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Failure to finish around rim has cost KU in losses

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Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) heads to the bucket past Oklahoma State forward Chris Olivier (31) during the second half, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016 at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Okla.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) heads to the bucket past Oklahoma State forward Chris Olivier (31) during the second half, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016 at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Okla. by Nick Krug

Missing high-percentage shots will cost you in college basketball, and perhaps no team understands that more than Bill Self’s Kansas Jayhawks.

While KU (15-3 overall, 4-2 Big 12) hasn’t lost an overwhelming amount of games, unsuccessful shots inside have stood out as one of the bigger issues when the Jayhawks have come up short, as was the case Tuesday night at Oklahoma State.

The website hoop-math.com tracks, among other things, the success of college hoops players and teams on shot attempts around the rim. On the season, KU has taken 39.7% of its shots at the rim and converted 60.5% of the time.

However, in their 3 losses, the Jayhawks — ranked No. 3 in the nation (for now) in the AP Top 25 — have shot between 10% to 20% worse than their season average on point-blank attempts.

JAYHAWKS AROUND
THE RIM
IN LOSSES
KU
LAYUPS/DUNKS
MADE
KU
LAYUPS/DUNKS
MISSED
KU
FG% AT RIM
VS MICHIGAN ST 13 20 39.4%
AT WEST VIRGINIA 6 9 40%
AT OKLAHOMA ST. 11 11 50%
ALL OTHER GAMES
— COMBINED (WINS)
236
(15.7 a game)
133
(8.9 a game)
64%

Looking first at KU’s most recent loss (and second in three games), the Jayhawks made 11 of 22 shots at the rim in Stillwater. A lack of easy scores in the second half, along with some other issues, killed the Jayhawks’ chances of surviving Gallagher-Iba Arena. They shot 3-for-8 on layup attempts in the final 20 minutes, as OSU ran away.

Here are KU’s finishers and non-finishers vs. the Cowboys:

- Carlton Bragg Jr. 3 for 3

- Wayne Selden Jr. 2 for 3

- Landen Lucas 2 for 3

- Cheick Diallo 1 for 2

- Devonté Graham 1 for 2

- Frank Mason III 1 for 3

- Perry Ellis 1 for 4

- Svi Mykhailiuk 0 for 2

Kansas guard Frank Mason III, drives beneath West Virginia forward Elijah Macon (45) and is fouled by West Virginia guard Jaysean Paige (5), right, in the Jayhawks 74-63 loss to the Mountaineers at the WVU Colliseum in Morgantown, W.V. Tuesday.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III, drives beneath West Virginia forward Elijah Macon (45) and is fouled by West Virginia guard Jaysean Paige (5), right, in the Jayhawks 74-63 loss to the Mountaineers at the WVU Colliseum in Morgantown, W.V. Tuesday. by Mike Yoder

At West Virginia a week earlier, Kansas had far less success in both getting inside to take shots and making layups. The Jayhawks, who turned the ball over 22 times, shot 6-for-15 at the rim against the Mountaineers:

- Ellis 5 for 7

- Mason 1 for 4

- Bragg 0 for 1

- Mykhailiuk 0 for 1

- Graham 0 for 2

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) tries to put up a shot with seconds remaining over Michigan State forward Matt Costello  and guard Denzel Valentine (45) during the second half, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015 at United Center in Chicago.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) tries to put up a shot with seconds remaining over Michigan State forward Matt Costello and guard Denzel Valentine (45) during the second half, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015 at United Center in Chicago. by Nick Krug

The Jayhawks’ finishing issues first plagued them back in November, when they lost to Michigan State, in Chicago. Kansas made 13 layups/dunks in that one, but missed a whopping 20 shots around the rim.

The Spartans are the best rim-protection team Kansas has faced this season. Sparty’s opponents have only made 48.9% of their tries at the rim.

To jog your memory, here’s how the Jayhawks fared inside in that one:

- Ellis 6 of 11

- Mason 4 of 9

- Mykhailiuk 1 of 1

- Traylor 1 of 1

- Lucas 1 of 4

- Graham 0 of 3

- Selden 0 of 4

At this point, it shouldn’t really surprise you to learn that KU also struggled to finish shots inside at San Diego State: 8 of 24 in a 70-57 win. Generally, it’s more difficult for Kansas to get foul calls and finish inside away from Allen Fieldhouse.

Given all those missed bunnies in the past two losses — both on the road — does that kill momentum and make it that much harder to win on another team’s home court?

