KU's Big 12 title-clinching victory against Oklahoma looked pretty darn good — and it was, considering the Jayhawks' enormous offensive output and plus-0.21 points-per-possession margin. Not so obvious*, however, was the fact that Oklahoma scored more easily than any of KU's opponents since Kansas State on Jan. 30.
The Sooners recorded 1.08 points per possession, not a huge number, but one far from normal for a KU defense that entered Monday with KenPom.com's third-ranked defense. Oddly enough, Oklahoma didn't do anything exceptionally well on offense. The Sooners shot at 46 eFG%, just below average. They turned the ball over on 14.3 percent of possessions, a bit better than the median. They didn't go to the free-throw line often (22.2 percent Free Throw Rate) and grabbed a rather pedestrian portion of offensive rebounds (35 percent of those available). Somehow, Oklahoma still managed to score on a better-than-usual 55.6 percent of its possessions.
Of course, none of this mattered a bit.
KU put together a dominant offensive performance on Monday. The Jayhawks posted a solid 56 eFG%, a season-best 9.5 percent Turnover Rate and ended up scoring 1.29 points per possession. Center Cole Aldrich was the only KU starter who played poorly on the offensive end, but his low number of possessions used for shots (17.8 percent) and his fantastic rebounding (13.8 percent of available offensive rebounds) more than made up for his 1-for-4 free throw shooting. Guards Sherron Collins and Tyshawn Taylor were quietly efficient, guard Xavier Henry was loudly efficient and forward Marcus Morris was his normal, high-volume, high-efficiency, low-turnover self.
KU is (obviously) very hard to defeat on a normal night. When Collins and Taylor are taking care of the ball, Marcus Morris plays like his All-Big 12 First Team self and Xavier Henry is lights-out from the field, there isn't a college team in the nation that could defeat KU (and no, for the last time, an incredible college team would not top even the most New Jersey Nets-eriffic NBA team).
http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2010/Feb/23/ku_bkc_ou_05.jpg Tommy Mason-Griffin and Oklahoma didn't have much trouble scoring on Monday — Nick Krug/LJW Photo
*Oklahoma's offensive efficiency might elude many people because of its 68-point total. The fact that the game was played at a 63-possession pace contributed to the relatively low scoring totals. If KU would have played at its normal pace (70.3 possessions/game), the Jayhawks would have scored about 91 points.
M.O.J. (Most Outstanding Jayhawk)
I usually wait until the 2 a.m. "lunch break" of my day job to peruse the advanced statistics and name a M.O.J. award winner. Monday night, I knew who the winner would be at halftime.
Xavier Henry sliced and diced the Oklahoma defense from outside, midrange and (surprise) inside, most notably in a 7-for-7, 18-point first half that helped put the Sooners into a 44-29 halftime hole. Despite a fairly average second half, Henry finished with 23 points on 9-for-13 shooting, recorded five rebounds and two blocks and didn't commit a turnover. All those standard stats added up to 1.71 points per possession used by Henry. This was the Xavier Henry KU fans saw early in the season — the one who was, at one point, the nation's best freshman.
Room For Improvement
Upon an initial viewing of the game, KU's three-point defense looked fairly weak. Oklahoma didn't have much trouble breaking KU's first layer of defense, drawing extra attention to the ball-handler and dishing off to an open three-point shooter. Turns out the Sooners either weren't as open as they looked or they just had a bad night. Oklahoma went 6-for-20 from three-point range. The Sooners entered Monday shooting 35.3 percent on threes, 10th in the Big 12 Conference. Perhaps spending energy overplaying Oklahoma's outside shooters wasn't part of KU coach Bill Self's game plan — for good reason.
Tough Luck Line:
Anyone want this thing? Anybody? Nope? Alright, then.
Without any underachieving Jayhawks deserving of the onerous Tough Luck Line yoke, an Oklahoma player is getting it by default. Tony Crocker, come on down! Crocker, who by everyone's estimation has played at Oklahoma for approximately 17 years, opened the season with a bang by serving as the Sooners' lone steadying influence in a rocky non-conference season. But the senior guard has struggled in Big 12 Conference play, making 34 percent of his shots and 24.4 percent of his three-point attempts. Monday was even worse for Crocker. He went 3-for-13 from the field, 1-for-5 on three-point attempts, tallied just nine points and created 0.69 points per possession. Also, Crocker's counterpart Xavier Henry was the man.
The Bottom Line:
Another game, another victory, another Big 12 Conference title and another step toward the first undefeated season by a high-major conference squad in seven years. Bill Self's Kansas program is an absolute juggernaut and this year's version isn't an exception.
http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2010/Feb/23/ku_bkc_ou_08.jpg Another season, another title for Kansas. — Nick Krug/LJW Photo
If you're feeling nostalgic, check out our guide to each of KU's milestone victories on the way to 2,000. The Jayhawks are currently sitting on No. 1,997.