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Recap: After not knowing what to expect, Arizona game goes as expected

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.

I know, what happens in Vegas is supposed to stay in Vegas, but I have to share the funny story (or, depending on who you are, a not funny story) that took place as time was winding down in Kansas' 87-79 victory over Arizona on Saturday night.

http://www2.kusports.com/photos/galle... After a missed free throw by KU's Marcus Morris, Arizona's Lamont Jones raced down the court and put in a meaningless layup with less than 10 seconds left.

Only this is Las Vegas, so there are rarely meaningless layups.

The shot had knocked KU's deficit down to eight, but also had pushed the Jayhawks' lead under the spread of 8.5 points.

Poor Tyrel Reed. Once he received the inbounds pass, simply wanting to run out the clock on a victory, he was screamed at by a few thousand of his own team's fans, who urged him to run down the court to take a shot to try to save their bets.

Kansas guard Tyrel Reed elevates for a bucket past Arizona forward Solomon Hill during the first half of the Las Vegas Invitational, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2010 at the Orleans Arena.

Kansas guard Tyrel Reed elevates for a bucket past Arizona forward Solomon Hill during the first half of the Las Vegas Invitational, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2010 at the Orleans Arena. by Nick Krug

The guard took a few dribbles to finish out the time, no doubt wondering what had come over the Jayhawks fans that were begging him to run up the score.

If you have a friend here in Vegas for these games, it's likely he/she is a bit poorer today.

In the three years I've been covering the Jayhawks, it was the most awkward victory celebration by KU fans that I've seen.

Back on topic: What did we learn following KU's 87-79 victory over Arizona?

http://www2.kusports.com/videos/2010/nov/28/33551/

Well, a lot. And not much. If that makes any sense.

Neither KU nor Arizona had played a top-100 KenPom opponent coming into the game, so both teams' fanbases might have wondered a bit just how good their teams really were.

So after the Jayhawks and Wildcats played a back-and-forth, fast-paced, entertaining game on Saturday night, I came away thinking two things:

1. Kansas is pretty good against a good opponent.

2. Arizona is pretty good against a good opponent.

I'm going to sound a bit like everyone's mother here, but really, the result was what both teams needed.

Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor knocks the ball loose from Arizona forward Brendon Lavender during the first half of the Las Vegas Invitational, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2010 at the Orleans Arena.

Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor knocks the ball loose from Arizona forward Brendon Lavender during the first half of the Las Vegas Invitational, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2010 at the Orleans Arena. by Nick Krug

Arizona showed, even after falling behind by 16 early, that it could hold its own (and, for most of the middle 20 minutes, outplay) one of the best teams in the nation. Even after losing by eight, don't you think UA coach Sean Miller feels better about his team today than he did 24 hours ago?

Forward Derrick Williams sounds like he does.

"We may not have won, but we played hard," Williams said after the game. "It was the closest game they had this year and will probably be one of their closest games all season."

The Wildcats, who were ranked 12th in KenPom's rankings before the game, actually moved up four spots to No. 8 after the close loss.

KU (which stayed in KenPom's top spot) received exactly what it needed, too: an early-season challenge, and a chance to see its previously untested players perform in high-pressure situations.

Kansas defenders Tyrel Reed, left, and Markieff Morris collapse on a shot by Arizona guard Kyle Fogg during the second half of the Las Vegas Invitational, Saturday, Nov. 27, at the Orleans Arena.

Kansas defenders Tyrel Reed, left, and Markieff Morris collapse on a shot by Arizona guard Kyle Fogg during the second half of the Las Vegas Invitational, Saturday, Nov. 27, at the Orleans Arena. by Nick Krug

Because of Marcus Morris' foul trouble, KU was forced to steal minutes from a smaller lineup for most of the middle part of the second half.

The Jayhawks also saw Tyrel Reed, Mario Little, Travis Releford and Thomas Robinson make big plays at significant times.

Though there's a lot to work on, I'd have to think there's a good chance KU coach Bill Self also feels better about his own team than he did 24 hours ago.

Statistically, KU can thank good shooting and ball security for the final margin of victory. After making 11 of their first 14 shots, KU posted a 58.8 eFG% — 5.5-percent higher than Arizona's mark.

