Recap: I thought that game looked familiar ...
Note: Here is a listing of definitions for some terms used in this blog. Also, feel free to ask questions in the comments section below if something doesn't make sense.
When watching the replay of KU's 70-68 victory over USC, I had the feeling I had already seen a game very similar to it before at Allen Fieldhouse. http://www2.kusports.com/videos/2010/dec/18/33710/
It turned out I had.
Take a look at the KU-USC game stats compared to another KU game played recently, one we'll call "Game X."
In both games, KU shot significantly worse than its opponent, but made up for it by getting to the free throw line and also by minimizing turnovers.*
* — KU also helped its cause against USC by grabbing 13 offensive rebounds to the Trojans' seven.
Any guesses as to which contest "Game X" is?
Yep, KU's game against USC on Saturday was almost identical to the KU vs. Cornell contest at Allen Fieldhouse on Jan. 6, 2010.
Even more interesting? Both games were helped by a crucial three-point play by a confident KU guard.
With KU trailing 64-63, Sherron Collins split two defenders before putting in a layup with a foul to give the Jayhawks the lead for good with 41 seconds remaining.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, Josh Selby's three-pointer with 26 seconds left turned a 68-66 deficit into a 69-68 lead.
Because KU didn't shoot as well as USC, it had to perform well in other areas to come away with the victory.
Here are a few of the Jayhawks' unsung heroes from Saturday's win:
• Thomas Robinson (four), Tyrel Reed (two) and Brady Morningstar (two) for their offensive rebounding. These three players allowed KU to steal extra possessions to make up the difference in shooting percentages.
Coming into the game, Morningstar had only three offensive rebounds all year.
Reed, meanwhile, had none.
• Robinson (zero), Reed (zero), Morningstar (one), Marcus Morris (one) and Markieff Morris (one) for limiting their turnovers.
In a game where KU's two primary ballhandlers (Tyshawn Taylor and Josh Selby) combined for 10 turnovers in 59 minutes, the five players above combined for just three turnovers in 115 minutes.
As a team, KU had just 13 turnovers. One or two more, and the Jayhawks' home-court winning streak would have ended at 64.
M.O.J. (Most Outstanding Jayhawk)
The numbers aren't going to tell you anything you didn't already know.
Josh Selby was KU's best player on Saturday.
In his debut, Selby gave KU an offensive boost it desperately needed. He posted 1.18 points per possession used while carrying a heavy offensive load, using 30 percent of KU's possessions (average is 20 percent). His 68.1 eFG% was the highest on the team and helped him overcome four turnovers.
His ability to draw fouls also helped KU's free-throw total, as Selby shot seven free throws, making six of them.
Though he was great offensively, there's still plenty of room for improvement for Selby defensively. It's hard to take too much stock in plus-minus numbers because there are so many variables involved, but I thought Selby's numbers were interesting this game.
In Selby's 27 minutes, KU allowed 52 points (1.93 points per minute). In the 13 minutes Selby wasn't on the floor, KU allowed 16 points (1.23 points per minute).
Again, plus-minus is not the greatest indicator of an individual's performance, as a player can't be responsible for everything that occurs on the floor. Still, it appears that while KU's scoring went up with Selby on the court, USC's scoring did the same.
Self admitted afterwards that Selby was being asked to play a type of defense that he'd never been asked to execute before in a game, so the guard's instincts should improve as the season goes on.
Room for Improvement
KU had its worst offensive effort of the season against USC.
The Jayhawks scored 1.01 points per possession, their lowest output of the year.
A big part of KU's problem appeared to be that the Jayhawks' passing wasn't very good — or, as Self often says, the ball stuck too much.
KU had just 12 assists, which was the lowest number this season. It's the second straight game that the Jayhawks have set a season-low for assists (KU had 13 against Colorado State).
The assist numbers are usually a good indication of how well a Bill Self team is performing offensively.
Last year, during a 33-3 season, KU was just 1-3 during its four lowest assist games of the year.
This one shouldn't be a surprise, as Tyshawn Taylor had his worst game of the year.
With Selby in the lineup, Taylor looked like a guard that was trying to do way too much. He posted just 0.55 points per possession used (his previous low this year was 1.05 points per possession used against Memphis) while using up more than his fair share of possessions (21.7 percent).
Until Saturday, Taylor hadn't had a game this season where he'd registered more turnovers than assists; against USC, he had six turnovers to just one assist.
It'll be interesting to see if Taylor and Selby play better together against Cal.
KU's home-court win streak is still alive because Selby gave KU a boost offensively while other players helped KU steal possessions.
Much like last year's Cornell game, KU used a free-throw advantage and also limited its turnovers to make up for a shooting discrepancy.
The Jayhawks are in a bit of a slump offensively, though, and they'll need to pass the ball better if they hope to break out of that funk in their next game against Cal on Wednesday.