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Saturday, January 11, 2020

Shane Jackson: Rare home loss to Baylor highlights KU’s limitations on offense

Kansas Jayhawks guard Ochai Agbaji (30) comes away with an offensive rebound from Baylor Bears guard Mark Vital (11) during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas Jayhawks guard Ochai Agbaji (30) comes away with an offensive rebound from Baylor Bears guard Mark Vital (11) during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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Kansas head coach Bill Self shouldered the blame, but it is unlikely anybody would have faulted him given the circumstances that led to his team's first league loss of the season.

Sophomore point guard Devon Dotson was sidelined with a hip injury for a long stretch in the second half. Junior Marcus Garrett played on a sore ankle, an injury he suffered just a few days earlier against Iowa State. Center Udoka Azubuike was completely gassed by the end after fighting for post position all afternoon.

In the end, No. 3 Kansas simply didn’t have enough offensive firepower to compete with No. 4 Baylor in an eventual 67-55 loss Saturday afternoon in Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks, who entered the game averaging 79.4 points per game, matched their season-low in points in the top-five showdown.

“There was just no rhythm offensively at all; it was disappointing,” Self said. “This is my fault. Against good teams, you are not going to score on the first side or second side a lot of times. That’s a really good team. Our ball and body movement was awful.”

Saturday’s loss was a shocking result for many reasons. For one, Baylor (13-1, 3-0 Big 12) had lost its previous 17 meetings with Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks, who were coming off a 79-53 thumping of Iowa State earlier this week, were also considered 8-point favorites via most sportsbooks entering the matchup.

But the latest performance proved the Jayhawks (12-3, 2-1) have their flaws, even if there were a few things that were ultimately out of their control. As dominant as KU has been on the defensive end this season, the team’s offensive limitations remain a very real issue during its quest to reclaim the Big 12 throne.

The Bears did what every team will try to do against the Jayhawks this season. They fronted Azubuike in the post and helped off on the weak-side corner to contain any lobs.

“Against West Virginia, it was similar. We were able to drive downhill a little bit to force help,” Self said. “We didn’t ever do that this game. We couldn’t get around them.”

Dotson’s extended absence was a big reason why the Jayhawks never adjusted, of course. He was forced out of the game after one possession in the second half, and didn’t return until there was 8:52 left to play. The Bears also happen to be the fifth-best team in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency on KenPom.

“The way they played the post, making it hard to go to our strong suit, which is (Udoka) obviously,” sophomore Ochai Agbaji said. “Taking that away, and just their defensive pressure and getting up. Just them moving around their defense so much and having help side.”

Still, Saturday showed how far Kansas still has to go on the offensive end, particularly when its two best players are limited.

Azubuike was held to just 6 points on as many shot attempts, marking the fourth consecutive game that he has attempted six-or-fewer field goals. Dotson scored 9 points on 5-of-10 shooting, which was his fewest attempts in a game since Dec. 7 against Colorado.

“(Baylor) was just playing hard,” Isaiah Moss said. “(Dotson) went out too, that hurt us pretty bad. They were just aggressive on defense.”

That lack of offensive firepower was even more evident in the second half, when the Jayhawks were on the verge of mounting a comeback.

Moss, who finished with a team-high 15 points after scoring 10 in the first half, missed a wide-open 3-pointer from the corner in transition. Moments later, Garrett willed his way through the Baylor defense for a tough left-handed layup to pull Kansas within 5 at the 13:01 mark.

It perfectly illustrated how much it took out of the Jayhawks to even get within striking distance. Baylor responded by increasing its lead to double digits a few minutes later, and the game was never really in doubt after that.

Kansas, which trailed for 30-plus minutes, finished with 14 turnovers as a team in the loss. Garrett and Moss were the only two KU players to finish in double figures. It was the fourth time the Jayhawks have been held under 70 points in a game this season, three of which have been in their three defeats.

None of this means KU can’t win the Big 12 or have a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. It was just an important reality check for the Jayhawks just a few days after their thrashing of the Cyclones.