Kansas forward Marcus Morris turns for a shot over Arizona forward Jamelle Horne during the first half of the Las Vegas Invitational, Saturday, Nov. 27, at the Orleans Arena.

Kansas forward Marcus Morris turns for a shot over Arizona forward Jamelle Horne during the first half of the Las Vegas Invitational, Saturday, Nov. 27, at the Orleans Arena. by Nick Krug

The Jayhawks also only turned it over on 16.4 percent of its possessions, while Arizona was much more careless, giving it away on 26 percent of its possessions.

M.O.J. (Most Outstanding Jayhawk)

After Friday's game, I posted in the blog that Thomas Robinson needed to quickly forget about his poor performance against Ohio.

Good thing for KU he did. The Jayhawks might not have won otherwise.

Kansas forward Thomas Robinson elevates for a bucket between  Arizona defenders Lamont Jones, left, and Kyryl Natyazhko during the first half of the Las Vegas Invitational, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2010 at the Orleans Arena.

Kansas forward Thomas Robinson elevates for a bucket between Arizona defenders Lamont Jones, left, and Kyryl Natyazhko during the first half of the Las Vegas Invitational, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2010 at the Orleans Arena. by Nick Krug

Robinson beats out Marcus Morris for the M.O.J. after providing one of the most efficient efforts of his KU career. The 6-foot-9 sophomore posted an impressive 1.64 points per possession used while also using up a good chunk of KU's possessions when he was in there (20.1 percent).

After the game, Robinson said he was amped up after one of the Arizona assistant coaches yelled out that he couldn't shoot.

Though Robinson doesn't have the reputation of being a good jump-shooter just yet, he did make almost all his mid-range shots on Saturday. He also had no turnovers, which might have been his best stat of the night.

Though it didn't show up in the box score, Robinson still could use some lowering of his trash-talk percentage, which remains awfully high for a player in a reserve role.

Room for Improvement

At one point in the first half, KU coach Bill Self yelled at his players from the bench: "Are you going to guard anybody?"

For a while, Self's question was valid.

Kansas guard Brady Morningstar defends against a shot by Arizona center Solomon Hill as Tyrel Reed takes the charge during the first half of the Las Vegas Invitational, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2010 at the Orleans Arena.

Kansas guard Brady Morningstar defends against a shot by Arizona center Solomon Hill as Tyrel Reed takes the charge during the first half of the Las Vegas Invitational, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2010 at the Orleans Arena. by Nick Krug

KU couldn't stop Arizona's Derrick Williams in the post (though I'm not sure how many teams will this year) while also allowing penetration by guards which led to open looks on threes.

Not surprisingly, it was the first time all year KU allowed more than a point per possession (1.08, to be exact). Arizona's 53.3 eFG% was about five-percent higher than the NCAA average, while the Wildcats also made 10 of 27 three-pointers (37 percent).

I'm not going to get too down on KU's three-point defense, which still is No. 1 in the nation at 21.1 percent, but as a whole, the Jayhawks didn't do much to stop Arizona from putting the ball in the hoop. If Arizona had avoided turnovers just a little better, the game might have had a different outcome.

Tough-Luck Line

Though he had some big baskets late, KU forward Markieff Morris' statistical line was easily his worst of the season.

Kansas forward Markieff Morris wrestles for a loose ball with Arizona forward Jamelle Horne during the first half of the Las Vegas Invitational, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2010 at the Orleans Arena.

Kansas forward Markieff Morris wrestles for a loose ball with Arizona forward Jamelle Horne during the first half of the Las Vegas Invitational, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2010 at the Orleans Arena. by Nick Krug

The junior, who battled foul trouble along with his brother Marcus, posted only 0.76 points per possession, and that's while using a whopping 38.3 percent of KU's possessions when he was in there.

Markieff's main problem was turnovers. He gave it away on 28.5 percent of the possessions he was in, finishing with four turnovers in just 20 minutes. His rebounding numbers also were low for his standards, as he had just three boards and pulled down only 5.4 percent of the available defensive rebounds while he was on the floor.

Bottom Line

Though there were questions about both KU and Arizona entering Saturday's games, I'd have to say afterwards that both teams are who we thought they were.

Arizona is an up-and-coming team that is most likely deserving of a national ranking. Arizona forward Derrick Williams is a stud (he posted 1.17 points per possession while using up 34 percent of his team's possessions — superstar numbers) and should be a tough matchup for every team left on the Wildcats' schedule.

