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Recap: Offense — not defense — to blame for Kansas' first loss

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.

Our eyes usually see what we want them to see.

Following Kansas' 74-63 loss — and most losses, actually — I think most fans' first tendency is to immediately blame the defense.

That would seem be easy thing to do after Saturday's game as well. http://www2.kusports.com/videos/2011/jan/22/33955/

After holding a 12-point lead at half, the Jayhawks allowed 51 points in the second half. You don't need me to tell you that that's not good.

But, looking back at the numbers, that kind of analysis ignores one thing.

The Jayhawks' defense was pretty darned good in the first half.

Kansas guard Tyrel Reed takes a charge from Texas guard J'Covan Brown in the first half on Saturday, January 22, 2011 in Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Tyrel Reed takes a charge from Texas guard J'Covan Brown in the first half on Saturday, January 22, 2011 in Allen Fieldhouse. by Richard Gwin

By my calculations, with 34 first-half possessions, KU allowed just 0.68 points per possession in the first half, which would be in the running for the Jayhawks' best defensive half of the year.

In other words, the Jayhawks had an outstanding defensive half followed by a terrible one, which led to the final numbers being a bit below average (Still, Texas' 1.03 points per possession was its sixth-worst offensive outing this year).

Offensively, though, KU had a below average first half (1.03 PPP) followed by a horrible one.

And the numbers tell us that, in a high-possession game (72), it wasn't the Jayhawks' defense that let them down on Saturday.

Instead, it was the offense.

Playing against a great defensive team in Texas, KU posted just 0.88 points per possession — its worst total of the year.

Kansas forward Marcus Morris goes up against a Texas defender on Saturday, January 22, 2011 in Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Marcus Morris goes up against a Texas defender on Saturday, January 22, 2011 in Allen Fieldhouse. by Richard Gwin

The Jayhawks were awful offensively almost any way you slice it.

• KU's eFG% was 40.6 percent, the second-worst mark of the last two years (only 39.3 percent against Michigan was worse).

• KU's floor percentage was 44.7 percent, meaning the Jayhawks scored at least one point on only 44.7 percent of their possessions (KU's season average is 57.4 percent). That also was KU's second-worst number of the year behind the Michigan game.

• The Jayhawks' 28 second-half points also were the second-worst of the season, and that's made even worst considering that there were approximately 38 possessions in the final 20 minutes.

Against a top-10 team, it's going to be hard to even hold many halftime leads if your team only scores 0.74 points per possession in the final 20 minutes.

M.O.J. (Most Outstanding Jayhawk)

It's close between Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar, but Reed gets the nod after giving the Jayhawks a bit more offensive production.

Kansas guard Tyrel Reed gets the Fieldhouse fired up after a three-pointer against Texas during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 22, 2011.

Kansas guard Tyrel Reed gets the Fieldhouse fired up after a three-pointer against Texas during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 22, 2011. by Nick Krug

Reed posted 1.22 points per possession used, while ending 16.3 percent of KU's possessions (lower than NCAA average, but higher than his own average). Those numbers are especially good on a day when KU mustered just 0.88 points per possession as a team.

The Burlington native also provided KU help on the glass, pulling down 16.2 percent of the available defensive rebounds — his third-highest this year — and 5.1 percent of the available offensive rebounds.

Though his final shooting line was 5 of 10, his eFG% was 75 percent, second-best on the team behind Morningstar (80 percent). Reed's five threes were a career-high for a game, and his steal percentage of 3.2 percent also was highest on the team.

As Journal-World sports editor Tom Keegan mentioned in the Keegan ratings, Reed is now 12-for-21 from three (57.2 percent) in his last three contests.

In a game where little was going right offensively for KU, Reed continued to be one of the Jayhawks' most steady performers.

Room for Improvement

"The offense" would work here, but we've already discussed many of those struggles above.

So let's look at the other big concern for KU from Saturday's game: fouling too much defensively.

Kansas forward Markieff Morris hacks Texas forward Tristan Thompson in the first half Saturday, January 22, 2011 in Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Markieff Morris hacks Texas forward Tristan Thompson in the first half Saturday, January 22, 2011 in Allen Fieldhouse. by Richard Gwin

We talked about this same issue in the "Room for Improvement" section last game, and KU coach Bill Self has to hope that this won't become a trend.

After allowing a free throw rate (free throws/field goals attempted) of 63.4 against Baylor, KU gave up a free throw rate of 64.6 to Texas (KU's season average allowed is 31.4). It was the highest free throw rate allowed by the Jayhawks since the 2007-08 season.

Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor both had four fouls, while Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris and Brady Morningstar all had three.

