Protecting paint, defending rim musts for KU in Big 12 play


Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) fouls Texas Tech guard Keenan Evans (12) on the shot during the second half, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) fouls Texas Tech guard Keenan Evans (12) on the shot during the second half, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self is never one to feel satisfied about his team’s defensive play. Of late, he hasn’t been thrilled with the Jayhawks’ ability to keep opponents — guards in particular — out of the paint.

When asked Thursday on the Big 12 coaches media teleconference about what KU could do to better protect the rim, Self made it clear perimeter defenders have failed to meet his expectations, so there is more to it than the Jayhawks’ current lack of front-court depth.

“That’s something that we have labored with all year and certainly that hurt us against Tech,” Self said of guards not keeping their man in front of them. “I don’t know how many straight-line drives they had. And you can’t really blame that all on rim protection; you’ve got to blame most of it on being able to guard the ball.”

A week into conference play, Kansas has surrendered 42 points in the paint (a season-high) to Texas and 32 to Texas Tech (fourth-highest through 14 games).

KU’s 39.4% field-goal percentage defense on the season, predictably, hasn’t maintained now that Big 12 play has arrived. Texas shot 43.1% against Kansas in a loss and Texas Tech made 43.3% of its shots in a road win.

Per, KU opponents are attempting almost 28 percent of their shots at the rim — not a bad mark, considering it is 39th-lowest in the nation, among 351 teams. Foes have converted just above 57% (119th) of those layups, dunks and point-blank looks.

Self estimated Tech probably beat KU five to seven times with simple straight-line drives past a defender, without even making a real basketball move to find success, likening those instances to what Frank Mason III did to Kansas opponents so often a year ago: “just put your head down and go.”

The Jayhawks defending outside, Self added, have to do a better job of executing the plan laid out in scouting reports. But the coach admitted his forwards and centers also have to “play bigger.”

For now, with the status of both Billy Preston and Silviou De Sousa unresolved, that means KU needs 7-foot sophomore center Udoka Azubuike to maximize his paint-protecting potential.

“We need Udoka to be able to block and alter more,” Self said, before referencing why Azubuike might not have been as effective of late. “And there’s no excuse at all, but hopefully he’ll feel better physically, where he’s able to do that. His back is sore and he didn’t move very well against Tech — we didn’t think — at all. But it’s not from a lack of effort. I just don’t feel like he’s quite at 100 percent.”

Azubuike blocked just one shot in 57 combined minutes versus Texas and Texas Tech while dealing with back soreness. Backup forward Mitch Lightfoot blocked two shots in 18 minutes against UT and Tech.

The No. 10 Jayhawks (11-3 overall, 1-1 Big 12) will have to better protect the rim Saturday night at No. 16 TCU (13-1, 1-1). According to, the Horned Frogs get 44.1% of their shots at the rim — 22nd nationally. On those attempts TCU shoots 65.4% (70th in the country).


Barry Weiss 1 year, 1 month ago

it will take a major effort to win at TCU. We need a win pretty bad right now.

Craig Carson 1 year, 1 month ago

I may even go as far as to say if they get whipped at TCU, they might fall out of the rankings...which they will deserve...this team doesn't show any have 3 losses, all by double digits (2 at home) is not acceptable

El Golfdog 1 year, 1 month ago

It's been a loooooong time since Kansas (or anyone) has had to worry about playing hard to beat TCU. It's looks like there are no more doormats left in the Big12. Hope to see a lot of jayhawks in Ft Worth Saturday! Go Frogs!

John Brazelton 1 year, 1 month ago

KU will live or die with their 3-point shooting until De Sousa and Preston are cleared. For some reason they played very tight against Texas Tech and didn't make offensive changes in the first half to go into half-time with a close score.

Craig Carson 1 year, 1 month ago

I think Texas Tech getting off to such a hot start buried them early..they couldn't string together enough stops to go on any kind of run..and when they did get within 6 they couldn't make that next shot to get them within a basket of tying the game...lets just hope TCU doesn't shoot like this on Saturday..if KU wins, then there will be hope that this team can win with its current roster, if they lose, especially badly, we might see a panic around here that we haven't seen in the Self era

Craig Carson 1 year, 1 month ago

This KU team doesn't have the personnel (currently) to protect the paint..Self may have to play a lot more zone than usual since our guards have a hard time stopping the dribble drive..I love Azibuike, but he is still raw..Lucas made up in basketball IQ what he lacked in skill and talent

Steve Zimmerman 1 year, 1 month ago

I'd suggest come up with analysis of each player (starters, most used). Analyze each strengths, weaknesses, what areas/how to improve, etc. I'm pretty sure coaching staff has their own notes. But it'll be fun to hear from fans' perspectives. We've seen what Dok can do. But as Craig said, Dok still has long way to go. He needs to protect the rim better, be more alert when boxing out, jump quicker to block shot with arm straight up (instead of to swat), extend elbows out, spread legs low.. Offensive wise, he should not move away from the basket when attempting a hook shot, he needs to put a bit arch on his hook shots, he's got to watch not to travel when he's about to dunk after a pump fake, etc. If trained right, we will see a more solid contribution O & D from Dok. Oh, Hudy needs to help Dok shed some pounds so he can jump higher & quicker. Then we can compare him vs Bamba.

Kent Richardson 1 year, 1 month ago

Well good luck on that. Probably not gonna happen. We can however return the favor and get to the rim ourselves on that weird-arse floor.

As bad as TCU's guards played against OU's length and quickness (and it was pathetically bad) they are going to play well against our lack of length.

If we only turn it over about eight times and hit 50% from behind the arc there's a good chance we will be in it until the end. It would be a nice road win to offset the TTU home loss.

Self is a better coach than Dixon, by far, so we have that.

Maybe Malik, Garrett and Cunliffe will take the next step.

Tony Bandle 1 year, 1 month ago

Kent, for as much as we shoot a high number of 3's, if we hit 50%, we can probably beat anybody in America including a team which starts five seven footers!!

Steve Zimmerman 1 year, 1 month ago

Tony, do you think no other teams that can shoot the lights out from downtown with high accuracy? With our so so defensive efforts, it'll take more than just 50% 3pt to win it all.

Kent Richardson 1 year, 1 month ago

Lol. I was not predicting we would win but just be respectable. Shows my state of mind.

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