“Yeah, I think so,” Self said. “We missed some against Oklahoma State. That's not the reason why we lost, but we did miss some.”

Of course, in most cases, a laundry list of issues contribute to the kind of double-digit defeats Kansas has suffered the past couple of weeks.

For example, Self pointed out KU shot “horribly” at the free-throw line at both WVU (13 of 21) and OSU (13 of 25).

“It’s deflating when you're behind six or eight points and you go to the line and come up empty,” Self said of the Jayhawks’ inability to cut into the Cowboys’ lead Tuesday night.

When looking at KU’s losses, the Jayhawks’ defense around the rim shouldn’t be ignored, either. Whether Kansas got beat off the dribble, played poor help defense or failed to secure a defensive rebound, the Cowboys, Mountaineers and Spartans all had their chances for easy baskets inside.

Oklahoma State scored on 55% of its shots at the rim — a tad below its 56.4% mark for the season. West Virginia converted on 56.5% of its attempts inside — below its 62.5% success rate. MSU only converted on 53.3% vs. Kansas in the early-season matchup, but has finished much better most of the year (62.9%).

KU DEFENSE
AROUND THE RIM
IN LOSSES
OPPONENT
LAYUPS/DUNKS
MADE
OPPONENT
LAYUPS/DUNKS
MISSED
OPPONENT
FG% AT RIM
MICHIGAN ST 8 7 53.3%
WEST VIRGINIA 13 10 56.5%
OKLAHOMA ST. 11 9 55%

In each of its 3 losses, Kansas got out-played inside, with its opponents doing a better job of finishing at the rim — even though OSU made the same amount of point-blank shots as KU, the Cowboys didn’t blow as many.

A lot of factors play into missed shots inside. Sometimes those attempts can be more difficult than anywhere else on the floor. If interior defenders are physical, have solid footwork, get their long arms in the sight line of a potential scorer and get another defender sliding over to throw an offensive player off, the degree of difficulty grows. An agitated potential scorer might rush his shot or try to do too much on his way to the rim.

At the other extreme, some players don’t get nearly as much attention and have easier paths to the rim.

Here are the shots at the rim stats for each of the Jayhawks, from most layups/dunks attempted to least:

- Perry Ellis: 58 of 103 (56.3%)

- Frank Mason III: 35 of 78 (44.9%)

- Wayne Selden Jr. 35 of 53 (66%)

- Devonté Graham: 21 of 41 (51.2%)

- Landen Lucas: 26 of 39 (66.7%)

- Carlton Bragg Jr.: 27 of 36 (75%)

- Hunter Mickelson: 15 of 22 (68.2%)

- Svi Mykhailiuk: 14 of 21 (66.7%)

- Cheick Diallo: 13 of 18 (72.2%)

- Jamari Traylor: 12 of 17 (70.6%)

- Brannen Greene: 5 of 7 (71.4%)

- Lagerald Vick: 4 of 4 (100%)

- Clay Young: 1 of 1 (100%)

Kansas forward Carlton Bragg Jr. (15) pulls up for a bucket over Vanderbilt guard Matthew Fisher-Davis (5) during the second half, Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2015 at Lahaina Civic Center in Lahaina, Hawaii.

Kansas forward Carlton Bragg Jr. (15) pulls up for a bucket over Vanderbilt guard Matthew Fisher-Davis (5) during the second half, Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2015 at Lahaina Civic Center in Lahaina, Hawaii. by Nick Krug

Selden and Bragg stand out as KU’s best finishers on the season. Selden’s finishing percentage is the highest among Kansas starters, and nearly 10% better than Ellis’ 56.3%. Bragg, at 75%, has the best mark of anyone in the rotation, and he’s only averaged 11.2 minutes a game so far.

The deeper into the season Bragg gets, the less anxious he looks when catching the ball inside. The 6-foot-9 freshman might be KU’s answer to more efficient paint scoring in the months ahead, especially if he’s on the floor with Ellis, who will continue to draw the attention of opposing defenses.

The importance of finishing isn’t lost on Self — whether that be inside, at the foul line or on open 3-pointers out of an offensive set.

“And the team that makes the shots, you know, people talk about that: Which team has the advantage in the NCAA Tournament? The team that makes shots. That's kind of how it works. The team that gets hot and makes shots,” the coach said.

“We've got to get better at that,” Self added, noting better ball movement would help facilitate that, too.

