Kansas City, Mo. — Perennial league champion Kansas improved to 13-6 all-time in the Big 12 tournament semifinals on Friday, with an 83-67 victory over rival Kansas State at Sprint Center.
The Jayhawks only shot 44% from the floor and allowed the Wildcats to hit 53.6% of their shots in the second half, but advanced to the conference championship game for the sixth time in nine seasons.
Here are five stats that stood out — four good for Kansas, one not — in the Jayhawks’ semifinal victory over K-State.
Offense recovers in crunch time
A better opening to the second half would’ve helped the Jayhawks avoid putting the game’s outcome in danger, but they did manage to close the game appropriately.
A key Marcus Garrett steal and layup made sure of that. The freshman’s timely bucket ignited the Jayhawks, who converted 8 of their final 13 shot attempts over the course of the final 10 minutes. Up to that point, Kansas had made just 3 of 12 from the floor in the final half.
Suddenly energized after a lethargic stretch, especially for postseason basketball, KU’s players finished off the win by following Garrett’s lay-in with more high-percentage looks:
- 2 putbacks by Silvio De Sousa
- 2 Malik Newman 3-pointers
- A Lagerald Vick dunk
- Another Vick bucket
- A Mitch Lightfoot jam
Those baskets turned a 2-point Kansas lead into 12 before the Jayhawks spent most of the game’s final 2:00 at the foul line, going 8 for 10.
Controlling the glass
For the fourth time in the past six games, Kansas out-rebounded its opponent. Not bad for a team that did the opposite in 15 of 16 games before that.
The Jayhawks won the battle of the boards, 37-30. Even more impressive, though, they only let K-State gather 5 offensive rebounds on 32 missed field goals. The Wildcats only managed 2 second-chance points.
Big 12 opponents averaged 14.3 second-chance points a game against Kansas in the regular season and each of KU’s past eight foes scored at least 10 points in that category.
De Sousa’s 8 defensive boards led the team, and Newman secured 5 on that end. Both Devonte’ Graham and Garrett added 4 defensive rebounds.
Power of the 3-ball
For the 16th time this season, KU made 10 or more 3-pointers.
By knocking down 11 of 28 (39%) versus K-State, the Jayhawks improved to 14-2 when scoring at least 30 points from beyond the arc. K-State, meanwhile, made just 2 of 13 from 3-point range (15%) — the fewest makes and worst percentage by a KU opponent this season.
Both Newman (5 of 8) and Svi Mykhailiuk (4 of 8) routinely exploited the Wildcats for leaving them open.
Bench (and former sub) scoring
Between KU’s four regular members of the starting five, each contributed double-digit points in Friday’s win.
But Kansas nearly had three more players join Newman (22), Graham (15), Mykhailiuk (12) and Vick (10) in double figures.
A starter in just 4 games this season, Lightfoot added 8 points for the Jayhawks, who also picked up 8 points apiece from backups Garrett and De Sousa.
Newman carried the load offensively, but every other member of the rotation found opportunities to score, too, giving Kansas some balance in its distribution, making the attack less predictable.
No resistance in the paint
KU typically fares well inside or at least goes toe to toe with opponents in terms of making baskets around the hoop.
The Jayhawks averaged a +7.5 points in the paint margin during the regular season (+2.2 vs. Big 12 foes) and even outscored Oklahoma State by 10 inside without Udoka Azubuike in the Big 12 quarterfinals.
However, the Jayhawks lost the battle for the paint against K-State. The Wildcats scored 42 points inside, matching the most by any KU opponent this season.
Confident in taking their chances against Kansas bigs Lightfoot and De Sousa, the Wildcats finished with a 42-28 advantage in points in the paint, stimulated by Makol Mawien’s 29-point explosion, 16 of which came at the rim.
You know West Virginia will try to inflict even more damage against KU’s interior defense in Saturday night’s Big 12 title game.
Kansas City, Mo. — This season’s Kansas basketball team is no stranger to getting beat on the glass. So the top-seeded Jayhawks should feel right at home this week at Sprint Center, where they will try and navigate the Big 12 tournament without injured 7-foot center Udoka Azubuike.
Without question, KU’s offense will miss the high-percentage shots Azubuike, out with a medial collateral ligament sprain, provides with regularity. But the Jayhawks also will look like a lesser version of themselves on the boards, because the sophomore big is the best rebounder on a team that oftentimes struggles to finish stops by securing an opponent’s missed shot.
