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Thursday, January 3, 2019

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self calls KU’s 3-point woes ‘worrisome’ after 4-of-21 effort vs. Oklahoma

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (24) puts up a three over Oklahoma forward Brady Manek (35) during the first half, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (24) puts up a three over Oklahoma forward Brady Manek (35) during the first half, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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Thirteen games into the 2018-19 Kansas basketball season, the fifth-ranked Jayhawks are shooting .344 from 3-point range as a team, which puts them in the bottom half of all Division I basketball teams heading into conference play.

While that might be hard to believe for a program that has set a school record for 3-pointers made in three consecutive seasons, it’s much easier to digest if you’ve watched these Jayhawks play.

Sure, they’re 12-1 and ranked in the Top 5 in the polls. But those feats have come in spite of their 3-point shooting, not because of it like in years past.

Outside of senior guard Lagerald Vick, who opened the season on an absolute tear from behind the arc, the Jayhawks are shooting just 28.9 percent from 3-point range.

Here’s a quick look at who has made what from behind the arc during KU’s past five games, when Jayhawks not named Vick have hit fewer than 30 percent of their 3-point attempts during that stretch.

That mark includes a 6-of-9 effort from Charlie Moore — 9-of-17 overall in the past five games — during a 36-point win over South Dakota. If the sophomore reserve had just hit his average in those five games, instead of going bonkers against USD, KU’s non-Vick number would have dipped below 25 percent from behind the arc.

In addition to Moore’s mark during KU’s past five games, Devon Dotson shot 5-of-11 from downtown, while Quentin Grimes was 3-of-19, K.J. Lawson 3-of-9, Dedric Lawson 2-of-10, and Marcus Garrett and Mitch Lightfoot combined to go 0-of-8.

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Kansas guard Quentin Grimes puts up a shot during warmups prior to an exhibition against Emporia State, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Even Vick has cooled off substantially during the past couple of weeks, knocking in just 11 of 39 from 3-point range (28.2 percent) during the Jayhawks’ past seven games.

That includes a 2-of-7 performance during Wednesday’s 70-63 victory over No. 23 Oklahoma at Allen Fieldhouse, which featured more than a couple shots from Vick that could be described as off-script and came outside of the flow of KU’s offense.

“It is worrisome, obviously,” said KU coach Bill Self of KU’s showing against OU and seasonlong struggle from 3-point range. “You go 4 of 21 and some of the 3s we took were very marginal 3s at best. When we have a size advantage, it’s not very smart (to shoot those).”

But the shots kept flying. KU made 2-of-12 in the first half — yet led by 15 behind the strength of its defense and points in transition — and 2-of-9 from downtown in the second half.

Self was pleased by the way the Jayhawks built that 40-25 halftime lead, saying he thought they played good ball for the final 17 minutes of the first half. But he also was irked by the way they protected that lead in the second half. And a lot of that frustration had to do with shot selection.

“You shouldn’t really, in my opinion, evaluate whether you played well (by) if you made shots,” said Self, repeating a mantra he’s said throughout his coaching career. “You can take a bad shot and have it go in and you can take a good shot and miss it and people think you played better when a bad shot went in, which isn’t the case. It’s a good or bad shot when it leaves your hand, not if it goes in or not.”

Beyond poor shot selection, which can be a problem for any team on any night, the issue with KU’s subpar 3-point shooting thus far extends to other areas of the offense, as well. Namely, the ability of opposing defenses to pack the paint more often can make, and occasionally has made, life harder for KU big men Udoka Azubuike and Dedric Lawson.

Entering the season, that duo was projected to be borderline unstoppable inside, with Lawson’s elite passing ability and talent to score from a number of spots pairing perfectly with Azubuike’s dominant play at the rim.

The two have played together for decent chunks of time so far this season — although KU’s best lineups often have featured just one or the other — but just how well they work together and how much of a weapon their presence on the court really is remains a work in progress.

“I think it would help a lot if we made some shots from the perimeter so you can stretch the defense a little bit,” Self said recently, responding to a question about what it would take to get Azubuike and Lawson going at the same time.

The desire to do just that goes beyond their ability to put the ball in the basket. Giving them space and spreading out the defense also would allow both players to be better playmakers for others. Matchups, of course, also dictate how often the two KU big men are on the floor there together.

Although Azubuike has been back from an ankle injury for just two games, the Kansas lineup featuring him and Lawson in the front court is still the second most frequently used KU lineup — at 8.3 percent — during the past five games, per KenPom.com. What’s more, Azubuike and Lawson have been featured in other KU lineups another six percent of the time during the past five games, bringing their total usage together during the past three weeks to 14.2 percent. That number only figures to go up in the coming weeks, with Azubuike now playing again.

While players like Lightfoot, Garrett and even Lawson to a degree, are not looked to for their 3-point shooting, the other KU guards are. And the one man who many seem to be looking to as an option to help eliminate KU’s 3-point deficiency is Grimes, who hit just 1-of-6 from 3-point range against OU and has made a total of eight triples in 38 attempts (21 percent) since opening his career with a 6-of-10 heater against Michigan State.

