Sherron Collins is a jack of all trades: KU's senior guard is sometimes a distributor, other times a go-to scorer, and always an emotional sparkplug. Wednesday night, Collins was all of those things and one more. KU's senior guard was the best player on the court.
At first glance, Collins had some competition in Cornell's star senior wing, Ryan Wittman. Wittman went 7-for-17 from the field and 5-for-6 from the free throw line to tally 24 points. According to StatSheet.com, Wittman created 1.26 points per possession used, a bit better than his season average.
Collins bested that by a long way. The Chicago native created 1.59 points per possession and most importantly, took 37 percent of KU's shots during his playing time. KUSports.com editor Jesse Newell raised some chicken vs. egg discussion with a Wednesday blog tackling the correlation between which KU players shoot and how the team fares. The numbers said Collins shoots a lot in KU's less impressive outings, and Wednesday night's contest certainly fell in line with that . Like usual, it wasn't Collins' high usage that kept KU from blowing out Cornell. Rather, Collins' aggressiveness pulled the Jayhawks back from the edge of a loss.
Collins' excellence manifested itself in nearly every number in his advanced box score. He posted a 62 percent Effective FG%, notched 44 percent of KU's assists during his minutes and committed just five percent of the team's turnovers. The best indicator of Collins' assertiveness, in my opinion, was his Free Throw Rate (FT Rate). Collins shot 14 free throws to his 16 field goal attempts to register a FT Rate of 87 percent (average is about 30 percent). Collins wanted to score, he tried to score, and he scored often.
http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2010/Jan/07/ku_bkc_cornell_14_.jpg KU coach Bill Self knows it: Sherron Collins is pretty darn good. Nick Krug/LJW Photo
Now, this blog doesn't like to "deal in hypotheticals" (a lesson learned from former KU football coach Mark Mangino), but consider this:
What if KU didn't have Collins on Wednesday due to injury or ailment? Who would have picked up the slack? Junior center Cole Aldrich and junior guard Brady Morningstar were the only Jayhawks to earn more than one point per possession used against Cornell, but it's hard to imagine either picking up the slack in Collins' place. Freshman guard Xavier Henry endured a 3-for-13 learning experience and sophomore guard Tyshawn Taylor posted no points on one field goal attempt. Obviously, someone would have used the possessions Collins did, but would they have created offense so efficiently?
M.O.J. (Most Outstanding Jayhawk)
Sherron Collins. See the 500-word Gospel of Sherron (above) for more information.
Aldrich earns distant runner-up honors for his 13-point, nine-rebound effort. As usual, Aldrich was the game's most effective per-possession rebounder and shot blocker.
Room for improvement
Come close to dropping a game at Allen Fieldhouse, and the gripes are bound to be loud.
• By its standards, KU didn't play very good defense. Cornell scored 0.97 points per possession, the second most by any KU opponent this season (Tennessee Tech scored 0.99). On the bright side, KU has not allowed any team a better-than-average offensive showing.
• KU also posted its second worst offensive performance of the season. Aside from a dismal 0.86 points-per-possession night against Memphis, KU has scored points at a better-than-average rate in every game. The Jayhawks stretched that streak to 12 games but mustered just 1.04 points per possession.
Hard luck line
Henry gets the dubious nod. He missed 10 of his 13 shots and seemed to force the issue early. That happens to freshmen, especially against a patience-draining game against an offense-clogger like Cornell.
The Bottom Line
Casual fans of the Jayhawks and college basketball might glance at the box score and ask themselves how KU could come so close to such a letdown loss. A hoops-head might see the score and think, "Not so surprising." Cornell — Ivy League or not — is a good team. The Big Red could garner at-large NCAA attention for its stunning play against a stiff non-conference slate.