A massive presence in the paint, Azubuike started every game for Kansas (24-7) this season up to this point, and led the team in rebounding 18 times.
KU won the rebound margin in three of its final four regular-season games — +13 versus Oklahoma, +7 vs. Texas and +7 at Oklahoma State. But the Jayhawks lost that battle in 15 of the 16 games that preceded their more successful stretch.
Against Power 5 competition this season (25 games), KU out-rebounded its opponent five times — the other two came against Arizona State and Kansas State.
So what does the team that finished 9th in the Big 12 in rebound margin (-2.9 a game) look like without its best rebounder? To try and get a sense of what to expect at the conference tournament, let’s look at a few of Azubuike’s less impactful games this season on the glass.
Occasionally, Azubuike, who averaged 7.1 boards on the year and 6.6 a game in league action, finished with 4 or fewer rebounds. That occurred four times during Big 12 play:
at TCU: 1 rebound in 13 minutes (fouled out); TCU scored 14 second-chance points — KU won 88-84
at Kansas State: 3 rebounds in 18 minutes; K-State scored 9 second-chance points — KU won 70-56
at Baylor: 4 rebounds in 19 minutes; BU scored 14 second-chance points — KU lost 80-64
at Iowa State: 3 rebounds in 22 minutes; ISU scored 10 second-chance points — KU won 83-77
At TCU, Mitch Lightfoot (7 rebounds) and Marcus Garrett (6 boards) helped carry the load. At K-State, Malik Newman came through with 10 rebounds and Svi Mykhailiuk grabbed 7 more. At ISU, Newman and Devonte’ Graham tied for the team lead (6 apiece).
The Jayhawks lost at Baylor when no one stepped up to fill the void. Mykhailiuk, Newman and Lagerald Vick each finished with 4 boards.
KU’s rebounding numbers — and chances of advancing in the Big 12 tournament — will look a lot worse unless Azubuike’s teammates use his absence as incentive to really attack the glass.
“We’ve been a poor rebounding team by good rebounding team standards all year long,” KU coach Bill Self said Wednesday at Sprint Center.
It doesn’t sound as if Self is expecting Lightfoot and De Sousa to suddenly start rebounding like Cole Aldrich and Thomas Robinson.
“So we’re just going to have to have our guards rebound more,” Self said. “You know, Malik’s done a good job. Svi and Lagerald have got to become better rebounders probably as much as anyone.”
The numbers indicate Kansas should be able to count on Newman to get inside and clear some defensive rebounds. The 6-3 guard, per sports-reference.com, is KU’s second-most consistent rebounder on that end, gathering an estimated 15.6% of available defensive rebounds (Azubuike leads the team with a 20.2% defensive rebound percentage.)
Newman can look for some help on that end from Garrett (15.6%). Lightfoot enters the postseason with a 12.4% mark, while De Sousa, with far fewer minutes to give a better sense of his ceiling, owns a 12.3% defensive rebound percentage.
It’s unrealistic to expect any Jayhawks to match Azubuike’s offensive impact. But, chipping in as a committee of rebounders at Sprint Center will be necessary for them to get by without their game-changing center.
— Udoka Azubuike 2017-18 season game log —
|2017-11-17||South Dakota State||W||23||8||9||.889||0||2||2||2||2||17|
The No. 8-ranked Kansas Jayhawks put triple digits on the scoreboard against Oklahoma, treating the Sooners like a non-conference visitor to Allen Fieldhouse in a Big Monday drubbing.
The 104-74 victory marked KU’s first 100-point game in Big 12 play since the triple-overtime classic against the Sooners in 2016, and the team’s fourth time reaching the century mark this season — the others came versus Texas Southern, Oakland and Omaha.
From a surprisingly impactful Silvio De Sousa, to a classic 23-point, seven-assist night for Devonte’ Graham, Kansas made everything look easy while taking a half-game lead in the league standings over Texas Tech.
Here are five statistics that made the Jayhawks’ rout of Oklahoma possible.
Devastating second half
Remember when OU cut KU’s lead to seven points early in the second half? Yeah, neither do I. But it happened.