“He’s a great player, and I feel like when he gets going, that’s when we’re at our best,” Dotson said of Grimes. “When he can knock down shots and is making plays, it really helps lift the team.”

According to KenPom.com, Iowa State — KU’s next opponent (4 p.m. Saturday at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa) — ranks 90th in 3-point defense, allowing opponents to hit just 31.6 percent of 3-point tries in 13 games so far this season.

Comments

Adam Bengtson 10 months, 1 week ago

I think it’s Because my expectations are so high, that I get disappointed at the end of every game even though were 12-1. This team is beating the current number 3,8,16,23. Yet it feels like we are struggling. I learned last night in that small stretch when they went small why this team has it been clicking all year. I don’t have a solution for it but what I thought was going to be the biggest problem for teams this year against us is actually our biggest problem. Dok and Dedric together is just not working. Dedric needs space to operate and he’s not getting it with Dok in the game. I don’t know how you solve it because it’s really hard to bench either one of them but those two together make the offense extremely stag. Dok Puts his head down and gets to the rim most of the time, but he really needs to be looking to kick it back out. It’s just my observation on why this team is not clicking on all cylinders for more than 10 minutes in the game .

Steve Zimmerman 10 months, 1 week ago

"Dok and Dedric together is just not working. Dedric needs space to operate and he’s not getting it with Dok in the game"

Couldn't agree more with this^. But a great coach would make necessary adjustment to allow those two to complement each other. We just haven't seen it happening yet. We only see one way, Dedric to Dok, but as you said, Dok doesn't have awareness of when and where to kick the ball to when he's being doubled, or tripled - he's too slow to react. That's the risk of playing high-low these days with a big like Dok as center. Against mid-major or slower team, we will thrive, but against more athletic ones, we're doomed. Unless we have others contributing in 3s or dribble drive/slash - and that depends on how Dok reacts.

Marius Rowlanski 10 months, 1 week ago

When Dedric and Dok are playing well, the hi/low game puts a lot of pressure on the other teams' defense but when not, Self seems much more willing to go to the smaller lineup now that he has almost been forced (injuries and NCAA eligibility) to play small ball for a good couple of seasons now and this team seems to play best when they are playing transition basketball.

In some ways, I see Grimes struggle similar to that of Wayne Selden's time at Kansas. You can see flashes of just how good Grimes can be. I'm not sure if he's having trouble with the pace of the game or if he just needs to slow down and let the game come to him. Our guards are capable of dominating most, if not all those in the BIG 12 Conference in talent and experience – they just need to do it.

Dane Pratt 10 months, 1 week ago

Devonte, Svi and Malik are gone so it might be time to shoot less 3’s. Twenty per game seems high when you’re not shooting that well. Vick shot the lights out early on but he has cooled down considerably since the Stanford game. Almost 60 percent first half of season but down to 28 percent since.

Steve Zimmerman 10 months, 1 week ago

"it might be time to shoot less 3’s"

But how? Vick can do a bit of floater here and there but only if somebody frees him up - we dont' see much of screening for this in any games. Dotson is the only one that can take it all the way without helps and finishes consistently. Grimes, if we're lucky, his finger-roll will produces baskets. Garrett can't even finish bunnies. Dedric looks good on one-on-one. We've got 2 consistent players who can produce 2pt. The rest, requires guards/others to create easy shots for them. Another problem is how many assists per game do our guards produce? On average, IIRC, is probably 10 or even less (not sure how we got so many vs MSU). TOs? a bunch more. Offense plays have been our weakness all along. You can't win with just defense.

Dane Pratt 10 months, 1 week ago

Steve, I wish I knew the answer but I don’t think you can justify 20 plus shots from behind the arc when over the course of the last six or seven games we are only shooting about 30 percent. Shoot a little less from outside and throw it down in the paint a little more. Udoka’s shooting 70 percent.

Steve Zimmerman 10 months, 1 week ago

Understood, very much. I didn't suggest we should keep shooting 3pt at all. The problem throwing it to Dok - was stated above. Out of those 70%, how many times did he get doubled- or tripled-team? If we can get him to operate in more effective way (pick and roll) than just high-low, yes, we can score more buckets and make game easier to win. Guaranteed. The problem is, our offense strategy SUCKS. We labor each game. Hard fought, what some say. Modern bball doesn't do that anymore. College players are much more athletic these days. See above post. Keep trying high-low, let's see how far we'll go.

Andy Godwin 10 months, 1 week ago

It has become painfully obvious how to game plan this year’s team, triple team the post and let the KU guards jack up outside shots all game long, especially Garrett (I literally cringe when he takes a wide open three) and Grimes (he needs to grew up fast and be an outside threat). I expected Moore to be a more consistent 3 point threat, but he has also struggled most games to get on a roll. Vick is trying to get back that three game magic, but probably takes more difficult and contested shots than all KU players combined. Clearly this team’s best offense is 5 feet and in (good thing Udoka is a beast inside and Dotson is fearless driving the basket). Both Udoka and Dedric would become effective if the perimeter play was more consistent, but it is difficult to expect that a poor three point shooting team will somehow become a reliable threat during the season. Outstanding defense and pounding the ball inside is Self’s primary option. So be prepared for a lot of “ugly games”.

