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Recap: In dominant effort, don't overlook KU's defensive rebounding

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.

Here's how you know that Kansas is playing some pretty good basketball.

After sitting down at the press conference table Monday night, Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford couldn't stop gushing about KU's offense.

And OSU forward Marshall Moses couldn't stop talking about KU's defense.

Both had good points following KU's 92-65 victory over OSU.

The Jayhawks' offense, once again, was its normal efficient self.

KU scored 1.24 points per possession, topping the 1.23 PPP mark for the eighth time in its last nine games.

“They’re just as good an offensive team that I’ve seen in a very, very long time,” Ford said.

The crazy thing? The 1.24 PPP was only the Jayhawks' fourth-best in their last seven games. So not only did Ford not see KU's best offense on Monday, he didn't even see an above-average performance for the Jayhawks in their last seven games.

Marcus (22) and Markieff Morris (21) celebrate a blocked dunk by Marcus against Oklahoma State during the first half on Monday, Feb. 21, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Marcus (22) and Markieff Morris (21) celebrate a blocked dunk by Marcus against Oklahoma State during the first half on Monday, Feb. 21, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Meanwhile, KU's defense posted its second straight impressive performance, almost exactly matching its defensive numbers from Saturday.

Against Colorado, KU allowed 0.875 PPP; Against OSU on Monday, KU allowed 0.878 PPP.

Though the CU effort was better (the Buffaloes are a better offensive team than the Cowboys), Monday's performance was still a sign of progress for KU's much-maligned defense. The Jayhawks' last two defensive games, points-per-possession-wise, have been their best over the past 13 contests.

Also, OSU's floor percentage (the percentage of possessions it scored at least one point) was just 38.7 percent, the team's lowest mark since the 2008-09 season (when it lost to KU, 78-67).

Marcus Morris (left) and Travis Releford tangle with Oklahoma State's Marshall Moses during the first half Monday, Feb. 21, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Marcus Morris (left) and Travis Releford tangle with Oklahoma State's Marshall Moses during the first half Monday, Feb. 21, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Kevin Anderson

"If you make a mistake offensively, they make you pay for it," Moses said.

Even without Tyshawn Taylor and a fully healthy Josh Selby, Travis Releford or Thomas Robinson, the Jayhawks put together a dominant performance on both ends.

M.O.J. (Most Outstanding Jayhawk)

Elijah Johnson had a great game, but Marcus Morris still is the M.O.J.

Kansas forward Marcus Morris floats a bucket past the Oklahoma State defense during the first half on Monday, Feb. 21, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Marcus Morris floats a bucket past the Oklahoma State defense during the first half on Monday, Feb. 21, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

The junior forward posted 1.41 points per possession used while ending 24.4 percent of KU's possessions, which put together are All-American-type numbers.

In the possessions Marcus ended, the Jayhawks scored at least one point 64.9 percent of the time. Marcus made 9 of 13 shots and 3 of 5 three-pointers while also grabbing 19.5 percent of the available defensive rebounds.

With his combination of his efficiency plus high usage, Marcus has proven over the course of the season to be the best offensive player on a great offensive team.

Room for Improvement

KU's biggest fault on Monday night was fouling too much.

Kansas forward Markieff Morris (21) slaps the ball away from Oklahoma State's Marshall Moses  during the second half Monday, Feb. 21, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Markieff Morris (21) slaps the ball away from Oklahoma State's Marshall Moses during the second half Monday, Feb. 21, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Kevin Anderson

Oklahoma State's free-throw rate (FTs attempted times 100/FGs attempted) on Monday was 63.3, which was well above KU's already-high opponent free-throw rate average (39.8). It was also KU's third-highest free-throw rate allowed this year.

The Jayhawks actually were a bit fortunate on free throws, as OSU made just 20 of 31 (64.5 percent) after coming in with a 72.4-percent team free-throw percentage. OSU guard Keiton Page actually missed two in a row as well, even though he came in leading the conference with a 91.1-percent free-throw percentage.

Former North Carolina coach Dean Smith used to preach that any trip to the free-throw line was a success for his team offensively. Not only was it likely his team would score at least one point per possession, it also was putting the opposing team further into foul trouble.

Thinking about it that way makes sense and also should be a reason for concern for KU with its frequent fouling. Part of the reason why Ohio State is so difficult to beat is because the Buckeyes don't give opposing teams many opportunities for easy points (20.6 defensive free-throw rate, No. 1 nationally).

KU could definitely tighten up in that area.

Tough-Luck Line

It was an efficient night for KU offensively, as every player who made a shot posted at least one point per possession used.

Every player, that is, except guard Josh Selby, who gets the Tough-Luck Line.