The Jayhawks haven't struggled with this problem until the last two games, but it's definitely an issue that needs to be addressed going forward. It's almost impossible to keep an opposing team's points down when that team is shooting that many free throws.

Tough-Luck Line

This one could easily go to Josh Selby (0.43 points per possession used; 23.8 percent possessions ended), but this time, Marcus Morris is the tough-luck player.

Kansas forward Marcus Morris pulls a steal from Texas guard Gary Johnson during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 22, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Marcus Morris pulls a steal from Texas guard Gary Johnson during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 22, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

The junior, who has been a model of efficiency so far this season, wasn't himself on Saturday against Texas' bigs. He posted just 0.75 points per possessions used while ending 31.7 percent of KU's possessions while he was on the floor — his fourth-highest percentage this year.

In essence, it was a tough shooting night for Marcus made worse by the fact that he shot quite a bit. His eFG% of 35.2 percent was his worst this season, while his floor percentage (41.8 percent) was his second-worst mark this year.

Honestly, though, I don't see much of a problem here. Yes it was a tough shooting night, but Marcus is KU's best player, and he should be the one taking the shots down the stretch in close games. He actually played some of his best basketball in the final minutes, putting in consecutive twos to bring KU within six with 2:29 left.

It's probably not a coincidence that when KU's best offensive player was off, the whole team seemed to struggle with him.

Bottom Line

Though KU didn't play well on Saturday, a lot of the credit has to go to Texas' man-to-man defense, which completely took the Jayhawks out of what they wanted to do offensively.

The Longhorns' size bothered KU inside, as they blocked 14.1 percent of KU's two-point shots, which was the highest mark of the year against the Jayhawks.

The rebounding numbers are a bit misleading.

Kansas forward Mario Little fights for a loose ball with Texas guard Cory Joseph on Saturday, January 22, 2011 in Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Mario Little fights for a loose ball with Texas guard Cory Joseph on Saturday, January 22, 2011 in Allen Fieldhouse. by Richard Gwin

Though UT finished with a 42-33 rebounding advantage, much of that discrepancy was because of the free throw differential. Because KU had more missed shots that UT, it had fewer chances to grab defensive rebounds, which are easier to pick off than offensive rebounds.

On Saturday, UT's defensive rebounding percentage was 76.1 percent; KU's was 75.9 percent. Texas' offensive rebounding percentage was 24.1 percent; KU's was 23.9 percent. Those numbers don't exactly scream rebounding dominance by the Longhorns.

Though many folks will point to the defense as the reason for the Jayhawks' loss, the real reason was an inability to score — especially on the inside. KU made just 37.7 percent of its two-pointers after coming in as the top team in two-point field-goal percentage (59.6 percent).

The Jayhawks will have a great chance to bounce back offensively against Colorado on Tuesday, as efficiency-wise, the Buffs are the second-worst defensive team in the Big 12.

Comments

Tony Bandle 3 years, 11 months ago

It was a "perfect storm" to end the streak

1] A very good Texas team having an outstanding defensive day. 2] The sheer odds of having lost seven in a row in Allen. 3] The emotional weight of TRob's tragedy. 4] The unavailibilty of our best perimeter defender, Travis 5] Rick Barnes actually out-coaching Bill Self. [how often does that happen] 6] A terrible off day for the twins. 7] Outside of Brady and Tyrel, an equally terrible off day for the guards. 8] The emotion and energy spent in the opening five minutes plus the almost no sleep for the entire team, drained all energy from the second half. 9] The inevitable odds that the streak would have to end. 10] A relatively young team coping with an experience I'm guessing very few have had before.

Bottom line, we lost to a damn good Top Ten team who beat us and deserved to win. No excuses, no fluke opponent [ala Long Beach], no rip-off ref job, etc.

Scott Smetana 3 years, 11 months ago

You're the man Oakville... perfectly said.

I'm headed to Boulder on Tuesday for the final game there. I forget, did we decide that Boulder is Allen Field House West or Lawrence West?

Jennifer Nikkila Pressgrove 3 years, 11 months ago

I vote for Allen Field House West. And I too will be there. Looking forward to singing the rock chalk chant.

Alec White 3 years, 11 months ago

I know some will inevitably look at the loss and be disappointed (which I am too, to a certain extent) but I am really proud of how they came out to play the first 5 minutes. It showed a lot about our team and how close they are. I think that short stretch of inspired basketball might be more important in the long run than the next 35 minutes of gametime. Some will say Texas was scared the first five minutes and settled down to show who was the better team, but I think HCBS and all the other Big XII coaches realized then that if we play inspired and concentrated basketball we won't be beat.

