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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.