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Sunday, December 31, 2017

Jayhawks continue to torch nets from 3-point range

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) elevates for a three over Texas forward Dylan Osetkowski (21) during the second half on Friday, Dec. 29, 2017 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) elevates for a three over Texas forward Dylan Osetkowski (21) during the second half on Friday, Dec. 29, 2017 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.

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For a head coach and group of players still searching for an identity, simple statistics seem to suggest the Kansas men's basketball may already have one.

The Jayhawks have made 11 or more 3-pointers in eight of the 13 games they have played this season and now are shooting .422 from 3-point range following a 92-86 road win over Texas on Friday night.

The Jayhawks' latest victory featured a whopping 17 3-pointers from a red-hot team that made big shot after big shot to keep Texas at arm's length.

When it was over, senior point guard Devonte' Graham, who made six of those 17 triples and is now shooting 45.4 percent from behind the arc for the season, was asked if the kind of marksmanship the Jayhawks consistently have shown from 3-point range so far this season could, in fact, be this team's identity.

“I mean, it can be,” Graham said. “But at the end of the day defense wins championships so we got to still focus in defensively.”

Graham's answer fell perfectly in line with what KU coach Bill Self always has said about relying too much on outside shots to win games. But it also showed that Graham was at least willing to consider the current reality, which illustrates clearly that knocking down shots from long distances is what this team does best.

However, because Graham, a career 41.4 percent 3-point shooter, has experienced first-hand those nights when the 3-point shot lets the Jayhawks down, he also knows, identity or not, this group has to do more.

“At one point we were just trading baskets,” Graham said. “I know it was pretty fun to watch for you all, but we got to lock in defensively and start getting more stops.”

Self, no doubt, would be pleased by those answers. And, more to the point, Self and Graham both know that even if the Jayhawks had still out-shot their season average but knocked in two or three fewer 3-pointers on Friday night, the outcome might have been different.

For a team with such a small margin for error because of so many factors, that part of their reality is unnerving.

“We had some guys play really well individually and we shot the heck out of the ball,” Self said. “We needed to though.”

For a coach who always would rather see his teams win with defense and by making opponents play bad, Self has come a long way in accepting the increased importance of and reliance on the 3-point shot during recent seasons. That does not mean he fully likes it, but it's clear that he understands that allowing players to do what they do best and are most comfortable doing occasionally can be the better path, whether it leads to an enjoyable walk or not.

“You make 17 threes, I don't know if you call it gritty when you do that,” Self lamented. “We didn't rebound very well, we, obviously didn't guard the ball screens well in the first half (and) we did some things not very well, scouting report-wise, but we competed hard.”

And maybe that's just it. Maybe competing hard, having pride in the outcome and representing the name on the jersey, while making a boatload of 3-pointers in the process, is all this team needs and will answer Self's questions of, 'Who are we? How do we make people play bad? Are we only going to win when we make shots?”

Friday night in Austin, the answer to that last question was yes. And that was good enough to close 2017 on a high note and move Kansas to 1-0 in Big 12 play for the 27th consecutive season.

Comments

Rob Byrd 9 months, 2 weeks ago

While I love to see threes pour through the nets, I have to admit that I think back on several old sayings, Such as, " If wishes were fishes, the seas would be full", " If if's and but's were candy and nuts we'd have a very merry Christmas", and "if frogs had wings, they wouldn't bump their a##'es on the ground", and my favorite is "If Trae Young was a Jayhawk, we wiukd be National Champions. :-)

Austin Lopez 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Live by the three and you will eventually die by the three

Bryce Landon 9 months, 2 weeks ago

And always at the worst possible time - in March.

Tony Bandle 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Without Billy or Silvio, the way to beat Kansas is quite simple. Go to a triangle and two..put your biggest man fronting Dok, have your best defender stick to Devonte like glue and make the other three players beat you.

Brian Leslie 9 months, 2 weeks ago

I agree that triangle-and-two is a great way to defend a team that has one great big/one great small, but Lagerald and Svi are two of the elite 3-pt shooters in the country. The way we swing it so fast and are putting up the shot in under half a second, I think we would find the gaps in the "triangle" part and destroy it. If you're going to zone this Kansas team, it has to be a funky zone that extends to 22 feet and is willing to concede midrange shots. If you can get KU shooting 2-pointers at 50% and you rebound well, you have a chance. It's awfully hard to win if you're conceding KU getting 45-50% type shots from 3. We'll take Lagerald and Svi getting open shots from 21 feet all day every day.

Tim Orel 9 months, 2 weeks ago

I didn't see the ASU game, but if a team is able to defend the 3pt line the way Washington did, I could see the Jayhawks losing another game, especially in the tourney. Dok's improvement since that game will be huge, as will gaining one or two more bigs. I just am worried about another performance like vs. Oregon last year in the tourney where the outside shots weren't falling and KU had no inside game to counter with.

Jay Hawk 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Unfortunately, if we don't find a reliable way to win without knocking down lots of 3s, we will run into that team somewhere in March that is long and athletic, causing an off night that goes something like 5 for 29 and we will go home again.

We need to play better D. We need to board better. We need to have Silvio and/or Preston make an impact.

Kent Richardson 9 months, 2 weeks ago

So true. A bit of mid range scoring from long hustle rebounds off three misses would help. Preston has mid range skills so come on NCAA.

Not sure about Silvio on mid range but can he spell Dok in an effective way and get half a dozen boards?

We will get through the conference okay. OU and TCU was a super close game but TCU didn't play well. The difference really was coaching at the end. Dixon is good but not at drawing up plays like Self and Kruger. Young is a freshman and shows it but man he is the best in this league by a notch or two. Let's see if the grind gets him.

Andy Godwin 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Those who think the players in waiting will impact the team in the near future are probably a bit misguided. Note that Sam Cunliffe didn't even smell the floor against Texas. And if you watch the replay of the game when the bench is shown, Sam is not very enthusiastic and actually looks completely disengaged. Self does not accept losing and will go with those players who have gained his trust during a game, not just practice. I will find it interesting when or if De Sousa gets onto the floor if Self will allow him to play through mistakes.

Tony Bandle 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Add six inches and 40 lbs and I'll bet Sam sees the floor no matter what kind of face he makes on the bench.

Dirk Medema 9 months, 2 weeks ago

During the UT game, Coach had no reason to even look Sam's way. Maybe he should have - some find this to be a fault of his, but there also was no need.

Coach has very definitely allowed some players to play through their mistakes and growing pains (see Tyshawn Taylor in particular). Other times, not so much at all.

Sam's challenge is that he has 2 perimeter players in front of him, and that's about all Coach will use unless forced to do otherwise.

5 starters

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2 perimeter

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1 post


8 players

Len Shaffer 9 months, 2 weeks ago

With Preston, KU has a shot at the Final Four; without him, they're Sweet 16 at best.

Marcia Parsons 9 months, 2 weeks ago

My guess is Cunliff doesn't have the defense down yet. After the game Self said Cunliff was fine. Everyone else was playing good and he didn't want to disrupt their rhythm. It was a pretty tight game, and he needed Garrett's defense more than Cunliff's scoring is what I thought that meant.

Steve Zimmerman 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Very well put: That does not mean he fully likes it, but it's clear that he understands that allowing players to do what they do best and are most comfortable doing occasionally can be the better path, whether it leads to an enjoyable walk or not.

I've been waiting for so looong for that to happen.. Not only is that going to be the key to another NC but it will also help prepare those individuals to get drafted up there.

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