Hard to see KU not controlling the tempo of this game, especially with the guards we have.

This UConn team shouldn't be compared to the championship teams they have in years past. This team doesn't have a top notch guard/off guard like they did when they had guys like El-Amin, Rip Hamilton, Kemba Walker, and Napier.

With that said, KU wins this game and marches on.

Harlan Hobbs 3 years, 3 months ago

Hopefully, we will have a different set of officials who will let them play. The ones Thursday had a tough day, almost worse than Austin Peay.

Marius Rowlanski 3 years, 3 months ago

Watching Miami BLOW a 21 point lead against WSU.

Kristen Downing 3 years, 3 months ago

A team that practices free unique.

Dirk Medema 3 years, 3 months ago

Shhhhhh, statistics. Looking a bit deeper, KU has made 100 more FT's this year than UConn, and Perry & Frank have both made more than there best. 20% more. Their player with the 4th most makes - Purvis, also is a worse FT shooter than most of our team. Maybe the line won't be as much of a problem as spun, though it makes an interesting story line.

Dirk Medema 3 years, 3 months ago

Maybe another line will make a bigger difference. We have 7 players that see significant minutes that shoot better from 3 than their best. They are all under 39%, and we're all 40.5 or better.

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