Recap: Collins biting off more than he can chew?
Sherron Collins means a lot to Kansas: That much was clear before KU's loss to Oklahoma State. After the Jayhawks' disappointing trip to Stillwater, however, fans and observers shouldn't be blamed for wondering just how healthy KU's reliance on its lead guard is.
Collins' final line wasn't actually all that brutal. The guard scored 22 points on 7-for-16 shooting and contributed four rebounds and four assists. But Collins' struggle in the opening half stood out as one of the clear reasons for KU's loss. Collins took 15 minutes and 47 seconds of game time to score his first point. During that period, the senior posted these numbers:
• 0-for-6 field goal shooting, 0-for-2 free throw shooting and two turnovers
During that same time frame, KU fell into a 36-20 hole.
In the game's final 24 minutes, Collins went 7-for-10 from the field and 4-for-4 from the free throw line and KU outscored Oklahoma State, 57-49.
Collins was far and away the Jayhawks' most active player, taking 30.6 percent of the team's shots and using 32.8 percent of the team's possessions during his playing time. The next most aggressive Jayhawk was guard Xavier Henry, who used just 22.8 percent of KU's trips down the floor. This would have been fine if Collins had flourished. Instead, the Chicago native generated a very pedestrian 1.01 points per possession while his counterpart, Oklahoma State's Keiton Page, created 1.92 points per trip (using substantially fewer possessions).
Having one player dominate the ball isn't necessarily a deal breaker. Oklahoma State guard James Anderson used 31.2 percent of the Cowboys possessions and took 39.8 percent of their shots. Because Anderson went 4-for-6 on three-point attempts and created 1.24 points per possession, his high activity level was not a problem. Its tough to argue, however, that KU would not have benefited from Collins hanging back a bit during a game in which the Jayhawks' most offensively efficient starter (Cole Aldrich) used just 18.7 percent of their possessions.
A graphical look at how Oklahoma State built and expanded its lead in the middle minutes of the game, from StatSheet.com:
M.O.J. (Most Outstanding Jayhawk)
Sherron Collins used a late push to bring his box score back to respectability and Cole Aldrich scored 11 points on 5-for-9 shooting, but guard Xavier Henry provided the Jayhawks' best offensive performance.
Henry scored 17 points on 6-for-12 shooting, scoring in double figures for the sixth straight game. Oklahoma State's all-everything guard James Anderson exposed Henry on defense more than a few times, but Collins (taken off the dribble by Keiton Page!) and Aldrich (five rebounds) didn't fare much better.
Room For Improvement
Plenty of room for discussion exists on why KU's defense struggled Saturday, but in essence, it all boiled down to shooting.
Oklahoma State shot more accurately than any KU opponent of the Bill Self era has. The Cowboys posted the fifth-best eFG% of any Big 12 team this conference season. Predictably, this did not end well for KU. The Jayhawks yielded their highest points-per-possession total (1.20) since last season's KU loss at Arizona (1.29).
http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2010/Feb/28/james.jpg Guard James Anderson was the Cowboys' lead gunslinger on Saturday — Nick Krug/LJW Photo
Tough Luck Line
Aside from Collins, Brady Morningstar possessed KU's most unsightly line. The junior guard took — and missed — one shot and did not grab any rebounds in 16 minutes. As Journal-World sports editor Tom Keegan noted in his Keegan Ratings, Morningstar just hasn't looked right lately.
The Bottom Line
One regular season game is one regular season game. When you're 27-2 and already crowned conference champion, one regular season game doesn't mean a whole lot.
After Syracuse's exceptional Saturday night victory against Villanova, KU could fall from the top of the national rankings. Given college basketball's (thankful) refusal to use the meaningless polls for anything other than nothing, that doesn't mean a whole lot.
But if KU plays like it did against Oklahoma State — reckless and rattled on offense, ill-prepared on defense — against Kansas State and Missouri, the Jayhawks might not have much momentum heading into the Big 12 Championship.