Marius Rowlanski 10 months, 1 week ago

If all I had to read about Kansas came from your post, I wouldn't be thinking about a team that's 12–1 for the 8th time in Self's 16 seasons. We are going for our 15th STRAIGHT Conference Title. Self has had only one 10 loss team and has never missed the NCAA tournament.

I feel certain that Self will do more than just launch threes while playing little or no defense. I'm not in any way a 'Self can do no wrong' type of fan. This is another team that suffers from poor free-throw shooting, too many turnovers, not enough offensive boards/put backs, inconsistent from game to game and half to half.

Alan Dickey 10 months, 1 week ago

There are a lot of ways that this team could improve, but I think the most-likely single scenario for that is for Grimes to stop rushing his shots and start becoming more of an outside threat. He is capable of that. If (big IF) he actually does that, that would release a lot of defensive pressure on all four other players on the floor.

Dedric and Dok both could improve in a lot of ways, including better decision-making and passing from Dok as mentioned above. But, combined, they are producing 32.5 points and 17.9 rebounds per game.

Per player, that is an average of 16.3 points and 9.0 rebounds per game in a per-player average of 26.1 minutes per game. Last year, Graham played 37.8 minutes per game in order to score 17.3 ppg. He added 7.2 assist per game, which, in part, was because our guards were hitting more of their shots.

Right now, Dedric Lawson is #5 of all 2,204 eligible players in the KenPom PoY rankings based on his numbers. If he raised his shooting percentage up a bit, he likely easily would jump to #1.

Dedric and Dok are doing pretty well. We need Grimes to become an outside threat, which he was in HS with a 43% 3-pt average.

Note that KU’s 34.4 3-pt% does NOT put “them in the bottom half of all Division I basketball teams heading into conference play,” as the article claims. It puts them slightly above the 34.1% D-I national average.

Barry Weiss 10 months, 1 week ago

I think we are still at our best with Dedric and Dok both out there at the same time. With those two on the court we have a rebounding advantage over just about anyone. I would not change that simply because some of our guards are not hitting 3's. We are not a 3-ball team like the last several years so trying to force that would be a mistake. Keep the hi-lo and have Mitch, Garrett and Dedric not shoot any threes, no matter how open they are. Keep looking for a better inside shot or one of the others to shoot the 3. Grimes is coming on. He has shown the ability to shoot the 3 very well, I would not prohibit him like the others. 12-1 is not bad with two freshman guards.

Steve Zimmerman 10 months, 1 week ago

I'll stop eating ice cream for the rest of my life if we win B12 this year. Call me a pessimist. I just don't see it happen with this year's team.

Len Shaffer 10 months, 1 week ago

The fact is that the team has played a lot of ugly games, has not come CLOSE to jelling consistently, and has been pretty consistently dreadful from the 3-point-line, yet they're 12-1 with one of the toughest schedules in America.

To be sure in any way that they won't win the Big XII is kind of ridiculous. We've heard many times over the years how this team or that team will take the crown from KU, yet the 'Hawks are there in the end.

I've often harkened back to the poll on this site in 2002 (I believe) when KU had started 3-3 and over 60% of the people thought they wouldn't even make it to the NIT! Well that team ended up in the Final Four.

I'm not worried. Where there's a Bill, there's a way.

Steve Zimmerman 10 months, 1 week ago

Boy, I hope you're right, Len. I like surprises. I'd love to see it happen again. But that's like more than a decade ago.

Dane Pratt 10 months, 1 week ago

Not very concerned about the conference. If we win fine, if we don't that's okay. This team doesn't look like it will go very deep in the tournament and that is of much greater concern to me. The blueprint to beat KU is there. Come March there will be better teams to execute it than OU .

Edward Daub 10 months, 1 week ago

Dok needs to develop his perimeter game to prepare for the NBA.

Dok has yet to miss a 3 point shot the entire season.

Allin Herring 10 months, 1 week ago

Dok and Lawson should not play at the same time. Unfortunately if they don't Self wants to play Garrett the worst offensive player in KU history. If we can play anyone else but Garrett while Lawson or Dok is in we will be a better scooting team. Maybe KJ can be that man. But one thing is sure when Garrett does play he needs to understand he is there to pass the ball and to NEVER shoot. Grimes is another scoring liability that we need to get going or replace. Maybe Moore can step up. He has had as many good games as Grimes ....one. But I think he has more of an upside as a 3 pd. Shooter than Grimes. I SURE hope Grimes no longer thinks he is a one and done. Maybe if the sports media will get off all their Grimes is great Kick he will play better.

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