Kansas guard Josh Selby is wrapped up as he goes for two during the second half Monday, Feb. 21, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Josh Selby is wrapped up as he goes for two during the second half Monday, Feb. 21, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Kevin Anderson

Selby posted 0.90 points per possession used while ending a high number of KU's possessions (24.3 percent). When he ended a KU possession, the Jayhawks scored at least one point just 36.5 percent of the time.

Though the freshman is getting closer to 100 percent, his offensive efficiency still has yet to catch up to the team's high offensive efficiency.

Selby, who didn't turn it over in 11 first-half minutes, had three giveaways in his nine second-half minutes, and those turnovers dragged down the rest of his numbers.

Selby had the most turnovers on the Jayhawks in his 20 combined minutes, and until he starts securing the ball better, he'll remain a riskier offensive option than some other players in KU's rotation.

Bottom Line

Though KU's offense was once again spectacular, KU fans should probably be most encouraged by the Jayhawks' defensive progress in the last two games.

Kansas guard Tyrel Reed defends a pass from Oklahoma State guard Markel Brown during the first half Monday, Feb. 21, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Tyrel Reed defends a pass from Oklahoma State guard Markel Brown during the first half Monday, Feb. 21, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

One area where KU was particularly dominant on Monday night was the defensive glass. OSU came away with just 9.1 percent of the available offensive rebounds — its second-lowest total in a game in the last 15 years and lowest since the 2003-04 season.

KU's 90.9 percent defensive rebounding percentage, meanwhile, was its third-highest total in the last 15 years and highest since the 2006-07 season.

Though the Jayhawks still foul a bit too much defensively, they have made significant improvements over the last week, playing their best defense of the month in the last two games.

We'll see if that kind of defensive effort shows up on the road as well when KU plays at Oklahoma on Saturday.

Comments

AsadZ 3 years, 8 months ago

Jesse, very good analysis. While the defensive numbers were good I did not think that KU guarded Moses very well. He was scoring at will on our Bigs. I am not trying to be negative but only saying that our Bigs especially the Twins need to do a better job on the defensive end. OSU rebound stats went down as one of their key players got fouled out very early in the game.

slowplay 3 years, 8 months ago

I don't think it was the Twins defense as much as it was the wealside help they had to give Little. Moses scored most of his points when 1 or the other Morris was on the bench. Little was overmatched against Pilgrim then Olukemi. That said, I'm surprised that the Twins do not front more in the post.

Jesse Newell 3 years, 8 months ago

Have to give Moses some credit as well. Some of his fadeaways were simply tough shots that he made over defenders.

HawkBBall 3 years, 8 months ago

Good analysis. It confirms my thought that the defense was improving, particularly against OSU. I was impressed with EJ's tight guarding and crashing through screens. Little was a defensive pest, too, with 10 rebounds to lead the team. Marcus and Kieff had some difficulty with Moses, but not with Pilgrim. T-Rob was a beast with 6 rebounds and 1 block in 10 minutes of play.

The team needs to rachet-up the defense a little more.

panalytic 3 years, 8 months ago

I love this blog and the statistical analysis. I have been telling friends to keep an eye on this team just to enjoy how good we are offensively. Maybe I need to start using your stats to back up my talk.

I was wondering if there is anything misleading about our defensive numbers? I was at the last game and they seemed to score so easily when they got a shot up. It seemed like they were near or above 50% field goal shooting for a lot of the game too? It looks like they ended at only about 43% though.

Just wondering about those recent defensive numbers. We seem to have another great team, and please keep the statistical analysis coming to demonstrate how good have been playing.

Jesse Newell 3 years, 8 months ago

Two significant things for KU's defense were defensive rebounding and three-point defense.

OSU only had three offensive rebounds and two second-chance points. That keeps down shot attempts and points.

Also, OSU made just 3 of 14 three-pointers. CU and OSU have now combined to make just 5 of 29 three-pointers in KU's last two games.

A team can give up a few more 2s and FTs and still be OK if it's limiting opposing teams' three-point production to single digits.

kesmithstl1 3 years, 8 months ago

KU's rebounding was great last night, but it's not like they were playing against a Sutton led Cowboys team. KU has done what they are supposed to do to Colorado and OSU. They need to do it against a team like Missouri to prove the naysayers wrong!

John Myers 3 years, 8 months ago

I've been frustrated at how often it seems like we have really solid first halves, and then play flat the second. When we build big leads, I want to keep building, not just maintain.

So I looked at the numbers from all our games after the Colorado game. Going off the top of my head because I'm at work, KU has scored more in the second than the first in basically half our games - pretty even. Our opponents, however, have scored more in the second half 20 out of 26 games.

Not sure what to make of that, but it would appear our opponents do a good job of adjusting to our defense, and our defense does not do a good job adjusting to said adjustments. That, and perhaps we just don't play defense with the same intensity.