The Jayhawks (22-6 overall, 11-4 Big 12) so thoroughly dominated during the stretch run the game felt like a blowout from start to finish.
KU made 62.5% of its second-half shots by exposing OU’s subpar defense over and over again. If the Sooners gave a shooter too much space outside, the Jayhawks knocked in 3-pointers (7 of 12). If a driving angle or entry pass to the paint presented itself, Kansas gladly took a layup. KU scored 10 points off lay-ins and 12 points via dunks during the course of the second half.
Kansas scored 26 points in the paint over the course of the final 20 minutes, making it easy to put up 55 points — only the second time the team has put up 50 or more in a half during league play.
This is not a typo: Kansas finished with 13 more rebounds than Oklahoma.
In years past, such a margin in KU’s favor would barely inspire a reaction. But this year’s Jayhawks do not pound the glass the way most Bill Self teams have.
Kansas was out-rebounded in 15 of its previous 16 games before Udoka Azubuike (8 boards) and Svi Mykhailiuk (7 rebounds) helped the home team gather 38, to OU’s 25.
Sharing rebounding responsibilities seemed to be a good sign, too. Lagerald Vick chipped in 6 (his most since Jan. 13), Graham added five and freshman big De Sousa came through with a career-best 6, as well.
If Azubuike isn’t going to routinely snag 10 or more boards (he’s averaging 7.1 on the season, 6.4 in Big 12 games), every KU player who steps on the court is going to have to help out.
Subs provide a spark
KU’s lack of depth has proven to be one of the team’s weaknesses this season. As a result, the Jayhawks more often than not have lacked production off the bench.
The Jayhawks came up short in head-to-head bench points in 11 of their first 14 conference games. That problem went away, at least for one night, against Oklahoma, as the Kansas substitutes outperformed OU’s backups 18-8.
De Sousa, with his perfect 3-for-3 shooting from the floor and 4-for-4 success at the free-throw line for 10 points, outscored the Oklahoma bench by himself.
Neither Marcus Garrett (2 points), nor Mitch Lightfoot (4 points) had a particularly impactful night on offense, but if KU can now get significant help from one of those two or De Sousa every game that would qualify as a great late-season development.
Nothing easy for Young
Oklahoma freshman sensation Trae Young put together a remarkable 26-point, 9-assist show in the Sooners’ January win over Kansas, but had no such luck in the rematch.
KU harassed Young and made him work for every inch at Allen Fieldhouse. OU’s star point guard made just 3 of 13 shots, scored a career-low 11 points and turned the ball over 5 times in 35 minutes in the blowout.
Even when Young got by a perimeter defender the help defense stepped up to make sure he didn’t get into a flow with a layup.
Four of Young’s misses came when a Kansas big blocked his attempt. Lightfoot denied Young once and Azubuike swatted the star freshman three different times.
As a result, Young made just 2 of 6 layups in the loss.
No more slump for Svi
Just 7 of 26 (26.9%) in his previous four games, a stretch during which he averaged just 5.5 points — almost a full 10 points below his 15.4 average for the season — Mykhailiuk got back on track against OU’s lackluster defense.
The senior from Ukraine scored 16 points on 5-for-10 shooting and drained 4 of 7 3-pointers, his most from long range since making 5 of 9 at Kansas State on Jan. 29.
The slump was an anomaly for Mykhailiuk, whom Self has praised for his consistent effort and attitude all season long. With just three games left in the regular season, the Jayhawks couldn’t have picked a better time to get their senior shooter (88 for 196 on 3-pointers this year) back on track.
More news and notes from Kansas vs. Oklahoma
- Silvio De Sousa keeps it simple as Jayhawks rout Oklahoma
- Tom Keegan: Devonte’ Graham makes his case for best player in Big 12 against Oklahoma
- Sherron Collins fights tears during jersey retirement ceremony
- The Keegan Ratings: Devonte' Graham tops ratings in blowout of Oklahoma
- Matt Tait's Postgame Report Card
- Jayhawks blow out Oklahoma, 104-74, on Big Monday
As Bill Self continues to address his Kansas basketball team’s ongoing rebounding issues, the coach knows one player in particular could do all of the Jayhawks a favor by making a more vigorous impact on the glass.
On the same afternoon Self revealed a lack of effort on the part of Lagerald Vick led to the junior’s removal from the starting lineup, the 15th-year KU coach didn’t hide his displeasure for center Udoka Azubuike’s rebounding of late, either.
