At no point in the past couple of weeks did Bill Self give his team a directive to shoot more 3-pointers.
But since the calendar flipped to February, the Jayhawks have definitely been more ready and likely to fire away from beyond the arc.
On the season, KU is averaging 20.7 3-point attempts per game with a 35.9% success rate. Through 12 Big 12 games, the Jayhawks are averaging 21.4 3-point tries and hitting 35.8%. But in the past four games, KU is hoisting 27.3 per game from downtown and connecting on 36.7% of those looks.
The upward trend began after Kansas only took 18 3-pointers in its double-digit loss at Texas. As Self pointed out during his weekly press conference on Thursday, the escalation in attempts wasn’t as much a shift in philosophy as it was a byproduct of another type of adjustment.
“We will shoot more 3’s if Dedric plays away from the basket,” Self said, “because that’s another guy that can shoot a 3 away from the basket. We’ve shot more. But I do believe that Dedric has contributed to that, because he’s probably shooting four or five a game himself, where he was probably averaging one a game before that. That could be it.”
Indeed, since Self tweaked the offense to relocate Lawson to the perimeter, the redshirt junior big man has shot 9 for 19 from 3-point range in the past four games. In the 21 games before that Lawson went a combined 11 for 39, attempting only 1.9 3-pointers a game.
With Lawson providing No. 14 Kansas (19-6 overall, 8-4 Big 12) with a new offensive wrinkle, the Jayhawks made a season-high 13 from deep in beating Texas Tech, and with 11 makes against Oklahoma State, KU hit double figures in 3-pointers for just the fifth time this season.
Obviously Lawson hasn’t done this all by himself. As the Jayhawks also have adjusted to playing without Marcus Garrett (injured ankle) and Lagerald Vick (leave of absence), Lawson and three oh his teammates have put up between four and five 3-pointers apiece during the past four games:
Lawson, 9 for 19
Ochai Agbaji, 8 for 19
Devon Dotson, 8 for 17
Quentin Grimes, 7 for 21
Rest of the team, 8 for 33
Self isn’t complaining about his team’s increased reliance on the 3-point arc. Even though freshman guard Grimes, as KU’s coach put it, “hasn’t really gotten on a roll yet offensively,” Grimes took a team-high eight 3-pointers at TCU earlier this week.
It was the second-most long-range attempts in a game for Grimes this season, a campaign that began with him going 6 for 10 against Michigan State.
“But they were good looks,” Self said of Grimes’ 1-for-8 night at TCU. “They were open.”
In that same Big Monday victory, Dotson delivered a career-high four 3-pointers on a career-high seven attempts. And the third freshman guard in the starting lineup, Agbaji, went 2 for 6.
Overall, KU went 9 for 30 from distance in Fort Worth, Texas. It was just the second time this season the Jayhawks attempted 30 3-pointers, and the other came three games earlier, in a home win over Texas Tech (13 for 30).
“Maybe confidence with the young guys is probably a reason why,” Self hypothesized of another factor in KU’s 3-point attempts being on the rise. “But I also think Dedric playing away from the basket.”
Perhaps the Jayhawks are just riding the wave created by a pre-game video message from Devonte’ Graham, who told them before the Texas Tech win something along the lines of, “I don’t care what coach says. Shoot the ball.”
Whatever it is, it seems to be working for these Jayhawks. As they head into the home stretch of the regular season, while they’ll need to connect at a better clip than the 30% that they shot in their win at TCU, the absence of their best 3-point shooter, Vick (66 for 145), hasn’t led to a noticeable dropoff in productivity in that category.
In part, that’s because KU’s other 3-point threats are more likely to take open looks now than they were earlier in the season.
“I feel like everybody’s getting a lot more comfortable with the offense,” Grimes said, “and what we can do out there from a standpoint of what coach wants, and then from an individual standpoint of what we can do out there on the court.”
Grimes, who is 33 for 100 on the season and 17 for 53 in Big 12 play, said the Jayhawks just need to take good shots. That means not rushing their 3-pointers, or taking them early in the shot clock, or when two defenders are closing and an extra pass is available.
“I feel like all the shots that we’ve been taking have been pretty good shots, even if they’re misses,” Grimes said of KU’s recent 3-point shot selection.
His teammates have said all season that Grimes is one of the best shooters on the team. And he may in fact prove himself to be one in the weeks ahead.
In the meantime, with no timetable for Vick’s return in place, it is becoming clear that KU has other reliable shooters. As Nick Schwerdt, host of KLWN’s “Rock Chalk Sports Talk” recently pointed out, Vick isn’t the only Jayhawk ranked among the Big 12 leaders in 3-point shooting during conference play.
Three active Jayhawks, in fact, are shooting 40% or better in league games:
Dotson, 13 for 30 (43.3%)
Agbaji, 14 for 33 (42.4%)
Lawson, 14 for 35 (40%)
With or without Vick, Kansas has capable 3-point shooters. And, more importantly, they are more comfortable and confident in taking those shots now.
When Dotson, Agbaji and Lawson are open beyond the arc, consider it a successful offensive possession every time they shoot.
And remember: open 3-pointers for Grimes are good shots, too. KU needs to get the freshman into a groove sooner rather than later, and he’s never going to get there without being assertive.
The Jayhawks are going to need 3-pointers to peak offensively, so they may as well embrace the concept of taking them when they’re open.
Whether it proves to be a two-game solar flare or the type of burst that can keep his right shooting hand comfortable and confident the remainder of the season, there is no denying that Lagerald Vick is on an upswing.