Either way, I wish we could play our second halves like our first halves. That's going to be really important come tourney time, against teams capable of making big runs.

pizzashuttle 3 years, 8 months ago

Jesse, great statistical analysis! If possible, could you further break down our defensive strengths and weakness on a bigs (C / PF) vs. littles (G / SF) basis and player by player. Who are KU's best defensive players? And who are KU's weakest defensive players?

Pullen goes off on us as does Williams (UA) and Moses (OSU). Were these statistical anomalies or does TT and McM struggle when trying to defend elite offensive players?

Jesse Newell 3 years, 8 months ago

pizzashuttle — Individual defensive statistics are limited because not that much is tracked in a box score. KU blogger David Hess has tracked some KU advanced defensive stats to help out.

I wrote a blog about KU's individual defensive ratings about a week and a half ago. The statistics are limited and need to taken in context (much like ERA in baseball), but I still think they are useful and that we can learn something from them.

http://www2.kusports.com/weblogs/newell_post/2011/feb/11/evaluating-kus-best-and-w/

pizzashuttle 3 years, 8 months ago

I looked at the linked info, but it's not quite hitting the nail on the head for analysis purposes. I'm looking at the Zona win where Williams (PF) went off for 27 pts.which is about 8 pts. above his season average. Or the UCLA game where Smith (C) scored 17 which is 7 pts above his season average. Or the USC game where Stepheson (PF/C) scored 18 which is 9 pts above his season average. Or lets even talk Neb. and Almeida who scores 10 pts. which is almost 5 pts more than his season average. Or Baylor with Perry Jones (C) scoring 20 which is 6 pts more than his season average, etc, etc. And now OSU's Moses goes off for 27 which is 13 pts. more than his season average.

I see a trend that shows our interior defense is not good, but then I go to your blog post and it shows Kieff is our best defender which doesn't add up against the points being scored on the interior. Not totally blaming Kieff because Marcus also is responsible to defend on the inside. Personally I think the double team, help defense leaves someone on the inside open for an easy basket and other teams are exploiting that against us. That's the kind of analysis I'm looking for though, trends that show weaknesses and then why those weaknesses occur. Is it the way we are running our defense? Or is it just that some of our players are OK at defending average players, but not good against quality competition?

REHawk 3 years, 8 months ago

Jesse, you did not include injured Tyrel Reed in your list of hobbled players. Because he toughens up and does not complain, we forget that he is playing through footpain which obviously curtails his maximum action on the court. Coach does seem to be resting him more as we head down the stretch. Hopefully none of our players will face the exhaustion and physical discomfort with which Sherron played by tournament time at the close of last season.

Scott Smetana 3 years, 8 months ago

Moses looked amazing. Too bad he's not a Jayhawk.

doctorWho 3 years, 8 months ago

"Former North Carolina coach Dean Smith used to preach that any trip to the free-throw line was a success for his team offensively."

You can bet he really believed that back when he was boring the nation with the Four-Corners offense.

Danny Hernandez 3 years, 8 months ago

the photo of Josh sure seems like he is fouled by two different players and yet there was no foul called iirc. He was fouled at least 3 times that weren't called in last nights game.

David Lara 3 years, 8 months ago

No, I remember that there was a foul called on that one. He shot free throws and then went to the bench.

KU_FanSince75 3 years, 8 months ago

Love it, Jesse! Nice work. I was wondering about our 3-point attempt defense and your numbers back it up---that we did a decent job defending against the trey. Looking forward to Saturday!

actorman 3 years, 8 months ago

Dannyboy, I believe there was a foul called on that particular play, as I remember Josh rubbing his head as he went to the free throw line. But your point is well taken.

lishku 3 years, 8 months ago

Jesse, if the seson ended today, what would be your final four perdiction, and why?

Jesse Newell 3 years, 8 months ago

As of right now (subject to change) ... Duke, Ohio State, Kansas and BYU. March is a crapshoot, but I like those four teams' ability to be good on both ends.

KU_FanSince75 3 years, 8 months ago

BYU? Wow---kind of bold there! Pitt? For that matter, no Big East teams? I agree with the three---Duke, KU and Ohio State----I would substitute San Diego State in there instead of BYU. And if for some reason, the Jayhawks get bounced out (gosh, I hope not), then, I would root for the Aztecs.

lishku 3 years, 8 months ago

I like the BYU pick. I actually thing they will beat San Diego St. tomorrow on the road.

Michael Luby 3 years, 8 months ago

Ohio St might not make it. Maybe im just biased but it seems to me that even though they have a good good team, their scoring is dependent on a few players, their bench doesnt seem to be as deep, they arent a very tall team, and a bit younger in comparison to KU or TX who I think could both be final 4 teams with Dukie and my sleeper team is Sandiego State. No big east for me either.

Michael Luby 3 years, 8 months ago

One more thing, their schedule strength is a bit lower too.

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