It's too early to tell if this game and emotional roller-coaster ride they've been through will make or break them...but only a few years ago Self took a similarly talented team and redefined their focus after a similar tragedy (Roderick Stewart's brother was killed I believe). The comparison is very unfair to make, but you can't deny Self has a special bond with these kids and will bring out the best in them.

jay381 3 years, 11 months ago

This hurts big time to say. I do agree with the comments above especially the offensive lack of production. Additionally we lost this game (and probably conference championship) because of recruiting.

Yesterday I felt this TX team just had better players in too many positions. I am not one that waits with baited breath to see recruiting rankings. However in recent years the year end summaries have improved and certainly can be at least predictive of future accomplishments.

I went back to Rivals (and yes I know there is some East Coast bias) to double check the rankings and personnel mentioned. The last time we had a really good national ranking was the class of 2009 (Henry, E Johnson, and Robinson) and TX was rated number 2 (J’Covan Brown, Jordan Hamilton and others). This class was close however the real disparity is apparent the next year in 2010. KS is ranked 23 (only because of Selby) and TX was ranked 8 (Two 5 stars including that Tristan Thompson we can remember all too well yesterday).

What is of even more concern is that TX is already ranked number 8 in the country for 2011 and KS is not even listed in the top 25. The bottom line is that TX has (and this is hard to admit) recruited better players on the level just below the one and done players. We need the OAD players but we also need contributive players to surround them.

I am concerned about the past but really concerned if we do not sign some players in the time remaining for this years signing. If the twins do leave, Selby leaves (and no way is he ready for the NBA at this point), Reed and Morningstar graduate next year could be a real downer. This TX group has some players and it does not look like they are going anywhere soon (hopefully some will go to the NBA).

ksyank 3 years, 10 months ago

When it comes to recruiting I'll take HCBS judgement over Rivals every single time.

SCHNBALL 3 years, 11 months ago

Jesse, can you give us KU's PPP with and without Markieff on the floor yesterday?

KU_FanSince75 3 years, 11 months ago

Jesse-- Please accept my apology because I thought you were way off on your prediction of the game yesterday. You knew this home streak was going to end. That's good reporting on your part. Of course, all the predictions were done before T-Rob lost his mom. Anyway, I shouldn't doubt you anymore.

squawkhawk 3 years, 11 months ago

First real team we play and they kick our a$$!

SoCalAlum 3 years, 11 months ago

Jesse - any news of a fund(s) to contribute to (for funeral expenses; for sister's education/care)? I'm ready to send my check.

Hank Cross 3 years, 11 months ago

Of course it was the offense. I have been saying all year the offense was a problem, including a post to this blog which was decrying the defense despite the fact the last team (I forget whom) was held well under 50%.

People talk about the Cal game in which the Bears didn't score in the first 5 minutes, completely overlooking the fact that KU didn't score in that time period either. It's only been in the last few of games where they've tried to drive in the half-court and try to get points in transition.

The twins are great, but they're not going to get any points on the inside on strength. If they get shut down, swinging the ball around looking for an open 3 isn't going to get the job done.

justanotherfan 3 years, 11 months ago

Jesse,

I usually agree with your analysis, but today I disagree a little bit.

The KU offense was definitely subpar, but against a good defensive team, that is to be expected. Down the stretch, I said to the friends I was watching the game with on three different possessions "KU needs a stop here." On all three possessions, Texas got either a layup or an open jumpshot, which they made.

Yeah, the offense put them in the hole, but in moments like that, you have to ask your defense to bail you out. The D didn't do that.

So yes, the offense was bad, but this is a Bill Self team, and on Bill Self teams (and championship teams) it all starts with defense.

James Miller 3 years, 11 months ago

The offense was definitely the culprit. In the second half we missed many jumpers we usually make, and until the last three minutes we lost all of our aggressiveness. In the first half we were in the lane a lot more. That kept their defense a little more on their heels. In the second half we let them get into a defensive rhythm. As Jayhawk fans, we all know how good defense leads to good offense. That's how they played. I can kind of see how our energy level was down in the second half, since most of the team was up past midnight the night before with T-Rob. I don't think that will happen again.

Robert Brock 3 years, 11 months ago

I hope that we get a chance to play the Horns again this season. I would especially like to face them in a situation like an NCAA tournament regional championship game.

Jesse Johnson 3 years, 11 months ago

I think this game more than any proves the saying "One of the best defenses is a good offense". I think they say the reverse of that too, but on saturday's game I really felt like KU's poor offense in the second half is what enabled Texas to score so many points. When you miss a shot, you have less time to get back on D. KU missed a lot of shots in the second half, which Texas turned into points that they weren't able to get in the first half.

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