Three observations from KU's 84-59 loss to No. 8 Texas
No. 3 Kansas trailed from start to finish of its 84-59 loss to No. 8 Texas Saturday afternoon in Allen Fieldhouse. Limited crowd or not, that’s not the sort of thing that happens to the Jayhawks in Lawrence.
In fact, KU’s 25-point loss is the team’s largest margin of defeat in Allen Fieldhouse in the Bill Self era and largest by the program since 1989.
But the sky is not falling for the Jayhawks, who are now 8-2 overall and 2-1 in Big 12 play.
Almost a year ago to the exact date, Kansas dropped a 67-55 decision to Baylor at home. The performance highlighted some limitations that the Jayhawks had at the time, though they never lost again and ended up winning 16 in a row after that.
It is not fair to expect that level of response from this year’s squad, of course, but it illustrates the importance of not overreacting from one game. With that said, here are a few observations from what was the first KU game of 2021:
KU’s poor transition offense led to slow start
Entering Saturday, Texas ranked fourth in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency on KenPom. The Longhorns’ length and athleticism was supposed to make life more difficult for the Jayhawks, and they ended up shooting 20-for-65 from the floor.
Kansas missed its first eights shots from the floor, and never really got into a rhythm after that. But KU’s decision making in transition certainly played a part in all that, especially when the team couldn’t buy a bucket out of the gate.
Following a missed layup by Texas, Kansas had a chance to hit its first field goal in a four-on-two situation. Jalen Wilson, who collected the defensive rebound on the other end, fired a pass to Ochai Agbaji along the perimeter.
Agbaji missed the 3-pointer, which was KU’s eighth miss of the game.
A wide-open 3-pointer is usually a good shot, but KU could have attacked the rim to get a better look in this scenario.
It merely highlighted some of Kansas’ struggles in transition, however.
Just over one minute later, Wilson had a two-on-one with Christian Braun and chose to do it all himself. He ended up getting the foul call, but it was a sequence that could have been a lot easier had Wilson dished the ball to Braun for an easy layup.
For the game, KU only had 6 fastbreak points against Texas. On a day where hitting shots was so difficult, more success in transition could have ultimately led to some easy buckets for the hosts.
Agbaji got too comfortable taking mid-range jumpers
The junior guard was the only source of offense for the Jayhawks in the early going. By the second media timeout, Agbaji had made all three of KU’s shots to that point in the game.
Agbaji finished with 11 points in the loss. He was the only other player to finish in double figures along with Wilson, who paced the team with 20 points. Agbaji was 5-of-14 from the floor, including 1-of-6 from long range.
But Agbaji could have helped himself by getting better looks, too. Agbaji hit a couple mid-range jumpers in the first half that served as one of the rare offensive bright spots for KU. At the 5:38 mark, Agbaji hit a pull-up jumper over 6-foot-10 Texas forward Jericho Sims.
Because of that, Agbaji probably took more of those types of shots than he should have. Agbaji ended up missing four of his six total jumpers (inside the arc) against Texas. He did not score at all in the second half, missing all five of his attempts from the floor.
Entering this weekend, Agbaji was 4-of-16 on “Far 2” shots, according to Torvik. As a team, Kansas is 43-for-145 (29.7%) on such attempts – not counting the Texas game – on the year.
Mitch Lightfoot delivers two big blocks
The Jayhawks’ lack of rim protection is nothing new, but it was obvious against a team like the Longhorns that can play above the rim. A total of 13 of Texas’ 30 made field goals came at the basket, with the visitors recording seven layups and six dunks on the day.
Coming off the bench, Mitch Lightfoot did his best to deter Texas from getting easy looks. He recorded two blocks in his five first-half minutes, including this nice recovery swat late in the first half.
That showing, along with David McCormack’s rough stretch to end the first half, was enough for Lightfoot to earn playing time to begin the second half. McCormack didn’t check back into the game until nearly 13 minutes had passed in the second half.
Lightfoot didn’t record another swat in the second half, but his play was worth mentioning given how Kansas has fared at protecting the rim this year. Entering Saturday, KU had a block rate of 8.6% and that number ranked 155th in the country on KenPom.
For the season, Lightfoot has netted a team-high nine blocks in 80 minutes of action.