A 7-foot, 280-pound sophomore from Nigeria, Azubuike has secured six or fewer rebounds in each of the Jayhawks’ past four games, two of which ended as losses.
It’s the lack of defensive boards in particular that drives Self mad, though, because KU so often has failed to end opponent’s possessions after the first shot attempt. Oklahoma State destroyed Kansas with 26 second-chance points off 16 offensive rebounds on Saturday. In the Jayhawks’ past 11 games, nine opponents have reached double digits in second-chance points. During that stretch dating back to the start of Big 12 play, KU’s foes are averaging 15.4 offensive rebounds a game and scoring 14.9 points a game off those extended possessions.
So what has been lacking from Azubuike, who averages 7.3 rebounds on the year and has pulled down nine or more on nine occasions?
“I’d say just quickness, intensity, athletic ability, want-to more than anything else,” Self listed. “He got a defensive rebound against Oklahoma State on the first possession the other day — and that was it. He got one to start the second half — that’s it. Got two (defensive) rebounds the whole game. He plays a lot of minutes.”
Azubuike has contributed three or fewer defensive rebounds in five straight games. He averages 4.6 boards on defense this season and 3.8 in Big 12 contests.
“It’s great for a big guy to score points, and we love that,” Self said after Azubuike, the NCAA leader in field goal percentage (76.2 percent) made 8 of 11 shots and scored 20 points in a loss to the Cowboys. “And I don’t want to take that away from him by any stretch. But, you know, for us to win, everybody’s got a role and everybody’s got to play to their role. And he knows he’s the biggest guy on our team. He knows he’s the best defensive rebounder. He knows he’s that, so it’s up to him to play to that.”
Looking at season averages, Azubuike’s 4.6 defensive rebounds a game lead Kansas (18-5 overall, 7-3 Big 12), but just barely. Malik Newman gathers 4.5 and Vick is at 4.3. In league games, Newman leads the team with 4.7 boards on the defensive end of the floor, where Vick contributes 3.5 and Svi Mykhailiuk has provided 3.2 on average.
Perhaps playing alongside new starter Lightfoot will make Azubuike a more effective rebounder as Self gives playing bigger a chance, despite a guard-heavy rotation. The move wasn’t made specifically to address KU’s shortcomings on the glass, but it certainly couldn’t hurt a team that has been out-rebounded in 11 of its lsat 12 games.
Self remains hopeful his hulking starting center will begin embracing the idea of becoming KU’s defensive closer, a player capable of ending opponents’ possessions by snatching the first miss out of the air and eliminating second — and sometimes third — attempts.
“And hopefully he will. He hasn’t done that in a while, but I don’t think he’s played poorly,” Self clarified. “I just don’t think he’s played to what he is — and that is the biggest guy on the floor most every night.”
Kansas plays host to TCU (16-7, 4-6) at 8 p.m. Tuesday (ESPN2).
When a visiting team comes into Allen Fieldhouse and leads for close to 38 minutes it’s safe to say the Kansas basketball team had some issues.
The Jayhawks ran into so many problems Saturday against Oklahoma State, in fact, that head coach Bill Self said the Cowboys “whipped” KU in an 84-79 upset.
With Kansas falling at home and Texas Tech handling its business on the road, winning at TCU, the Jayhawks and Red Raiders enter the coming week tied atop the Big 12 standings at 7-3.
Here is a look at five statistics that influenced KU’s latest loss.
Couldn’t corral the Cowboys
Oklahoma State never looked uncomfortable in its win on KU’s James Naismith Court because the Jayahwks couldn’t stop their opponent from making shots.
The Cowboys’ 51.6% shooting was the best mark by a KU opponent this season. It was the second-best percentage of the year for OSU.
By converting on 64% of their shots in the second half, the Cowboys headed back to Stillwater, Okla., victorious and owners of the best single-half field goal percentage by a KU opponent since Iowa State made 64.3% in the first half of a 2016 home win for the Cyclones at Hilton Coliseum.
OSU senior guard Kendall Smith, who entered as a 39.6% shooter on the season, went 10 for 16 and scored a game-high 24 points versus the Jayhawks (18-5 overall, 7-3 Big 12).