After opening Big 12 play by connecting on 6 of his 20 3-point attempts as Kansas got off to a 2-1 start, the Jayhawks’ pre-eminent marksman began feeling it again this past Saturday at Baylor. Vick nailed 6 of 8 from behind the arc on his 22nd birthday and his game-high 18 points vaulted him into 1,000-point territory for his career.
More importantly for the Jayhawks, whose 35.5 percent 3-point accuracy on the season ranked 130th nationally entering Wednesday, Vick didn’t fall off versus Texas. The 6-foot-5 guard from Memphis buried 5 of 8 from downtown on Big Monday, again leading KU in scoring, with 21 points.
Vick’s 11-for-16 accuracy in two more victories was a welcome development for KU (15-2 overall, 4-1 Big 12), because the roster isn’t exactly teeming with deep threats. And even though Vick is shooting a blistering 47 percent on 3-pointers on the season, he just emerged from what felt like a worrisome five-game lull.
As KU went 3-2 from Dec. 22 to Jan. 9, Vick, who averages 15.2 points per game, twice scored 6 or fewer points, and during those five games, shot 9 for 36 from 3-point range.
Not coincidentally, the Jayhawks went through their roughest 3-point shooting stretch to date as Vick’s productivity from behind the arc dipped. KU connected on no better than 33.3 percent of its 3-pointers during those five games:
• at Arizona State: 7 for 28 (25 percent)
• Eastern Michigan: 7 for 21 (33.3 percent)
• Oklahoma: 4 for 21 (19 percent)
• at Iowa State: 6 for 20 (30 percent)
• TCU: 5 for 21 (23.8 percent)
According to Vick, he and his teammates didn’t get too discouraged when their outside shots were misfiring.
“You’ve got to just keep shooting. They’ll eventually start falling,” Vick said after KU knocked down 11 of 22 against the Longhorns, two days after the team’s 9-for-16 showing at Baylor. “We’ve got a lot of guards that we can throw (out there) that shoot the ball pretty good.”
The only other time that KU dipped below its season average of 35.5 percent 3-point accuracy for at least two games in a row, Vick wasn’t exactly on fire. That’s no fault of his, either. It’s unreasonable to expect even the purest shooter to go through a five-month season without experiencing some peaks and valleys.
Vick went 0 for 2 and scoreless against Wofford, 1 for 3 with 5 points versus New Mexico State and a respectable 3 for 8 while otherwise torching Villanova for 29 points. He made 38.5 percent of his 3’s during those three games. Not bad at all.
Here are KU’s long-distance numbers from that three-game dip:
• Wofford: 3 for 23 (13 percent)
• New Mexico State: 7 for 21 (33.3 percent)
• Villanova: 5 for 15 (33.3 percent)
Having accounted for 54 of KU’s 120 3-pointers through 17 games, Vick averages 3.2 makes a game from distance, on 6.8 attempts. Freshman Quentin Grimes is the only other Jayhawk averaging more than one made 3-pointer a game (1.2), and Grimes is hitting just 30.3 percent from deep up to this point.
Vick’s easily KU’s best long-range threat. And opponents are very aware of that fact. The senior shooting guard admitted it can be difficult when defenses are strategizing to slow him down as a shotmaker.
“Yeah, definitely. Different role, people playing me different from the past years,” Vick said.
His head coach, Bill Self, downplayed the notion that increased attention from opponents had much to do with Vick’s recent lulls.
“That’s sports,” Self said. “You can ask James Harden the next game when he makes six 3’s, ‘What was different?’ He’ll tell you, ‘Nothing.’ So I don’t think there’s anything that’s a lot different going on.”
When Vick starts rolling, it invigorates the rest of the Jayhawks around him. And his post-3 celebrations have become a regular ingredient of KU victories.
“I have fun, regardless,” Vick said, when asked of those moments when he lets his guard down and revels in his on-court successes.
His coach doesn’t mind those occasions, either, because Self realizes how much Vick’s 3-point shooting means to this team.
Even better for both the Jayhawks and their sharpshooter, Self also has spotted Vick handling his role with more poise lately, and adjusting when defenses key in on taking away his bread and butter.
“I do think his shot selection is better. When he doesn’t shoot the ball particularly well and he can’t get off a good look, he’ll force some shots. And I thought (versus Texas) he only took maybe one that was marginal,” Self said. “The other ones were pretty good looks.”
Lagerald Vick’s borderline ludicrous 3-point shooting over the course of the Kansas basketball team’s previous five games had the Jayhawks ranked seventh in the country in long-distance accuracy (43.9 percent) entering the week.
Those numbers notwithstanding, on the eve of KU’s seventh game, a home matchup with Wofford, Bill Self wasn’t buying the idea that he’s currently coaching an entire group of effective 3-point shooters.
“It’s so misleading, because Lagerald’s shooting 60 something,” Self said, referencing the senior guard’s 28-for-47 success rate (59.6 percent).
The 16th-year Kansas coach, in fact, was more than aware of the disparity in his team’s 3-point shooting.
Speaking with reporters inside Allen Fieldhouse Monday, Self couldn’t recall the exact number — “I know it’s single figures,” he stated correctly — but he pointed out the rest of the roster had barely contributed to KU’s total of 37 made 3-pointers in the past five games.
Jayhawks not named Vick, in that stretch, accounted for just nine 3-pointers, while the senior guard from Memphis made 28.
Sophomore guard Marcus Garrett (1-for-6 in that span) made one 3-pointer versus Marquette. So did junior forward Dedric Lawson (1-for-5 on 3’s in KU’s past five games).
Charlie Moore (2-for-11 during Vick’s 3-fest) made one against Vermont and one vs. Tennessee.
