Recap: How to comfortably win a game you don't dominate
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.
The box score for this game makes it look closer than it was.
KU won 78-63, but both teams were nearly even on the glass (KU held the edge, 40-39). Cal had more turnovers, but not a lot more (three). The Bears also made it to the free-throw line a lot more than the Jayhawks.
So how did the Jayhawks come away with a comfortable victory? http://www2.kusports.com/videos/2010/...
You never want to only say that shooting is the only reason for winning or losing a game, but in this game, it made quite a bit of difference.
The Bears weren't shy about taking threes, but they made just 4 of 22 (18.2 percent).
KU also was three-happy (especially in the first half), but that turned out OK, as the Jayhawks made a decent percentage (7 of 19, 36.8 percent).
As Cal coach Mike Montgomery said appropriately after the game: "(KU) didn’t light it up (from three), but it’s certainly better than 4-for-22."
The Jayhawks' defense certainly had something to do with the Bears' poor shooting numbers. Montgomery admitted that KU's defense did a good job of closing off the inside, which forced Cal to jack up shots from the outside (where it had only made 32 percent of its attempts coming into the game).
Cal also didn't help itself at the free-throw line, where it made 19 of 33 shots (57.6 percent), well below its average of 67.2 percent.
In short, Cal had lots of chances to be close to KU at the end but couldn't make enough shots.
KU's defense held an already poor Bears' offense to a 38.6 eFG%, which was Cal's third-worst shooting effort of the year.
On a night when KU didn't separate itself in other areas, the Jayhawks' half-court defense was good enough to carry them to the victory.
M.O.J. (Most Outstanding Jayhawk)
Though it's close between Tyrel Reed and Markieff Morris, Reed gets the nod here.
The senior guard was KU's most efficient player offensively, posting 1.57 points per possession used. He didn't use a lot of possessions (14 percent), but then again, his role really isn't to do that. He's in there to hit the open threes he gets (he made 3 of 8 against Cal) and also score off the occasional drive (he was 3-for-3 from two-point range).
Reed also was a steady hand when KU needed it. He played 35 minutes and turned it over just one time, which was much needed as KU's other two primary guards (Tyshawn Taylor and Josh Selby) combined for eight turnovers.
The Burlington native also has been great on the boards in the last two games. He grabbed the defensive rebound on 18.6 percent of Cal's misses, which was the third-highest defensive rebounding mark on the team behind Thomas Robinson and Marcus Morris. Reed's 18 points, seven rebounds and 35 minutes were all career-highs.
So far, Reed has been the KU player that has meshed the best with Selby on the court, and the senior should continue to get big minutes as long as that trend keeps up.
Room for Improvement
The most glaring weakness from Wednesday night was KU's poor defensive rebounding.
Coming in, the Bears had averaged just 9.2 offensive rebounds per game, which ranked last in the Pac-10.
Against KU, Cal had 15 offensive rebounds — its highest total of the year.
The Bears gathered 34.9 percent of the available offensive rebounds, which is much higher than their season average of 28.8 percent.
For KU, I'm not sure there's a good explanation. With the defensive rebounding problems against Cal, though, I was surprised that KU coach Bill Self didn't throw Jeff Withey in for a few minutes, just to see what he could do.
Withey's first "did not play, coach's decision" of the year — in a game where KU needed a big rebounding body — probably tells us that Withey has some work to do in practice to convince Self he's ready to re-enter the rotation.
Tyshawn Taylor runs away with this category for the second straight game.
The junior once again looked out of sorts while playing with Selby. Taylor posted a miserable 0.47 points per possession while using up 18.8 percent of possessions (which is about average).
I thought Tom Keegan put it best in his latest Keegan ratings: "It’s as if he’s trying to show he has as much talent as Josh Selby."
It is worth noting, though, that while some of Taylor's individual numbers were ugly (1-for-8 field goals, five turnovers), KU actually didn't perform that poorly when he was out there.
I'll warn again that we shouldn't put too much stock in plus-minus numbers, as they can be misleading, but during Taylor's 29 minutes, KU outscored Cal, 62-46.
Offensively, KU scored 2.1 points per minute when Taylor was in. During the 11 minutes he wasn't in, KU scored 1.5 points per minute.
I can't explain the numbers, and maybe they don't mean anything. But they might indicate that Taylor did have some positive impact for KU that didn't show up in his individual stat line.
Take away all the fighting and fouls, and KU claimed a comfortable road victory by shutting down the lane and forcing Cal into a shooting contest that it didn't win.
It's worth noting that KU has moved into KenPom's top spot in terms of adjusted defensive efficiency. Quietly, the Jayhawks have improved their defensive standing over the last few weeks without anyone really talking about it.
The Jayhawks now have three home cupcakes in a row to try to figure out how to be more consistent offensively with Selby before their next road test at Michigan on Jan. 9.