Cowboys sophomore forward Cameron McGriff, who arrived shooting 51.4%, converted 7 of 10 shots, with 4 makes on layups and dunks.
KU shot 57.1% from the floor in the second half but it didn’t matter because it couldn’t get the defensive stops it needed in order to recover. OSU converted 14 of its final 18 field-goal attempts.
KU is now 7-20 under Self all-time when its opponent shoots better than 50 percent from the floor.
Usually it’s Kansas who benefits from draining jumpers from beyond the arc, but on this particular Saturday at the fieldhouse, it was Oklahoma State that harnessed the power of the 3-ball.
The Cowboys arrived in Lawrence shooting 33.7% from deep in Big 12 play. They left having knocked down double-digit 3-pointers for the first time in conference competition.
Oklahoma State shot 12 for 27 from long range (44.4%) getting the upset-minded visitors within one 3-pointer of their season-high of 13, which came in November against Oral Roberts. The Cowboys’ 12 makes from 3-point land were the most by a Kansas foe since OSU made 12 in Stillwater versus the Jayhawks to close the 2017 regular season.
KU only made 8 of 22 3-pointers (36.4%) in the loss. On the season, the Jayhawks have made 9 or more from deep 14 times. A cold start in the first half — 1 of 8 from long range — put Kansas in a deficit in a category that so often fuels its offense.
Although the Jayhawks snapped a 10-game streak of losing the battle of the boards earlier in the week at Kansas State, they were right back to their old ways versus OSU.
KU’s players didn’t bring the same activity to the glass as their opponents, and Oklahoma State easily out-rebounded the favored home team, 41-28, making the Cowboys the fourth team in Big 12 play to win the rebound margin by double digits versus Kansas.
The Cowboys so thoroughly out-worked KU on the glass early on that they gathered 11 offensive rebounds on on their first 15 missed field goals, giving them 20 second-chance points and a 30-18 lead.
By halftime the total rebounds read OSU 27, KU 17, and the Cowboys scored 22 second-chance points in the first half. Oklahoma State's 26 second-chance points were the most by a KU opponent this season.
Kansas sophomore center Udoka Azubuike came up shy of his season average of 7.3 rebounds for the fourth straight game, finishing with five.
Another rough showing for Vick
A reliable offensive contributor earlier in the season, KU junior Lagerald Vick shot below 40% from the field for the fourth time in the team’s previous five Big 12 games.
A non-factor in the first half, when he made 1 of 3 shots and turned the ball over twice, it got even worse for Vick in the second. While playing all but one of the game’s final 20 minutes, the athletic 6-foot-5 wing went 1 for 7 from the floor and only made 1 of 4 from 3-point range.
Vick’s final stat line read: 34 minutes, 5 points, 2-for-10 shooting, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 fouls, 3 turnovers, 1 block and 0 steals.
He failed to reach double-digit points for the seventh time in KU’s 10 Big 12 games.
Smith controls crunch time
On various occasions this season Kansas has had issues defending quick, talented perimeter players. The latest such guard to victimize the Jayhawks was Smith.
A 6-3 graduate transfer facing KU for the first time, Smith scored 10 of his game-high 24 points in the final 6:46, empowering Oklahoma State to complete the upset.
Almost every time the Jayhawks seemed poised to make a spurt and narrow the deficit, Smith was there to finish a jumper or a layup and extend OSU’s lead to eight or nine points.
Although he missed the front end of a one-and-one with 31 seconds to go, allowing Kansas to get within three, he responded by sealing the victory at the foul line with two clutch free throws with 0:10 on the clock, giving him a new career-high in scoring (24).
Kansas maintained its spot atop the Big 12 standings Monday night by catching rival Kansas State off guard with some zone defense in a 70-56 road victory.
The Jayhawks (18-4 overall, 7-2 Big 12) could have fallen into a tie for first place with the Wildcats (16-6, 5-4) had K-State successfully defended its home floor.
Instead, KU hit the midway point of the conference schedule in a familiar position — with the rest of the Big 12 looking up at the perennial champion.
Here are five statistics from the Jayhawks’ latest Sunflower Showdown victory that stood out.
Defending the ’Cats
K-State had a chance to beat Kansas in Allen Fieldlhouse earlier this month because the Wildcats shot 49 percent from the field and went 13-for-26 in the second half.