Comments

Joe Ross 4 years, 4 months ago

Keys to beating Kansas:

  1. Bully the Jayhawks in the paint on both ends of the floor
  2. Keep them out of transition and force a half-court game. Kansas is built to run.
  3. Play solid perimeter defense.

As far as Kansas' recent woes, they are rooted in a coaching issue. When one guy has an off game it's understandable. But when so many guys are playing well below how they have performed in the past, you have to see that as a mentality issue. A coach much correct that. I find it interesting that such an issue exists at all, given the veteran-laden roster on this team; however, it is consistent with what you have seen in individuals on this team from seasons past. The fact that the mental vacations linger on is mind-boggling to me.

Some might say, as Ive been tempted to, that you need to factor in players' attitudes when you recruit. But there are a couple of interesting things here. First, the personalities on this team range from gentleman (e.g., Perry Ellis, Hunter Mickelson, Svi, Lucas, etc.) to edgy (Mason, Greene, Selden), yet ALL of the players seem to "check out" together, often. It speaks to the fact that attitude is coachable and NEEDS to be coached to a greater extent. Secondly, though Kansas is an outstanding school for recruiting, we do tend to get Kentucky's leftovers, and increasingly Duke's and other schools to a smaller extent. When we ARE successful at landing the big fish (e.g., Wiggins), they have to be coached up quickly in terms of X's and O's and perspective of the game (i.e., taking a "bulldog", aggressive approach). Aggression and energy save games that might otherwise be lost.

No one should be tempted to make the anti-OAD argument. First of all, we have veterans on this team--many of them--who aren't getting it done. And secondly, to my knowledge Kansas has never had more than 2 OAD prospects on the team at the same team, which always leaves a core of multi-year players.

The problem here is lack of energy, and the coach has to bring that to a team. One more interesting thing to note. Kansas never played lackadaisically before they were ranked number 1 (maybe with the exception of the final ten minutes of the MSU game). It seems like it's in the nature of this team to feel too good about itself after accomplishing good things. You have to stay hungry.

Ashwin Rao 4 years, 4 months ago

We handled Baylor's zone quite well... but we were playing better then. I believe that this year's team can beat the zone when they are playing well (unlike previous teams)

Joe Ross 4 years, 4 months ago

Thanks Adam. I see the press as a quasi-transition issue, if you consider pushing the ball up the court quickly after made baskets a secondary fast-break. But you are right. They have proven they dont know how to break the press. The answer is to get the ball in quickly and not let the press set up.

Ashwin Rao 4 years, 4 months ago

I believe that the biggest issue is with Mason's energy. He is our lifeline. If he is not going on full cylinders, we are dead in the water. We are too one dimensional in our PG position, so it is easy to control the team through that position. As Self has mentioned previously, if you are able to "throttle the throat", you control the game (or something like that! :) )

Bj Cassady 4 years, 4 months ago

Free Throws...great defense by the other team at the FT line..we are losing 6-8 points at the line each game. Also, we need to get to the line more often, drive create opportunities (to be fouled or to dish). When I played I was an 85% at the line, it saved several games over my career. Mason used to be 80%, lately he is about 60%, it is mental... and it spreads to other players.

The other comment is defense, it starts with footwork. You have to be in position with your feet. I see the guys out of position and are a step behind. I don't know if they are not doing drills correct or what, but they are slow with their footwork.

John Geissal 4 years, 4 months ago

I agree that KU seems to be in a fog on the road. But I think it starts at the foul line. If you look at the WVU and OSU games, we missed FTs early, and especially 1 and 1s. If you make the FT we are in the game are we are leading early.

Colby Hebert 4 years, 4 months ago

Very interesting stats!

Surprisingly, it seems like one of the main issues bringing down our scoring at the rim percentage is Mason forcing it. He has really struggled a few games and really wasted a lot of possessions if you look at those numbers.

Our two point guards assist to turnover ratio is good, but is a missed layup any better than a turnover?

If Mason is missing bunnies and layups, I would argue it is worse than a turnover. If the other team gets the rebound and scores on the other end, it can be a 4 point swing.

I would not really put the blame all on Mason though, our bigs consist of a 3 playing the 4, and some system guys and talented but raw freshman ones.

Hunter, Lucas, Traylor, Bragg, or Diallo, have to start helping our guards. With Diallo's wingspan and athletic ability, he should just jump at the rim every time one of our guys is driving. As long as the ball is anywhere near the rim or even backboard he can get it..

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