Freshman guard Quentin Grimes (3-for-12 since going 6-for-10 in the opener against Michigan State) hit two against Vermont and one vs. Louisiana.
KU’s other first-year backcourt starter, Devon Dotson (2-for-5 from 3-point range since his 3-for-5 showing vs. Michigan State) knocked down one in the Vermont game and another against Tennessee.
Sophomore guard K.J. Lawson and junior forward Mitch Lightfoot both attempted one 3-pointer since the opener without making one.
Overall, the rest of the team combined to shoot 9-for-41 (22 percent) in wins over Vermont, Louisiana, Marquette, Tennessee and Stanford while Vick rained in 3-pointers.
“That shows you a lot,” Self said of the disparity. “That we’re fortunate that we have the record we have, but also I think when other guys start seeing the ball go in the hole I think it’ll definitely change our team.”
It’s safe to say No. 2 KU (6-0) would benefit from another player or two stepping up and becoming a consistent 3-point shooting option so Vick doesn’t have to do all the work in that department.
“Yeah, I do agree with that,” Garrett said. “But with the way he’s shooting right now he’s not missing. He’s basically carrying the slack for everyone else. I think down the road we could use a couple more guys knocking in some 3’s like he is.”
So who are the top candidates to fill that role?
Without hesitation, Garrett named redshirt sophomore point guard Moore and freshman shooting guard Grimes.
Self, too, brought up those two names first when presented with the same question.
“Charlie’s made two this year,” Self said with a grin. “Charlie and Q, you’d think, would be the ones, and then Dedric needs to be a guy that can stretch it. He’s only made, I think, one this year, if I’m not mistaken. One or two.”
Indeed, Lawson is 1-for-7 from beyond the arc through six games. A surprising statistic, as Self pointed out, considering Lawson shot 4-for-4 in one exhibition against Washburn and 2-for-4 in the other preseason warmup, against Emporia State.
“We know we have capable guys,” Self said. “But they just haven’t had success knocking them down yet.”
KU’s 3-point Shooting Through 6 Games
Lagerald Vick — 28-for-47 (59.6%)
Quentin Grimes — 9-for-22 (40.9%)
Devon Dotson — 5-for-10 (50%)
Charlie Moore — 2-for-12 (16.7%)
K.J. Lawson — 1-for-2 (50%)
Marcus Garrett — 1-for-6 (16.7%)
Dedric Lawson — 1-for-7 (14.3%)
Mitch Lightfoot — 0-for-1 (0%)
The Kansas basketball season isn’t over yet.
The Jayhawks advanced out of the NCAA Tournament’s Midwest region and on to San Antonio by knocking off Duke, in overtime, 85-81, Sunday night.
“Mr. March,” also known as Malik Newman, had plenty to do with KU’s 31st and most memorable victory of the year so far, scoring all 13 of his team’s points in OT.
But the efforts of Newman’s teammates in various other categories proved just as valuable. Here are five statistics that made the Jayhawks’ 15th Final Four appearance, and first since 2012, possible.
Given KU’s one-big, four-guard lineup and the presence of two potential NBA lottery picks in Duke’s starting frontcourt, it seemed a long night of Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr. snagging Blue Devils misses could be in the cards for Kansas.
However, Duke only secured 10 offensive rebounds off 40 missed field goals, finishing with just 11 second-chance points.
KU had come up short in second-chance points in four of its first six postseason victories before outscoring Duke, 15-11, with the help of 17 offensive boards.
Starting center Udoka Azubuike enhanced those numbers with 5 offensive rebounds — his second-best total this season.
Guards Svi Mykhailiuk (3 offensive rebounds), Devonte’ Graham (2), Newman (2) and Marcus Garrett (2) all chipped in when they could, as well.
Whether it was KU locking in, Duke’s legs wearing down or some combination of the two, the Jayhawks spent the final minutes of regulation making stops.
After Grayson Allen fed Wendell Carter Jr. for a layup with 4:25 to go in the second half, KU held Duke without a basket and forced a turnover in the final four minutes, setting up overtime.
Although Allen made two free throws at the 1:59 and 1:25 marks, Kansas barely out-scored Duke, 5-4, during the closing minutes of the second half.
Lagerald Vick blocked Carter with 3:51 on the clock. Azubuike rebounded a missed 3 by Allen with 3:23 left. Trevon Duval turned the ball over at the 2:40 mark. Silvio De Sousa rebounded a Carter misfire with 36 seconds to go in regulation. And KU’s March breakout star, Newman, successfully defended a potential Allen game-winner with 0:03 showing on the clock.
KU knew headed into the Elite Eight showdown that Allen (100 of 267 on 3-pointers, 37.5%) and Gary Trent Jr. (95 of 231, 41.1%) were Duke’s best long-range shooters.
The Jayhawks’ perimeter defenders made sure neither Allen (2 of 9 on 3’s versus KU) or Trent (2 of 10) got hot or found a rhythm.
With the Devils’ marksmen combining to hit just 21% of their 3-pointers, Duke only made 7 of 29 (24%) as a team — the lowest percentage by a KU opponent in the NCAA Tournament this March.
A season-long ally for the Jayhawks, the 3-point line once again facilitated a Kansas victory.
It wasn’t KU’s 36% success from beyond the arc that made the difference. It was that 39 points (nearly half of the victor’s 85) came from that source.
Kansas hit 13 of 36 from deep between its four starting guards, giving the team 13 or more 3-pointers for the eighth time this season and 10 or more for the 19th occasion in 38 outings.
The Jayhawks out-scored Duke by 18 points from outside the arc, and improved to 17-2 when connecting on at least 10 3-pointers.