The Jayhawks didn’t allow their rivals to get so comfortable in the rematch. K-State converted just 21 of 65 shots in the home loss, as KU came away with its second-best field goal percentage defense of the season, 32.3 percent. It was also the second-worst shooting performance for K-State.
Although junior Dean Wade still put up 20 points, KU did enough to get Wade, a 56.6-percent shooter on the season, to miss 10 of his 18 shots.
Barry Brown’s tear through the Big 12 hit a major bump, too, as KU became the first conference opponent to limit him to single digits, with 9. Brown, the second-leading scorer in league play (21.2 points per game), shot 4-for-16 and only got to the foul line for one free-throw attempt.
K-State’s 56 points were the second-fewest by a KU opponent this season.
The streak is over
Not the Jayhawks’ run of Big 12 titles, of course. That streak looks like it could reach 14 in the weeks to come. Actually, KU put an end to an unattractive slump Monday in Manhattan.
In each of the 10 games before it, Kansas players gathered fewer rebounds than their foes. The skid ended at K-State with the Jayhawks securing 41 boards to their rivals’ 31. The importance of that tally wasn’t lost on seniors Svi Mykhailiuk and Devonte’ Graham when they spotted it on the post-game box score.
KU’s offense — in good ways and bad — actually helped make the winning rebound margin possible. The Jayhawks’ 14-for-20 shooting in the first half meant there weren’t many misses available for the Wildcats. Same goes for KU’s 12 turnovers — no shot attempt, no chance at a rebound. As a result, Kansas out-boarded K-State, 22-12, in the first half, when the home team only had 8 defensive rebounds.
The Jayhawks drew even on the glass in the second half, allowing them to maintain the big margin.
Malik Newman’s career-high 10 rebounds led the team, while Mykhailiuk grabbed seven and Mitch Lightfoot added five off the bench in 20 minutes.
The +10 differential in KU’s favor put an end to the longest rebound-margin losing streak in the Bill Self era.
The 2017-18 KU roster doesn’t feature the type of double-double frontcourt players that highlighted teams of years past.
However, KU’s backcourt proved it can put up big numbers in multiple categories, as well. Both Graham (16 points, 11 assists) and Newman (13 points, 10 rebounds) achieved double-doubles at K-State.
It was the first such achievement of Newman’s career and the third for Graham (every one coming this season).
All of their Kansas teammates combined have posted nine double-doubles over the course of their college careers. Udoka Azubuike leads the way with five. The big man’s most recent one came at Texas in the Big 12 opener (13 points, 13 rebounds).
Graham and Newman became the first KU teammates to record double-doubles in the same game since Landen Lucas and Kelly Oubre Jr. (2015).
De Sousa still playing catchup
Self, since freshman forward Silvio De Sousa arrived on campus in late December, has pointed to early February as the first time the Jayhawks will really know what kind of team they have. Self said that because he knew De Sousa’s assimilation from the high school game to the Big 12 would not be easy. It would inevitably take time for the freshman big man to adjust to everything.
Kansas will play its first February game on Saturday against Oklahoma State (11 a.m. tip-off, CBS). And De Sousa still has a long way to go before making a real impact.
The 6-foot-9, 245-pound forward logged only 2 minutes Monday at Kansas State, contributing nothing statistically — unless you count his 1 foul and 1 turnover.
Twenty seconds after checking into the game in the first half, De Sousa didn’t get out to the perimeter in time to defend a successful Wade 3-pointer.
Next, in a less-than-20-second span, De Sousa turned the ball over and fouled Wade as the K-State veteran scored on the first-semester Jayhawk.
De Sousa might have the size and tools to give Kansas more in a few weeks, but he isn’t there yet.
Disparity in shot attempts
It’s a good thing the Jayhawks came through with one of their better defensive efforts, because K-State attempted 19 more shots than the visitors.
Kansas was not just better defensively than the Wildcats on the night, it had a far more effective offense, too. While both teams made 21 field goals, KU did it on 46 attempts and K-State put up 65.
Various factors led to the discrepancy: KU’s 16 turnovers to K-State’s 7; K-State’s 11 offensive rebounds to KU’s 7; the Jayhawks shot 26 free throws, while the Wildcats only attempted 11.
