Recap: KU pushes past KSU on its way to 20-1
It's practically impossible to narrow the difference between two teams down to any single aspect of a game. Every contest is full of factors and reasons for success and failure, variables in an equation that solves itself after 40 — or 45, in Saturday's case — minutes.
So I'm not going to type all about how fouls and free throws decided this one for KU. But I do believe fouls, free throws and KU's ability to win that particular battle certainly helped the Jayhawks move to 20-1.
The Jayhawks entered Saturday with a Free Throw Rate (FTA/FGA*100) of 41.2 percent: a very solid figure. The Wildcats entered the game with a 55.9 FT Rate, tops in the nation. Basically, Kansas State was averaging more than one free throw attempt for every two field goal attempts. Considering a team is likely to score about 1.4 points per possession on a trip that includes two free throws compared to approximately one point per possession a trip ending in a field goal attempt, Kansas State seems to have this whole "get fouled, score points" thing down pat.
KU turned the tables on Saturday.
The Jayhawks posted an astronomical 61.1 FT Rate, their third best of the season. Meanwhile, the Wildcats posted a very pedestrian 32.8 FT Rate. Both teams made an average portion of their free throw attempts, with Kansas State's 68 percent mark barely trumping KU's 67 percent. As you might have guessed already, KU took 11 more free throws than Kansas State and made seven more. The teams matched each other possession-for-possession in most other categories, making the free throw discrepancy one of the main factors in KU's victory.
http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2010/Jan/31/martincrop.jpg KSU coach Frank Martin could have used a few more free throws. LJW Photo/Nick Krug
In other foul-related news, KU center Cole Aldrich's ability to avoid his fifth foul was absolutely key. For most of his career, Aldrich has shown a singular knack for avoiding foul calls, given his size and aggressive play. After picking up four in the first 32-ish minutes of Saturday's game, Aldrich stayed on the court for most of the final five minutes of regulation and the five-minute overtime period, helping KU to victory.
M.O.J. (Most Outstanding Jayhawk)
Guard Sherron Collins took matters into his hands when KU most needed a leader, Cole Aldrich managed to avoid disqualification in approximately 10 minutes of crucial late-game playing time, but it was guard Brady Morningstar who did the most to help KU win.
In my mind, Saturday's game served as a quick-and-easy guide to why Morningstar is a valuable basketball player, despite his penchant for making unfortunate fashion statements. Here's my theory on Morningstar and why he helps KU so much: The Lawrence native rarely, if ever, does anything he's not good at on the court.
• Morningstar isn't usually a threat to score off the dribble or drive. He picks his spots and utilizes mismatches instead of forcing the issue and driving into turnovers.
• Morningstar doesn't rebound especially well. That's not a problem, considering he makes himself available for outlet passes from KU's bigs that help start fast breaks.
Then there's the stuff Morningstar does well. He's a dead-eye shooter (62.5 eFG%) from both inside (12-for-22) and outside (12-for-26) the three-point arc. He isn't a foul magnet, but his 27 percent Free Throw Rate is nearly double his rate from one season ago. Morningstar is a wonderful passer with the kind of court vision that seems to create quite a few "hockey assists" (making the pass before the assist). He's an excellent defender, equipped with lateral quickness paralleled by few of his teammates. Morningstar used that side-to-side speed to hold Kansas State guard Denis Clemente to 13 points on 4-for-15 shooting Saturday.
Morningstar posted this gem of a line:
39 minutes, 14 points on 4-for-5 shooting(!), three steals, one turnover, and a game-high 1.93 points per possession used.
Room for improvement:
Kansas State turned the ball over with average frequency (18.6 percent TO Rate), posted subpar shooting numbers (47.8 eFG%) and didn't get to the free throw line too often (32.8 percent FT Rate). Regardless, Kansas State scored a solid 1.13 points per possession.
Two words: Offensive rebounding.
The Wildcats snatched up a rebound on half of the shots they missed (most teams grab about one-third of their misses). All those offensive rebounds led to extra possessions and some easy looks.
On the bright side for KU, the Jayhawks corralled 48.5 percent of their misses en route to a 1.16 point-per-possession showing.
Hard luck line:
Sophomore forward Markieff Morris' poor performance might have easily blended into a 25-point KU victory. But placed under the microscope of a one-possession conference battle, Morris' 21-minute, 0-for-1 stinker stood out. Markieff did grab rebounds on 32 percent of his opportunities, but the 0-for-4 mark from the free throw line was just ugly, especially considering the circumstances.
The Bottom Line:
No doubt, this Kansas State team is better than the Michael Beasley/Bill Walker/nobody else edition that topped KU in 2008 at Bramlage Coliseum.* So what does that make KU? Better than the '08 squad that ended up winning the NCAA Championship? There's no way of knowing that at this point, but we do know KU is the best team in the nation, no questions asked.
*It's called Bramlage Coliseum, not "The Octagon of Doom." Where did that nickname come from? It's horrible. And it makes me think of Sega Dreamcast for some reason.
A look at just how give-and-take this one was. As always, thanks to the inimitable StatSheet.com for the Game Flow graphic.