Newman went 5 for 12. Mykhailiuk sent the game to OT with a 3-pointer in the final 30 seconds of regulation and made 3 of 9. Graham hit 3 of 8. Vick made at least two from deep for the fifth straight game, connecting on 2 of 7.
26 minutes from De Sousa
Where would the Jayhawkw be without freshman big man De Sousa right now? Maybe done for the season, instead of packing up for a trip to San Antonio.
With starting center Azubuike battling foul trouble all night — he picked up his fifth and a disqualification with 1:59 to play in the second half — KU needed every minute, rebound, hustle play and defensive stop De Sousa could muster. http://www2.kusports.com/news/2018/ma...
A 6-foot-9 freshman from Angola, De Sousa tied a career high with 26 minutes — the same time he spent on the court in the Big 12 title game, when Azubuike was out with an injury.
The backup big, whom Bill Self barely trusted to keep on the floor in January and February, finished with 4 points, 10 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 block.
After Azubuike fouled out during crunch time, with the season on the line, De Sousa finished off three separate KU stops with a defensive rebound.
His first-half dunk and second-half layup helped KU’s bench out-score the Duke subs, 8-6.
More news and notes from Kansas vs. Duke
- Mr. March: Malik Newman carries Jayhawks past Duke, into Final Four
- Tom Keegan: Svi for 3 and great ‘D’ in KU’s Elite Eight victory
- Notebook: Jayhawks outrebound Duke; Newman named regional’s Most Outstanding Player
- Jayhawks survive encounter with Duke’s monster frontcourt to reach Final Four
- Silvio De Sousa’s ‘terrific,’ bloody performance saves KU in Elite Eight
- Jayhawk fans release Elite Eight tension with party on Massachusetts Street
- The Keegan Ratings: Malik Newman carries Kansas into Final Four with 32 points, tops ratings
- Matt Tait's Postgame Report Card
- Jayhawks topple Duke in OT to reach Final Four
The offensive lifeblood of a four-guard lineup, 3-pointers — sometimes just the mere threat of them — space the floor for Kansas, give 7-footer Udoka Azubuike space to dominate on touches in the paint and have helped make a third consecutive trip to the Sweet 16 possible.
Of their 81.4 points per game this year, the Jayhawks average 30.1 from behind the arc (22nd in Division I). In other words, their opponents know KU’s guards would like nothing more than to drown them in a deluge of 3-pointers.
With foes doing everything within their powers to limit one of this Kansas team’s most effective weapons, timing and precision are vital for getting the best look at the basket possible while rising up from long range. Within an offense that revolves around ball screens, dribble hand-offs and drive-and-kicks it sure helps to have senior point guard Devonte’ Graham penetrating and distributing.
Among the 16 teams still alive in the NCAA Tournament, Graham’s 7.5 assists per game on the season lead all players. While plenty of those dimes come on fast breaks or alley-oops for KU bigs, the guards who play alongside Graham are thankful his kick-out passes allow them to consistently catch and shoot in one fluid motion.
So what percentage of Graham’s deliveries to 3-point shooters are perfect?
Junior Lagerald Vick briefly paused to calculate before responding, with a grin: “I would say about 99.7 of those are right on the money. I definitely think he’s a good passer, especially off penetration and kick.”
A more generous grader, senior Svi Mykhailiuk went ahead and gave Graham a 100.
“I think every time,” Mykhailiuk said. “He knows where I’m going to be and he just passes to me and I’m gonna make a shot.”
In KU’s second-round victory over Seton Hall, Graham didn’t have his typical shooting touch, but he assisted on 4 of his team’s 9 successful 3-pointers.
Two days earlier, the Jayhawks only made 7 from deep while defeating Penn. Graham assisted on three and made two 3-pointers.
Per Synergy Sports, Kansas has averaged 17.76 points in its first two NCAA Tournament victories off Graham assists alone — 2.4 points for every dish that sets up a basket.
Playing to his roster’s strengths, coach Bill Self has the Jayhawks (29-7) run a lot of ball-screen offense. While Graham is a strong 3-point shooter (his 40.4% accuracy ranks 60th in the country), it often falls on the lead guard to make sure senior Mykhailiuk (45.5%, 10th nationally), sophomore Malik Newman (40.9%) and Vick (37.8%) get the ball in advantageous situations once he begins attacking off the dribble.
“You’ve got to make the defense commit to you and I’ve got to find my guys for open shots,” Graham said.
Occasionally, every step of the process comes easily. On one possession against Penn, Graham turned the corner off a Mitch Lightfoot ball screen, drove to the paint and hit Vick, spotting up nearby in the right corner, for a perfect look.
Other times, Graham has to get more crafty.
In one second-half sequence versus Seton Hall, Graham dribbled left off a pick from Azubuike, drawing the attention of four Pirates defenders as he made his way into the paint. Their resulting rotation accounted for Vick in the right corner, which is where his opponents assumed Graham would look.
Instead he bounced a pass through a gap in the defense, all the way out to the right wing for a wide-open Newman 3-pointer.
Of course, Graham knows how to set up teammates for 3-pointers in every way imaginable.
While facing Penn, Graham misfired on a floater he released in the paint. When the ball rimmed out and found its way back to his hands for an offensive rebound, a little court awareness and quick improvisation paid off.
Graham knew where Vick was when he released his shot, so he easily kicked the ball out to his teammate near the left corner upon securing the rebound. Making the best of his circumstances, the point guard’s hustle set up an easy 3-pointer.
“He’s been a pretty good passer since I’ve known him, even when I came my freshman year when he was at the 2,” Vick said, referring to Graham’s days playing with Frank Mason III. “He’s a good passer.”
