Udoka Azubuike snapped his head back and dropped the ball on the ground. Today’s 1-3-1 blog explains what went into his frustrations, plus how each of his fouls happened in Baylor's 80-64 win over the Jayhawks. If you have any plays or sequences you’d like to see GIFed please tweet @ChasenScott or comment below.
Previous breakdowns can also be found at the bottom of this story.
Play of the game: An untimely own goal
Ever have one of those days where you can’t just catch a break?
You might have more in common with the KU men’s basketball team than you think.
“God, could anything more go wrong," said KU coach Bill Self, "on a day you get guys injured in warmups to basically dunking the ball for the other team.”
Not much, as it were.
Despite only scoring 20 points in the first half, the Jayhawks gutted their way back into the game against Baylor, an 80-64 loss. They pulled within two on a 3-pointer from Devonte’ Graham and did so again after a jumper by Lagerald Vick.
His next points didn’t quite go so well.
The own goal — or perhaps ‘Self-basket,' if you'd rather — was a perfect representation of KU’s inability to get over the hump. It also didn’t come by pure happenstance.
KU was in a 2-3 zone, which can create rebounding issues in of itself. The guards flew all around the court as Jake Lindsey dribbled and settled into more natural positions as he passed the ball to Mark Vital.
Vital attacked the hoop, and Udoka Azubuike moved to contest the shot. Svi Mykhailiuk probably could’ve done so just fine, especially with no Baylor players in the corner to worry about, but he slid past Vital.
Baylor’s Jo Lual-Acuil had inside position and, since Azubuike wasn’t there to block him out, had a straight shot to get the rebound. Vick had to hustle to try to get between him and the ball, but as he jumped up to get the rebound, he actually knocked it back into the hoop.
The play killed KU's momentum, preventing them from having a chance to tie the game — or take the lead — on the next possession. They pulled within two one more time, but that was as close as it got.
A trend: Hands off —
If Vick's mishap was frustrating, Azubuike's day put him on a whole other level.
The 7-foot, 280-pound big man picked up his fourth foul at the 17:54 mark in the second half of Saturday’s game. Self had plenty to say about that one — and all of them.
Let’s take a look at the first.
There’s no real way to sugarcoat this one. It’s a flop, and it isn’t a particularly good one.
Azubuike made contact with Lual-Acuil’s chest. A half-second later, the big man fell onto the floor and the charge was called..
“Hey we’ve gotten some calls, too, so I’m not saying we haven’t benefited from some whistles,” Self said with a laugh. “But that was one of the biggest flops I’ve ever seen. I mean the guy fell down a full second after supposedly there was contact.”
But Azubuike does wear some of the call — mostly because of the predictability.
“The whole deal, everybody knows that he’s going to lead with his left shoulder when he’s on the left block,” Self said. “He’s got to be smarter than that, to do that.”
Not all the fouls on Saturday were that embellished.
After defending Lual-Acuil well in the post, Azubuike was called for a foul for shoving Vital in the back.
It was a clear foul — Azubuike put both hands on Vital’s back — but it probably wouldn’t have been called if Vital had a better base and didn’t fall. It also would’ve been avoided entirely if… well... hear it from the coach:
“His second foul was a loose-ball foul. No one’s fault,” Self said. “The rebound goes through (Graham’s) hands. If (Graham) rebounds the ball, it never happens.”
Azubuike’s third foul didn’t have any such explanation. It was fairly standard, as he didn’t get into defensive position on the baseline quick enough and then had to jump forward to contest a shot by Vital, sending him to the ground in the process.
His fourth foul was the opposite. There wasn’t a loose ball, or even a live ball to go after. Really, it may have been the culmination of some frustrations earlier in the game — more on that in a second.
“The one that disappointed me,” Self said, “he just ran and ran right up a guy’s back, which was obvious. Easy call.”
Again, there was probably a little bit of an embellishment from Lual-Acuil, who was boxing out Azubuike on the play. But Azubuike didn’t do himself any favors.
He put both hands on Lual-Acuil and shoved him. The ball went in the net, but Azubuike still got tagged with the foul on what was a day full of frustration.
“I’m not saying they were bad calls. I’m not saying that at all,” Self said. “I’m just saying, just a little bit unfortunate in that particular game.”
One that stood out: Boiling point —
Before Azubuike’s fourth foul — 12 seconds before, in fact — he was standing under the hoop and letting out some frustration.
The bugaboo that caused it? A mishap between he, Graham and Mykhailiuk that allowed a rebound to bounce right to the Bears for an easy putback.
There were a few elements to this play that caused the rebound.
Earlier in the possession, Graham (6-2, 185 pounds) switched onto the bigger Tristan Clark (6-9, 240). When Clark and Vital stood near each other later in the possession, Mykhailiuk (6-8, 205) made a smart play, nudging Graham off the bigger man so that he could use some of his extra size in guarding him.
But Graham never really left the area, instead stepping toward Lual-Acuil and then hanging around the basket to go after the rebound.
Had Graham ran out to the perimeter, he could’ve boxed Vital out or even potentially discouraged him from going after the rebound in the first place. Given how well Mykhailiuk executed his boxout, Azubuike would’ve snagged the board without a problem.