Meanwhile, KU's first five blowouts weren't a fluke, either.

Kansas guard Travis Releford waves to the crowd following the Jayhawks' 87-79 win over Arizona, Saturday, Nov. 27, at the Orleans Arena.

Kansas guard Travis Releford waves to the crowd following the Jayhawks' 87-79 win over Arizona, Saturday, Nov. 27, at the Orleans Arena. by Nick Krug

On Saturday, the Jayhawks were tested against a good team away from home, lost all momentum, then responded to regain the lead for good with an untested lineup on the floor and their best player on the bench.

And all that happened with the final score somehow hitting just a half-point off the Vegas line.

In other words, though we didn't know exactly what to expect from either team Saturday night, the game ended up going, well, pretty much as expected.

Comments

ahpersecoachingexperience 3 years, 12 months ago

I've have not hid the fact that I might have a bit of a "gambling problem" but if you played that game last night you are a fool and you got what you deserved! There were way to many unknowns going into that game. It was essentially the first test for both teams, heck we hadn't played a team that could make a threepointer. But it was one of the funniest moments ever seeing couples holding hands and buddies on their knees praying for some free-throw makes in the final seconds with the game in hand. Heck the rock chalk chant didn't even start because people were so nervous about rhe covering the spread.

Be

ahpersecoachingexperience 3 years, 12 months ago

Besides the free money was the night before with the first half points and doubling your bet with the 19.5 game spread. And I hate to think what the traveling homers played on football against mizzou. That's why Vegas is Vegas and we have to go back to work on Monday

KUAlum2000 3 years, 12 months ago

Depending on where you posted your book the line was from 7.5 to 8.5, so it was crazy at the end. My buddy, an UofA fan got in at 8 and was sweating the free throws. Good times, especially hearing the chant throughout the casinos after the game.

Eric Sorrentino 3 years, 12 months ago

The Wildcats and Jayhawks....are who we THOUGHT they were!!! That has to be my favorite postgame coach rant of all-time. Good stuff, Jesse.

pizzashuttle 3 years, 12 months ago

Jessie, really enjoyed the article. Nice job blending statistics, Nick's pic's and your own observations into a very entertaining read. Keep up the good work!

ParisHawk 3 years, 12 months ago

Another good one, Jesse. You could have said "with an untested lineup on the floor, their best player on the bench and their most highly recruited player back home." Self is starting to count down the games until Selby can play.

Jacobpaul81 3 years, 12 months ago

4-10, 0-4. That's the biggest problem I saw in this game. It was made up for with 5-5 from the foul line, but that's way too many shots for a guard who's shooting 28% from 3 pt this season. Add to that the 2 missed shots from another guard, and we're up to 8 loose balls up for grabs.

Why is this a problem? Offensive Rebounds. We are terrible in this area. We got 9 against Arizona and most of these came from forwards grabbing the ball after missing their own high percentage shots. We are not rebounding well off missed outside shots. Comparing guys who play the 2-3 combo guard position..

58 minutes, Brady & Reed went 4-12 - that's what our starting 2&3 combined for. They combined for 4 Defensive rebounds, 2 steals, 7-7 from free throw line, 2 turnovers (that's ten 50-50 situations they caused), and they got 4 assists.

In 31 minutes, Releford and Little went 6-9, 1-3 Free Throw line, forced 3 steals, 1 turnover, 1 assist, and contributed 8 rebounds, 2 of those were offensive.

I hope HCBS recognizes this. Releford and Little are shooting 50% and 40% from 3pt land and taking far more intelligent shots. They are far better rebounders and they steal the ball more often than the guys they are playing behind. Little moves as well as Brady away from the ball and is a shooting threat, something we need more minutes out of. I know HCBS has tried to make Little into a 4, but both Little and Releford are the best 3 type guards we have.