Graham’s recognition and vision prove valuable in transition, as well. Off a defensive rebound against Seton Hall, with nine players in front of him on the court, Graham knew KU had the spacing on the break for Newman to get an open 3-pointer on the left wing.
The senior point guard also trusted the shot would drop, raising his hands into the air to signal a successful 3 as Newman went into his shooting motion.
Graham’s familiarity with his fellow guards leads to such trust — as well as to so many accurate passes.
“Just playing with them, game experience, knowing where they like the ball at,” Graham said of how his passes so often generate 3-pointers, “and just tying to get it to them where they can just catch and shoot it before the defense goes out.”
Ahead of Friday’s Sweet 16 showdown with Clemson, in Omaha, Neb. (6:07 p.m., CBS), Vick, Mykhailiuk and Newman have combined to make 13 of 26 3-pointers in the tournament. Vick said their confidence as shooters is growing as a result, “especially with the big fella (Azubuike) back.”
Although Graham missed all four of his 3-point tries against Seton Hall after making 3 of 8 in the first round, his fellow guards have him to thank for much of their offensive impact.
“I would just say he knows how to play,” Mykhailiuk said, “and knows how to pass. He’s been doing this his whole life, so I guess he’s pretty good at it.”
Kansas City, Mo. — Just as West Virginia learned twice during the regular season against eventual Big 12 champion Kansas, the Jayhawks can be a difficult team to put away.
The Mountaineers didn’t establish a double-digit lead against KU like they did in their previous two meetings, but WVU once again couldn’t shut down a hot Kansas offense late in the second half of Saturday’s Big 12 title game.
The Jayhawks, who trailed by as many as eight in the second half, beat West Virginia, 81-70, to capture KU’s 15th conference tournament championship overall and 11th in the Big 12.
Here are five statistics that drove a victory that almost certainly cemented Kansas as a No. 1 seed in the 2018 NCAA Tournament.
De Sousa key to 1st-half stretch run
Silvio De Sousa — the same player coach Bill Self didn’t trust enough to put on the court the last time Kansas squared off with West Virginia — was the only Jayhawk in uniform who could score inside most of the first half.
As West Virginia spent more than 11 minutes before halftime with the lead, the Jayhawks weren’t finding many chances for quality looks at the basket unless they came on 3-pointers.
Enter suddenly-super sub De Sousa.
When the 6-foot-9 freshman from Angola checked in with 14:49 to go until halftime, KU had 2 points in the paint. It turned out De Sousa was the only Jayhawk who could get the job done, as he proceeded to score 10 of KU’s 12 points in the paint before the break.
De Sousa shot 5 for 5 in 13 first-half minutes with two tip-ins, two slam dunks and a layup. His teammates combined to make 4 of 10 attempts at the rim.
By the end of De Sousa’s perfect 8-for-8 shooting night he accounted for 16 of KU’s 24 points in the paint.
Red-hot second half
It seemed as if every shot KU put up at Sprint Center in the second half was going to end up dropping through the net.
The Jayhawks made their first three shot attempts out of halftime, including a 3-pointer each for Svi Mykhailiuk and Lagerald Vick. And even though the next few minutes featured a 1-for-4 stretch with two missed layups, the Kansas offense exploded soon after.
KU connected on 14 of its final 18 field-goal attempts en route to 72-percent shooting in the final 20 minutes. It was the fourth time this season the Jayhawks shot 70 percent or better in a half, and what a half in which to pull it off again, with the Big 12’s postseason championship up for grabs.
Senior leader Devonte’ Graham put on quite a show, hitting 6 of 7 shots in the decisive stretch. But his supporting cast was nearly as effective. De Sousa (3 of 3) didn’t miss, and both Newman and Vick shot 3 for 4.
As a result, KU poured in 48 second-half points and finished the victory with a 56.4 field-goal percentage. The Jayhawks are 13-0 this year when reaching the 50-percent mark.
Power of the 3-ball (again)
As important as their 3-pointers were against Kansas State the night before at the Big 12 tournament, the Jayhawks inflicted far more damage on WVU in the championship game from long distance.
KU’s four starting guards combined to bury 15 of 26 3-pointers, meaning the regular-season and postseason Big 12 champions scored 56% of their points from beyond the arc against West Virginia.
In three days at the league tournament, Kansas made 34 shots from long range — the most 3-pointers by a team that only played three games in Big 12 tournament history. (Oklahoma State made 35 over four games in 1999.)
KU improved to 15-2 this season when making at least 10 shots from 3-point range.
Although West Virginia hurt Kansas much of the night with its offensive rebounding, gathering 17 of its own misses for 14 second-chance points, the Jayhawks proved much more diligent on the glass when it mattered most.
When Sagaba Konate scored a second-chance bucket with 9:37 to play, it pushed the WVU lead to 63-56. However, the Jayhawks only allowed the Mountaineers to secure one more offensive rebound on 11 missed shots the rest of the way.
De Sousa (3 defensive boards in the final 9:00), Newman (3), Vick (2) and Mykhailiuk (1), cleaned the glass in crunch time, as West Virginia failed to score another second-chance point.
Graham smooth under pressure
Although, as usual, Graham played 40 minutes and owned far more ball-handling responsibilities than any of his teammates, the senior point guard only committed two turnovers against the always-assertive WVU defense, while also supplying a career-high 13 assists.
In 120 minutes this season versus the Mountaineers and two-time Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Jevon Carter, Graham turned the ball over 7 times and assisted on 26 of his teammate’s baskets.
The Jayhawks’ senior point guard set a new Big 12 title game record with his 13 assists against WVU, as well.