“It’s a long season, all of us know that,” Agbaji said. “We just have to keep this in the back of our minds when we go play down there.”

Comments

Steve Zimmerman 1 week, 3 days ago

I'm not surprise at all - our offense has no powerful punch at all since Graham left for NBA. It's too outdated and only depended on certain individuals. Except last game before playing BU. I thought we were going to see a lot of lobs to bigs like we did against ISU, but saw only a couple.

Another difference is inside passing, BU executes very well - through wrap around passes, or simple pass to open teammate - whereas our guards will go all the way to force a layup. Our players are not aware of where their teammates are and are not trained to do inside passes like BU. That's high level basketball play, but simple enough and yet effective.

What surprised me is how BU is able to develop 2-3 years players like Teague, Mitchell, Butler. They have nice ball handling skills, can score inside outside. It's amazing.

Carolyn Hunzicker 1 week, 3 days ago

Baylor is the Big 12 power house hands down. Better players that are SKILLED. They know exactly what their role is and how to execute. Better players and better coaches. And until AGBAJI starts shooting the ball, were not very good. He plays totally scared.....scared to shoot and drive to the basket. WE ALLOWED BUTLER AND MOFFATT TO SCORE NEAR 40 POINTS ?? OUT PLAYED AND OUT COACHED

Dane Pratt 1 week, 3 days ago

Bill Self is 24 and 5 against Scott Drew. This is one game. I’d hold off on the better coaches claim.

Jim Chastain 1 week, 3 days ago

I love Agbaji but he has to step up consistently in order for us to be successful. Most of his big games come against less athletic competition. The difference between this game and WVU was not being quick enough to drive past the perimeter defenders. If we can't do that to draw defense away from Dok or corner shooters then we will not go far.

Steve Zimmerman 1 week, 2 days ago

Players development have been a real pain in the rear for KU. It's been decades. I'm not afraid to say this. I'm comparing KU against other Div1 teams - err, ok, B12 teams. And yes, BU is one of them. I feel like it's the system that doesn't require players to develop their skills or we don't have competent coaches to do the job. I can name names of players that have been around for KU all their collegiate lives but without significant improvement in scoring skill, ball handling skill. I mean, 3rd year players should be able to take jumpers confidently, floaters willingly, or taking it all the way to the rim at ease. I realize part of it also depends on the talents, but then again, why other teams can produce better 2-3 year athletes than KU? Don't get me wrong, Marcus has shown progress compared to his freshman year, but not enough from offense standpoint. I don't see his pull-up J ever in any games he played this far. Agbaji ball handling skill, is worse than local AAU player. He doesn't even bounce when he dribbles. I have never seen him doing a spin move on dribble-drive. He can shoot 3, dunk on lobs, occasionally pull-up J. That's not enough skills to advance to the next-level in his career. Moss is a transfer. He's one guy, the only one in the team, that knows how to fake shot before launching a pull-up J. He's a transfer. From another Div1 team. Anyway.... let's hope for better things to come our way!

Glen Miller 1 week, 2 days ago

It's frustrating watching us lob the ball in to Doke to have it stolen away repeatedly against athletic teams. Part of the reason we have so many turnovers consistently seems to be our stubbornness to continue forcing the ball. Coach Self has been doing this a long time and is far superior to me when it comes to knowing what his teams need........ but I feel like his unwillingness to fully embrace the game of today has cost KU in recent seasons. Give Baylor props, they were just better than us Saturday....... but I don't think our philosophy is going to work against the better more athletic teams.

Jeff Kallmeyer 1 week, 2 days ago

That makes four games in a row where we were held to less than 30 points at half-time! Obviously, something's not working and needs to change!

Mike Greer 1 week, 2 days ago

It's been our death sentence over and over, a team defends one guy really well, like Villanova did to Perry and Doke, and as others have done over the past few years, and Baylor did Saturday, and the team doesn't have anyone that can step up. Moss's 15 points off the bench was great, it would have really been a whooping without them, but the starters really need to step up, as well as the other guys coming off the bench. For all the backcourt talent we were supposed to have this season, it hasn't emerged against a quality opponent.

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