Want more proof? Reed has ZERO offensive rebounds this season and Morningstar has ONE. Little has FOUR and Releford has SIX. Yet Reed and Morningstar are averaging 25 and 23 minutes per game, while both Little and Releford are getting just 17.

slowplay 3 years, 12 months ago

Both Reed and Morningstar play better team defense. Morningstar will most likely sit once Selby is in the lineup. If Releford keeps hitting his 3's (and there is no reason to think he can't) he will be in the 3 spot. But for now don't expect Self to change the rotation. Reed and Mornngstar move the ball, look to the post, make pretty smart decisions and keep the team in sync, especially in the early going. Once Self settle into his January, 8-9 man rotation, they probably will not see more than 10-12 minutes between them. The 1st four off the bench will be Robinson, Releford, EJ and Little.

NJHAWK 3 years, 12 months ago

Travis and Mario are better defenders than Reed. They should get more playing time than Reed. Reed has not been able to guard any one this year (that too against weak opponents, not counting AZ).

Joel Thomas 3 years, 12 months ago

Jacobpaul81, two words: sample size. Reed's body of evidence over his career is enough to warrant time. Plus, his icy demeanor commands it.

Jacobpaul81 3 years, 12 months ago

Sample Size. Interesting.

Reed 2009-2010 - Shot 44-93 3 pt shots. Had 5 Offensive Rebounds

So by my calculation, that's 49 50-50 situations shooting compared to 5 resolved.

Reed 2010-2011 - 8 of 28 3 pt shots. 0 Offensive rebounds.

So by my calculation, that's 20 50-50 situations shooting compared to 0 resolved.

If he continues at that rate, he will shoot 42-119 from 3pt. Can't really make a case for him to grab any rebounds since he hasn't yet.

If we're talking sample size, he looks worse this year. I'm saying he needs to take less shots or he needs to start grabbing rebounds. Either way, he's creating too many 50-50 situations and not making up for it by attacking the offensive boards. Think how many times a 3 pt shot goes up and the ball falls in between our guards and our forwards. The majority of those 50-50 balls are going to our opponents. Why? Cause Brady and Tyrel aren't grabbing Offensive Boards.

Lacy Mohler 3 years, 12 months ago

Reed wasn't guarding the three -- man to man or zone defense. Reed isn't going to get rebounds when his defense is flying by his man out-of-bounds too late to defend the shot and unable to go for the rebound. Against AZ he reminded me of JR Giddens. . I agree Brady looks to the post on offense. He isn't hitting right now and when the going gets tough Brady just stands holding the ball looking for someone to pass to. He really bogs down the offense.

Look forward to Releford, Robinson and Little seeing more playing time.

NJHAWK 3 years, 12 months ago

Great observations. Could not agree more.

wyansas 3 years, 12 months ago

That caption is the first time I've seen male cheerleaders referred to as "yell leaders."

yovoy 3 years, 11 months ago

The most staggering trend I saw while I was at those games is that both OHIO and UofA (sucks!, if you were there you know what I'm referring to) were getting 3 and 4 chances after offensive rebounds. It seemed like that's the only way either of them could score during certain stretches in both games. I am still trying to figure out who wasn't being "assignment sound", and I think I remember watching more than 1 of our guards not really box out more than once, as they were waiting to streak up the floor. We did get it fixed, and I noticed we were much more aggressive closing out on shot attempts.

Speaking of "sample size", I have to say that our fanbase HAS to be the fattest, oldest, most-out-of-shape, and handicap-having bunch of fans that travels the way we do. My Lord, it looked like a VFW around that place. Maybe it's because we had so many people, but sheesh. If you're going to "represent", maybe don't.

If we are in a track meet type game, I think Tyrell, Tyshawn, Brady, and Elijah need to play together. Elijah and Tyshawn have to play together because they can make plays in the open floor, and EJ needs tempering. He seems to get it when he's in with Tyshawn. Tyrell and Brady seem to be more successful in a run-and-gun type game: the ball doesn't have to "stick" in Brady's hands if we're getting up and down, and Tyrell can dish even if he's not much of a "finisher". None of those 4 (besides Morningstar at times), plays rock-solid d. That's why if it's a fast-paced game they can succeed. It seems that Releford and Little play a bit better in the half-court. Releford found a shot, but can and will still attack the rim, and Mario can create his shot when he really tries. Until Selby comes on I'd say that TT can be in there almost anytime, with any combo, and at any pace. He's getting much better in the half-court (still loses his man on d too much, as does EJ). That's high praise because I've been down on this kid for a long, long time. The plays he made in the weave the other night just killed UofA.

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