The Big 12 champions didn’t strike any fear into the hearts of the Oklahoma State Cowboys Saturday at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
In an 82-64 defeat, its worst of the season, No. 6-ranked Kansas proved once again it doesn’t match up well with OSU, which became the first Big 12 team to sweep Bill Self during his 15 years leading the Jayhawks.
Here are five statistics that contributed to the Jayhawks’ troublesome dud of a regular-season finale.
Where’s the support?
Not even Devonte’ Graham, the Big 12’s Player of the Year, can be expected to do it all every single game. So it’s hard to knock the senior point guard for an off shooting performance (4 of 14) at OSU.
How about a little help for the guy? Graham led Kansas with 15 points, but not one other Jayhawk reached double figures. It was the first time this season KU didn’t benefit from multiple double-digit scorers.
When KU lost at Allen Fieldhouse to this same Oklahoma State team a month ago, four different players put up 16 or more points.
Previously, Kansas (24-7 overall, 13-5 Big 12) had three or more players contribute 10 or more points in all but two games. KU only got double-digit points from two players in losses to Washington and Baylor.
It’s not as if this is a deep rotation capable of spreading the offensive wealth. Self relies on five starters and two bench regulars, and sometimes calls upon freshman big Silvio De Sousa. The scoring has to come from not only Graham, but also Svi Mykhailiuk, Udoka Azubuike and Malik Newman, all of whom are averaging more than 12 points a game in Big 12 play.
Shooting from beyond the 3-point arc tends to be one of the Jayhawks’ best weapons, but on Saturday the Cowboys (18-13, 8-10) out-performed the Big 12 champs from long range.
Oklahoma State made more 3-pointers than Kansas and shot a higher percentage from deep. The Jayhawks finished on the wrong end of both categories in the same game for the seventh time this season.
Kansas fell to 3-4 when being out-scored and out-shot from 3-point range. Below are the totals and percentages from those outcomes.
Washington: 9 of 21, 42.9% | KU: 5 of 20, 25% (UW win)
Nebraska: 8 of 22, 36.4% | KU: 7 of 22, 31.8% (Kansas win)
Oklahoma State: 12 of 27, 44.4% | KU: 8 of 22, 36.4% (OSU win on Feb. 3)
TCU: 10 of 25, 40% | KU: 7 of 21, 33.3% (Kansas win)
Baylor: 8 of 15, 53.3% | KU: 6 of 31, 19.4% (BU win)
West Virginia: 14 of 26, 53.8% | KU: 7 of 22, 31.8% (Kansas win)
Oklahoma State: 10 of 24, 41.7% | KU: 7 of 20, 35% (OSU win on March 3)
Somewhat troubling for Kansas, five of these occurrences came in the final nine games of the regular season.
Not much of a fight
Most games swing back and forth at least a little bit in terms of momentum. The home team starts hot. The visitors respond. The home team counters. We’ve all seen it before.
Saturday’s KU-OSU matchup mostly lacked such distinct runs and comebacks — at least for the Jayhawks.
The Cowboys’ Mitchell Solomon scored the game’s first basket in the second minute of the first half and Oklahoma State led for the remaining 38:25, marking the second time this season Kansas failed to take a lead in a game. The other occasion was in KU’s Jan. 2 home loss to Texas Tech.
The Jayhawks’ largest spurt of the entire debacle came in the first half, when an Azubuike dunk, a Marcus Garrett layup and a Graham 3-pointer provided the visitors, already down 10 less than seven minutes in, with a 7-0 spark.
The Cowboys answered with a 13-0 run over the next three-plus minutes, pushing their lead to 16.
Late in the second half, OSU extended its margin to 23 points, the largest deficit Kansas has faced all season.
In Big 12 play this year, Kansas averaged 11.5 turnovers a game, the lowest mark among the league’s 10 teams.
However, Oklahoma State feasted on KU miscues. The Cowboys’ 11 steals were the most by a KU opponent in any game this season. The Jayhawks committed 17 turnovers in all, their highest total in 18 league games and most since committing 20 versus Tennessee State in the season opener.
Mykhailiuk and Azubuike hurt KU the most at OSU, with 4 turnovers apiece.
Oklahoma State scored 21 points off turnovers in a must-have victory.
OSU swat team
Kansas converted a low percentage of its shots inside — 9 of 21 on layups and 6 of 8 on dunk attempts — as a result of OSU’s active defense around the rim.
The Cowboys’ eight blocked shots tied for their best in a league game this year. Similarly, it tied for the most swats by a KU opponent this year. OSU even pulled it off without the luxury of having a soon-to-be NBA lottery pick, like Mo Bamba, who sent eight Kansas shots away in the Big 12 opener.
In the first half, Tavarius Shine blocked Newman, Cameron McGriff got a piece of a Mykhailiuk jumper and swatted a Newman layup, Yankuba Sima denied Marcus Garrett at the rim and Solomon stymied Garrett inside.
In the closing 20 minutes, Solomon rejected Graham on a layup, Thomas Dziagwa blocked De Sousa and McGriff successfully stuffed a De Sousa dunk attempt.
KU (25 of 60 from the floor, for 41.7% shooting) played so poorly offensively that Oklahoma State walked away with its first double-digit win in conference action all season.
Kansas proved up for the so-called Big 12/SEC Challenge Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse, where the No. 5-ranked Jayhawks followed up a road loss at Oklahoma by taking care of Texas A&M.
The Jayhawks’ 15-2 advantage in fast-break points stood out, for sure, but there were plenty of other numbers that told the story of a 79-68 victory over the Aggies.
Here are five statistics that leapt off the box score for KU.
The Jayhawks cashed in on at least 12 3-pointers for the ninth time this season in their latest home win.
