Failure to finish around rim has cost KU in losses
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.
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)
(15.7 a game)
(8.9 a game)
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
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
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%).
AROUND THE RIM
FG% AT RIM
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%)
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.