Recap: I thought that game looked familiar, Part II
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.
One of the first comments Kansas coach Bill Self made after KU's 64-51 victory over Texas A&M on Wednesday was that the game had no rhythm.
So many times this year, the Jayhawks have won pretty. The ball moves, the jumpshots go in, players feel good about themselves and KU runs away with a victory.
Wednesday wasn't like that. The Morris twins missed shots they normally make. Markieff even joked to his brother Marcus that he was going to check if there was something on the top of the rim.
That kind of game — slow-it-down, muddied-up — is the kind of environment that Self wanted to see his team succeed in.
I found it interesting that KU's numbers last night — low possessions, below-average offensive output — were very close to another game. Take a look.
While KU's 59 possessions were the lowest for this season, the 62 possessions in Game X tied for the second-lowest that season.
Here's another clue.
With almost identical possession and offensive numbers, KU won the Texas A&M game by 13, yet lost Game X by two.
Turns out last night's game was very similar to an NCAA Tournament game at the end of last season.
Game X is KU vs. Northern Iowa last year.
The good news for KU fans is that the Jayhawks found a formula to win on a night when the game was sluggish and the possessions were low.
So how did KU do it?
Take a look.
For one, the Jayhawks locked down defensively, holding Texas A&M to nearly five percent below its eFG% season average (49.5 percent).
KU also was able to "out-possession" A&M by dominating in turnovers.
Tyrel Reed, Brady Morningstar and Elijah Johnson pressured the Texas A&M guards all over the floor, and that sticky defense led to the Aggies' highest turnover percentage in their last four seasons.
It also helped that KU was well below its season average for turnover percentage (15.3 percent, compared to 18.9 percent), unlike the UNI game, when KU was well over its season average (24.2 percent, compared to 18.7 percent).
Texas A&M might have just done KU a favor, giving the Jayhawks a taste of the style of game that will surely come sometime in the tournament.
KU passed Wednesday's mid-term. Now, the Jayhawks will just have to keep their notes in case that same type of game shows up on the final exam.
M.O.J. (Most Outstanding Jayhawk)
Fittingly, Brady Morningstar takes the M.O.J. honor on his Senior night.
The Lawrence native was 3-for-3 from the floor and 2-for-2 from three, posting nine points during his perfect shooting game from the floor.
He also dished out 20.8 percent of KU's assists while he was on the floor while contributing to the Jayhawks' stifling on-ball defense.
Morningstar, who had four second-half steals, came away with steals on 7.3 percent of his defensive possessions in the game. That number was second on the team behind Tyrel Reed (8.2 percent).
Though Morningstar's usage was extremely low (3.6 percent), he still managed to get plenty of offensive production out of the shots he did take while limiting his turnovers and playing great defense.
Room for Improvement
KU struggled to rebound against Texas A&M on both ends of the court.
The Jayhawks grabbed just 63.3 percent of the available defensive rebounds (their fifth-lowest mark of the year) and just 27.3 percent of the available offensive rebounds (their sixth-worst mark of the season.
To be fair, Texas A&M came in as the ninth-best offensive rebounding team in the nation according to KenPom, tracking down 38.4 percent of the available offensive rebounds this season. So the Aggies' 36.7 percent offensive rebounding percentage was actually still below their season average.
Still, KU should expect to put up a better fight on the boards, even if it is against a good rebounding team. Markieff Morris — the Big 12's leading rebounder — had just three rebounds in 30 minutes, while no Jayhawk had more than five rebounds.
Luckily for KU, this shouldn't be a lingering problem, as the Jayhawks face one of the worst rebounding teams in the conference (Missouri) on Saturday — a team KU outrebounded 38-21 in the teams' first matchup.
Mario Little takes this distinction following a poor shooting night.
In his 15 minutes, Little was 0-for-5 from the floor and 0-for-3 from three. He posted just 0.16 points per possession used while ending 18 percent of KU's possessions while he was out there.
The Chicago native's lone statistical highlight was his defensive rebounding, as he came away with 26.6 percent of the available defensive rebounds.
That still wasn't enough to make up for his errant shooting on Wednesday.
Give credit to KU for avoiding fouls, something the Jayhawks haven't always done well this season.
Though KU was up to seven team fouls at just under the 12-minute mark of the second half, the Jayhawks had just one foul the rest of the way.
That defensive effort also came against a Texas A&M team that is good at getting to the free-throw line. The Aggies' free-throw rate (FTs attempted*100/FGs attempted) of 46.0 ranks 28th nationally.
KU's 0.86 points per possession allowed on defense was its best performance of the Big 12 season. In three of the Jayhawks' last four games, they've given up fewer than 0.88 PPP.
Though the Jayhawks like to play pretty, they showed they could win ugly on Wednesday by tightening up the defense and forcing turnovers.