Connecting on 12 of 26 from downtown versus Texas A&M, KU’s 46.2% accuracy — a more-than-welcome success rate — was only the seventh-best shooting display of the season for the marksmen of Kansas, currently hitting 40.7% on the year.
As often has been the case at Allen Fieldhouse, KU came out firing for an early lead. Four different Jayhawks had drained a shot from beyond the arc before the midway point of the first half.
In the first five minutes, Kansas went 4-for-6 on 3-pointers, with both sophomore Malik Newman and senior Svi Mykhailiuk knocking down a pair. This season, KU is now 28-for-43 (65.1 percent) on 3-pointers taken in the first five minutes of games inside the fieldhouse.
Making the opponent pay
For the second straight game KU thrived off of its opponent’s mistakes.
Although scoring 22 points off 16 Oklahoma turnovers wasn’t enough for a Jayhawks road win four days earlier, they put the Aggies in a double-digit hole early by routinely feasting on A&M’s giveaways.
KU benefited from 14 Aggies turnovers to the tune of 24 points. A&M, though, only managed 5 points off KU’s 9 turnovers.
The Jayhawks’ 19-point advantage in the category was the most since throttling Toledo and out-scoring the Rockets by 25 in points off turnovers.
Over its last six games, KU has averaged 17.7 points off turnovers
Marcus Garrett’s 2nd-half scoring
The same freshman who had scored 6 or fewer points in each of KU’s previous 15 games led the team in scoring during the second half against A&M.
Marcus Garrett, who entered averaging 3.9 points on 42% shooting and 19% 3-point accuracy, made all four of his shot attempts in the second half — including a 3 from the right corner — to give Kansas 9 points in 11 minutes off the bench.
Garrett’s scoring outburst proved timely, as well, with typical leading scorer Devonte’ Graham going 0-for-7 in the half.
The 6-foot-5 freshman guard’s 9 points in the win were the most for Garrett since scoring 10 versus Oakland in late November. His career high of 13 came Nov. 21 against Texas Southern.
An effective driver for KU off the bench, Garrett had made just 5 of 27 3-pointers (18.5%) before confidently draining one off a Graham pass against the Aggies.
In five of their previous six games the Jayhawks led by double digits at some point. Each time that KU built at least a 10-point cushion, though, it resulted in a single-digit win or a loss (at OU).
Kansas had no such issues in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. Once Graham knocked down a 3-pointer with 9:58 to play in the first half, the home team had a double-digit lead for good. That’s right, A&M, didn’t even cut it back to single digits at any point during the final 29:58 of play.
KU’s ability to keep an opponent at bay led to its first double-digit win since beating Stanford, 75-54, on Dec. 21.
Not many freebies
Free throws were the primary subject most who follow KU basketball wanted to talk about earlier this week, in wake of Oklahoma’s Hack-A-Dok strategy and the free-throw struggles of the Jayhawks’ starting center, Udoka Azubuike.
However, Azubuike didn’t get a single shot at the foul line during his 22 minutes.
The rest of his teammates didn’t get many free-throw tries, either. Kansas attempted just 11 as a team, making 7. It was the fewest free-throw attempts for the Jayhawks since Big 12 play began.
In league games, KU is averaging 20.8 free throw attempts per game and 13.9 makes (66.9%).
A domain so welcoming to the Kansas basketball team this season, the territory behind the 3-point line didn’t yield typical results for the Jayhawks in their Big 12 home opener Tuesday night.
KU experienced its worst 3-point shooting performance of the season — 6-for-26, 23.1 percent — in an 85-73 loss to Texas Tech at Allen Fieldhouse.
Shockingly, after opening the game 6-for-12 from long range, the home team’s final successful 3 of the game came 2:23 before the two teams left the court for halftime. The Jayhawks missed their final 14 3-point tries of the loss, which included an 0-for-12 second half.
Afterward, KU senior guard Devonte’ Graham (27 points, 2-for-8 on 3-pointers) was asked if going 0-for in the final 20 minutes had anything to do with the Red Raiders’ defense.
“Nah, just off shooting basically. I didn’t know we missed all 12, but, yeah, it was just an off shooting night,” Graham replied.
The team’s leader had reason to remain so self-assured. Even after the slump-filled night, Kansas remained ranked 21st nationally in 3-point accuracy (40.9 percent) on the season.
Still, considering No. 10 KU (11-3 overall, 1-1 Big 12) has experienced such ruts before — 8 of 28 versus Kentucky, and 5 of 20 against Washington are the other sub-30 percent performances — and the team relies on 3-pointers as a weapon (see: the Jayhawks’ double-digit makes from downtown in eight games) it seemed worthwhile to look back at the 3-pointers that did and didn’t drop for Kansas in the loss to No. 18 Texas Tech (13-1, 2-0).
Below is a sequential recap of the long-distance misfires and hits (X = miss; √ = make).
X (19:03) — On KU’s opening possession Lagerald Vick settled for a contested step-back 3 from the left wing with the shot clock approaching 5 seconds.
√ (16:54) — Off a baseline out of bounds set, Graham drove into the paint and kicked out to the right corner for a wide-open Svi Mykhailiuk.
X (15:02) — Graham rose up early in the shot clock when given too much space, and just left it short.
X (14:15) — With the shot clock around seven, Graham opted to take a contested 3-pointer up top.
√ (9:58) — KU beat Tech’s transition defense as Graham threw ahead for Mykhailiuk on the right sideline, in front of the Red Raiders’ bench.
X (8:50) — Garrett kicked to Vick on the left half of the floor, but Keenan Evans was right there to outstretch his left arm and contest.