Instead, Graham hung by the basket. The putback went up and in. Azubuike caught the ball and snapped his head back in frustration. He set the ball back down rather than tossing it to Graham and then ran back down the court.
Oh, and a tidbit pointed out by KU basketball beat writer Matt Tait, take a look at the top of the screen at the end of the play.
Mykhailiuk was ready to run. Graham was pushing the tempo up the court throughout the entire second half. But Azubuike slowed it all down by dropping the ball in frustration. Those are the types of things that will drive not only a coach crazy, but disrupt the whole team in the process.
1-3-1 breakdown: KU 71, TCU 64
1-3-1 breakdown: OSU 84, KU 79
1-3-1 breakdown: KU 70, K-State 56
1-3-1 breakdown: KU 79, TAMU 68
1-3-1 breakdown: OU 85, KU 80
1-3-1 breakdown: KU 70, Baylor 67
Down the stretch of Kansas’ claw-it-out home win over Baylor, it seemed like the then-No. 10 Jayhawks couldn’t get a stop.
Well, they couldn’t.
For a four minute stretch, starting at the seven-minute mark in the second half, the Bears scored on nine — yes, nine — straight possessions, but it wasn’t all bad defense, at least in a traditional sense.
On two of those possessions, the Bears were helped out by offensive rebounds, one of which led to a KU foul and another to a Baylor 3-pointer. So when it came time for the Jayhawks to come up with a stop, they needed not only to force the Bears into a miss, but to close out the possession with the ball.
Clinging to a one-point lead with less than 10 seconds left, Devonte’ Graham was matched up on Manu Lecomte, who was all-but certain to take the final shot.
In the corner, Lagerald Vick guarded Jake Lindsey, who had attempted only one shot on the day and wasn’t much of a threat. Lecomte drove into the lane, and Udoka Azubuike moved over to help contest the shot.
Vick did his job, executing on the fairly standard defensive rotation to get into position to defend and box out Baylor 7-footer Jo Lual-Acuil. Vick’s positioning wasn’t perfect, but he was able to nudge the big man forward under the hoop enough to prevent the easy putback.
Graham grabbed the board and was fouled. KU held on to get the win.
So let’s talk about Silvio De Sousa —
KU coach Bill Self has talked plenty about the potential of playing with two big men in the lineup now that Silvio De Sousa is eligible, at least for a few minutes each game.
The first look at what that might entail came against the Bears, though the stretch lasted all of one-minute and 40 seconds.
While it remains to be seen how effective the lineup will be, it was actually pretty solid on a first go-around. Offensively, KU went to a high-low look and got De Sousa involved with an early touch. Baylor was in its zone, though, so there wasn’t much room for him to operate.
(Keep in mind this was Baylor’s hybrid 1-3-1 zone, meaning Self wasn’t putting De Sousa in the middle of it like he would with Vick in a standard 2-3 zone.)
The result wasn't pretty.
Yet there were some positives.
Early in the game, the Bears aggressively doubled Azubuike in the post. He made a couple nice plays, finding cutters for baskets, but it allowed the Bears to dictate where the ball was going and foul quickly without fear of Azubuike being able to go up and score.
With De Sousa in the game, all the newcomer had to do was walk toward the hoop to keep his defender from leaving. Azubuike had a chance to go one-on-one in the post, though the result was simply a foul and free throws instead of a basket.
Finally, on defense, there wasn’t much to look at. The Bears only had two offensive possessions with De Sousa and Azubuike in the game, but they struggled to get the ball inside at all on the first and had to settle for a Lindsey 3-point jumper.
Now, watch the second possession.
There was a little hiccup on the baseline, when Svi Mykhailiuk incorrectly expected Udoka Azubuike to follow a shooter out to the corner, and another when Malik Newman didn't rotate late in the play after De Sousa recovered (note that De Sousa actually points to where Newman needs to go), but ultimately KU did a solid job until the end.
The final part of the play — De Sousa fouls his man trying to grab the rebound — came because the freshman ran in to get the rebound instead of just putting his body into his man, at which point Graham or Newman would’ve come up with an easy board.
But that's a forgivable mistake. And fixable, too.
No calls in Allen Fieldhouse? —
Opposing fans on Twitter — and coaches, occasionally — seem to have no problem calling out the Big 12 referees.
In non-conference play, there wasn’t much reason to do so with regard to KU. However, recently, the Jayhawks have been getting to the line more — check out the statistic below from Chris Stone — which means the Twitter conspiracists are back.
OK. So the play above is probably a foul, especially the way it looks in real-time. But if you slow it down, the no-call is a little more understandable.
Azubuike, who comes off his man to contest the shot, takes a step forward and leaps up to try and block the ball. There’s a lot of contact, but it’s actually fairly close to being legal, had Azubuike maintained absolute verticality.
In any event, though, teams should never rely on an official to bail them out. Fran Fraschilla, who called the game for ESPN, previously made the point that all coaches hope for is a fair whistle down the stretch. While there's certainly no disagreement here, a point made by Self after the K-State game is just as valid.
"I would guess over the course of the game (and season)," Self said, "it would pretty much balance out."