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Recap: Nebraska puts up a fight at the Fieldhouse

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When asked (rhetorically) whether I would bet (fictional, non-existent) money on Kansas defeating Nebraska by more than 21.5 points, I didn't think twice:

"Of course," I said, remembering the ludicrous blowouts — equal parts awe-inspiring and pathetic — I witnessed KU hand Nebraska in 2007 and 2008 in Allen Fieldhouse. KU won those games by an average of 44 points and tacked on a 17-point victory against Nebraska last season in Lawrence.

So I was a bit shocked to see the Huskers hang around after the Jayhawks' hot start and even more surprised when Nebraska grabbed the lead for about three minutes in the second half. As it usually does, KU sorted things out and dispatched Nebraska to pull to 8-0 in conference play, but two* poor stretches kept the game from turning into standard Allen Fieldhouse fare.

• The Huskers' ability to stick around in the first half seemed like a byproduct of KU's foul problems. By the time 6:20 remained in the first half, center Cole Aldrich and forward Thomas Robinson each had two fouls and forward Markieff Morris had three. Reserve center Jeff Withey contributed nine decent, rebound-and-defense-heavy minutes, but there's no way around it: KU is obviously a better team with Aldrich, Markieff Morris, and at least the option of Robinson.

Then the negative effect Aldrich's and Morris' foul trouble had on KU in the first half became evident in the second half when the pair helped the Jayhawks pull away. Markieff scored all seven of KU's points during a 46-second stretch in which KU expanded the scoring margin from 10 to 15. Aldrich didn't score until 14:29 remained in the game but still managed to finish with eight points in his 21 minutes.

http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2010/Feb/06/ku_bkc_nu_nk_23.jpg Jeff Withey and Marcus Morris picked up the slack for their foul-prone teammates — Nick Krug/LJW Photo

• The second Nebraska run seemed to be a product of the Huskers just making shots KU opponents usually do not. Forward Ryan Anderson and guard Sek Henry each contributed a three-pointer and forward Brian Diaz scored four points in the opening five minutes of the second half. Meanwhile, KU's offense stagnated. The Jayhawks ended just two of their first seven second half possessions by scoring, two with turnovers and three with missed shots. Nebraska's push to grab the lead might have been a case of KU needing to brush the halftime cobwebs away.

The always-enlightening Game Flow graphic, compliments of StatSheet.com:

*And yes, I'm aware KU suffered late in the game from a third swoon. But considering the closest Nebraska came was nine points with 45 seconds to play, I have a feeling the only ones affected by this mini-comeback were the scoundrels betting real money on the contest. For shame.

M.O.J. (Most Outstanding Jayhawk)

Two Jayhawks stood far above the pack Saturday: guard Sherron Collins and forward Marcus Morris. But in the spirit of not being annoying, there won't be any co-M.O.J. honors awarded here. Collins gets the nod. In the days leading up to Saturday's game, Nebraska guard Sek Henry told Huskersillustrated.com that he "knew" he could guard Collins. Henry and his teammates didn't do a great job Saturday on Collins, who was KU's most efficient offensive player by a long shot. The senior floor general generated 1.46 points per possession by hanging out and waiting for open shots to come to him. Collins used 22 percent of KU's possessions for his shots, third most among starters, and managed a solid 17 points.

Room for improvement

KUSports online editor Jesse Newell analyzed KU's defense Saturday morning, and one of the fun facts included was that the Jayhawks are excellent defensively without forcing many turnovers.

KU forced Nebraska into myriad turnovers Saturday. In fact, the usually-steady Huskers committed a turnover on 29.2 percent of their possessions against KU, their sloppiest showing of the season. It was KU's third-most tenacious defensive performance of the season, after only non-conference victories against Alcorn State and Belmont. Still, Nebraska tallied 0.98 points per possession, just under the national and the Huskers' season averages. Chalk that up to Nebraska's 58.8 percent three-point shooting.

KU is neither terrible nor great at limiting opponents' long-distance accuracy this season, coming in at 109th nationally in three-point field goal percentage allowed. Some of that could be defensive scheme. Some of that could be a matter of which teams are on the schedule. Some of that could be chance.

Hard luck line

For the sixth consecutive game, Xavier Henry produced less than one point per possession used. For the fourth time in those six contests, the freshman used more than 20 percent of KU's possessions on his shots. That doesn't help the Jayhawks much. Although Henry has played solid defense — Bill Self said he was pleased with Henry's all-around game — his shooting woes don't seem to be solving themselves.

Food for thought:

Xavier Henry's eFG%, game-by-game (StatSheet.com)

The Bottom Line:

The victory may have been closer than expected, but KU showed some definite flashes of greatness Saturday during a defense-fueled second-half run. If not for foul trouble and some late let-up, KU might have treated Nebraska like the Nebraska of years past.

P.S.

KU is now eight victories away from the big 2,000. You can browse pictures and original stories from each of the Jayhawks' milestone victories here.

Comments

Karen Mansfield-Stewart 9 years, 6 months ago

Interesting. I appreciate the stats. I think it adds some empirical evidence to what most of us "feel".

I disagree (and hope you try to disprove me with some charts) however with the implication that Thomas Robinson is better than, or should be the first big off the bench instead of, Jeff Withey. In his very limited minutes Withey has produced considerably more and turned it over considerably less than Robinson.

AsherFusco 9 years, 6 months ago

Billhawk -- I don't necessarily think Robinson is a better option than Withey, especially given how well Withey has played. I do, however, think KU is better off having an extra available big man, whether that is Withey, Robinson or Mk. Morris.

melrank 9 years, 6 months ago

"KU is neither terrible nor great at limiting opponents' long-distance accuracy this season, coming in at 109th nationally in three-point field goal percentage allowed. Some of that could be defensive scheme. Some of that could be a matter of which teams are on the schedule. Some of that could be chance. "

This is a fact that is somewhat hard to sort out. We are a very good defensive team, but it seems like our opponents have career games from 3-point land frequently against us.

The defensive scheme theory is very interesting. If we are #1 in the nation in FG% defense by playing tough interior defense with a lot of rotational guard help, does this lend itself to giving teams more open 3 pointers? Does Coach roll the dice and say we can still win if they hit a lot of 3 pointers but only 36% from the field for the game?

Sounds as good as anything I can come up with, but it's really disgusting to watch at times. Being 22-1 will help me deal with it, though.

AsherFusco 9 years, 6 months ago

njjayhawk -- I'm not sure how fans/administrators at Nebraksa feel about Sadler, but the success of Mike Anderson at Missouri and Frank Martin at K-State probably make Sadler's record feel a bit worse than it might if KSU and MU hadn't become viable programs. The reality is, it's tough to win in the Big 12 North. KU's coach is elite in pretty much every measurable way, KSU's has some serious recruiting connections and skills and MU's has a great system. Before this season I felt a Sadler-coached team would always stay near .500 by virtue of stifling defense, but it turns out departed center Aleks Maric might have had a lot to do with the Huskers defensive success.

waywardJay 9 years, 6 months ago

Frankly, i was let down by our Hawks in this game..... Christian Stanhardinger needed to be put on the floor hard..... not illegal or to illicitly injure but that kid needed to be taught a lesson ......

Flops are inexcuseable and so are congradulatory fist pumps and growls at the 13 minute mark of the first half..... More excuseable if your doing it in the second half... or in the last 5 minutes.... but when "acting" like a tough kid it's kinda hard to take you seriously when you mug because you made a play at 14-10 to close the lead to 2.....

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