√ (8:32) — Another Graham push with Mykhailiuk out in front of him on the right wing provided an open look, yet again in front of the Tech bench.
√ (7:12) — Graham saw an open window up top when Niem Stevenson gambled, trying to swipe a Mitch Lightfoot pass, and Graham stepped into a 3-pointer
X (6:13) — Malik Newman caught a Graham pass on the right wing and tried to jab-step Justin Gray to create space for a step-back 3, but Gray stayed low, then got his hand in Newman’s face
√ (4:54) — Graham, whose feet stood on the beak of the giant mid-court Jayhawk logo, simply ball-faked on a catch to give himself room, took one dribble to his left and nailed a long 3 before Gray could recover.
X (4:09) — When Tech smothered Graham with a trap in the left corner, it left Vick wide open 10 feet away. Despite the extra space, Vick’s 3 rimmed out.
√ (2:23) — Azubuike caught an entry pass in the paint just below the free-throw line. When Tech’s defense shifted its focus toward the 7-footer, the center spotted backup wing Sam Cunliffe open in the left corner for as open a look as he’ll see all year.
X (1:18) — Following a timeout, Graham dribbled up the floor and Mykhailiuk set a ball screen for the point guard before popping open for a quality 3, which hit the back of the iron.
X (0:43) — Graham tried to exploit Tech’s retreating transition defense by pitching the ball to Mykhailiuk on the perimeter for a third time. When Tech closed out and forced him to drive, the senior from Ukraine kicked to Vick, who had a great look from the right side rim out.
X (16:59) — Mykhailiuk effectively slipped a ball screen for Graham and found an opening in the right corner. A pump fake sent Jarrett Culver flying by Mykhailiuk, who rose up and missed a high-percentage shot, leaving it short.
X (15:45) — A ball screen at the top of the key courtesy of Azubuike allowed Mykhailiuk to reach the apex of his jumper before his defender could recover. However, the 3 only made it as far as the front of the rim.
X (14:57) — Vick’s baseline drive gave him a lane to make a skip pass out to the right wing for Mykhailiuk, who missed his fourth 3 in a row.
X (10:04) — KU tried running Mykhailiuk off an Azubuike pick near the right block, and the 280-pounder gave the Ukrainian senior ample space for a right-corner 3, which refused to fall through the cylinder during a tough second-half stretch for Mykhailiuk.
X (7:03) — Thinking he might have caught Brandone Francis off guard as Marcus Garrett attempted to get open a few feet away, Graham pulled up with 21 seconds on the shot clock and misfired while fading away from Francis on a 3.
X (5:41) — Utilizing no action, Newman attempted to go one-on-one versus Francis on the left side of the floor, settled for a well-defended 3 with 17 left on the shot clock and missed to the left.
X (5:19) — A hard dribble and step-back gave Mykhailiuk the clearance he desired near the right corner momentarily, but Culver regrouped to get a hand in the shooter’s face.
X (5:17) — Mykhailiuk’s long offensive rebound of his own missed 3 allowed him to shovel a pass out to an open Graham at the top of the arc, but his fellow senior missed as a defender flew past him.
X (4:11) — Newman drove and passed to nearby Vick on the left wing. Though the junior from Memphis made a quick dribble to get more open, Francis’ extended arm obstructed Vick’s look at the 3.
X (1:54) — Down eight with less than two minutes to play, Graham tried to deliver a needed 3 from the right corner off a Newman pass. But he did so knowing Zhaire Smith was right there, and left the attempt short.
X (1:07) — With the Red Raiders’ lead up to 10, Vick dribbled into a pull-up 3 on the right side, but Culver went up to defend it and make sure KU got nothing easy.
X (0:11) — The game was all but over, and Graham raced up the floor and missed a 3 defended by Culver.
Unsurprisingly, KU fared far better when it found quality looks at 3-pointers (6-for-10 in the first half, 6-for-15 overall), as opposed to attempts that qualified as less-than-ideal (0-for-4 in the first, 0-for-11 overall).
Asked for his assessment of what his Red Raiders — now 14th nationally, with a 29.3 percent 3-point defense — did to take away one of KU’s strengths, Chris Beard said some good luck played a part in it.
“They got some good looks. We made some mistakes on some switches, so we were fortunate tonight,” Beard said. “But I think you’ve got to give our players credit. I do feel like there was an urgency to guard the 3-point line. With that came the opportunity for Kansas to drive the ball against us in the second half. But luckily we had a lead big enough to where we could sustain that.”
Bill Self, when discussing how Tech’s defense of the 3-point line might have differed from other opponents, cited how the Red Raiders defended ball screens. Beard’s players iced or downed in those situations at times — a strategy that, when successful, takes away the potential to even attempt a 3-pointer, because the defenders aren’t going under picks, gifting shooters with clear lines of vision.
“They are a pressure defensive team. Chris has done a great job of getting them up the floor and playing their man before he catches it and all that stuff. So I would say they did a good job of playing higher on the floor and not letting us get a lot of wide-open looks,” Self said.
“To me, the first half we made six 3’s and I thought three of them were awful shots, they just happened to go in,” KU’s coach added.
Mykhailiuk, who went 3-for-4 from 3-point distance in the first half and 0-for-5 in the second, said the Red Raiders’ defensive activity made them unique.
“Definitely. It started with denying the ball,” said Mykhailiuk, who is shooting 38-for-84 (45.2 percent) on 3’s this year. “They didn’t let us catch anything. It was breaking down everything.”
The Jayhawks will look to rediscover their 3-point touch Saturday at No. 16 TCU (13-1, 1-1). The Horned Frogs have held opponents to 33.3 percent 3-point shooting (128th in the country).