But the bottom line was Kansas made the most of its possessions, scoring on 31 of its 67 (46.3%). K-State came away with points on 25 of its 66 possessions (37.9%). And the Jayhawks did it while posting season-lows in both field goals made (21) and attempted (46).
More news and notes from Kansas vs. Kansas State
- Surprise zone keys Jayhawks’ win at Kansas State
- Tom Keegan: Malik Newman finds his role, confidence through rebounding
- Notebook: Udoka Azubuike heckled during warmups; KU wins again on Kansas Day
- The Keegan Ratings: Svi surpasses 20 points for third consecutive game to top ratings vs. Kansas State
- Matt Tait's Postgame Report Card
- Road-tested Jayhawks beat K-State in Manhattan
Any time a shot goes up, whether it’s taken by Kansas or an opponent, the players Bill Self is coaching this year aren’t as likely to pull down a rebound as the Jayhawks who came before them.
During KU’s 13-year run of consecutive Big 12 titles under Self, cleaning the glass has been one of the program’s staples.
This season, though, with a limited frontcourt rotation and lineups built around talented perimeter players, the rebounding mastery so often displayed by past Kansas teams has faded.
This week’s loss at Oklahoma marked the ninth consecutive game the Jayhawks were out-rebounded — the longest streak in the Self era.
Kansas has won the battle of the boards in just six of its first 20 games, entering Saturday’s meeting with Texas A&M, the top rebounding team in the SEC. What’s more, most of KU’s six rebounding victories came against weaker competition: +22 vs. Tennessee State, +16 vs. Texas Southern, +11 vs. Oakland, +12 vs. Toledo, +3 vs. Arizona State and +23 vs. Omaha.
Eight games into the Big 12 schedule, the Jayhawks have an average rebounding margin of -7.1 in league play, which ranks ninth overall and is uncharacteristically off-kilter for a Self-coached team.
“I really think so much of it is effort. I think discipline,” the KU coach said when discussing his team’s shortcomings on the glass, after referencing how Oklahoma controlled it in the final minutes of an 85-80 Sooners win on Tuesday, in Norman, Okla.
Seven-foot sophomore center Udoka Azubuike easily qualifies as the Jayhawks’ best rebounder. He averages 7.7 on the season, but hasn’t registered double-digit boards since the Big 12 opener at Texas, when Azubuike gathered a career-best 13.
According to sports-reference.com, Azubuike leads Kansas with a total rebounding percentage (an estimate of the percentage of available rebounds a player secured while on the court) of 15.2% in Big 12 action. Unfortunately for Self, the only other players on the roster capable of making similar impacts on the glass are Mitch Lightfoot and Silvio De Sousa, and their other limitations have impacted their playing time. Sophomore Lightfoot (12.5 TRB%) averages just 11.6 minutes in league games, while mid-year freshman arrival De Sousa (11.8 TRB%) has been given 3.5 minutes in his four appearances.
Azubuike, Lightfoot and De Sousa are the only players on the roster with a TRB% of at least 10% this year. Compare that to just an average rebounding team by recent KU standards, the 2014-15 Jayhawks, and you’ll find five rotation players who eclipsed that mark: Cliff Alexander (15.8%), Landen Lucas (14.2%), Perry Ellis (13.5%), Kelly Oubre (13.3%) and Brannen Greene (10.1%).
As a team, KU currently owns a defensive rebounding percentage of 62% in Big 12 play, to go with a 27.5% offensive rebounding percentage — those rank 10th and ninth respectively in the conference. In past years, Kansas routinely finished among the top half (often in the top third) of the league in those same categories.
Self knows he is working with a limited roster as far as rebounding goes. He has said as much recently, referencing the fact he didn’t recruit Svi Mykhailiuk (5.8 TRB% in Big 12 games) or Lagerald Vick (7.0% in Big 12) to be rebounders, but that’s what he is now asking them to do. He did, of course, recruit Billy Preston to rebound and contribute in other ways, but that never came to fruition.
Still, the 15th-year KU coach will do all he can to squeeze as much rebounding as possible out of his guard-heavy rotation. Self said when it comes to defensive rebounding, success or failure often depends on positioning.
“A lot of it is physicality. A lot of it is having a good base,” Self began. “When you're not very big and you're blocking out somebody that has a stronger base than you, all it takes is one nudge to displace you and all of a sudden … you're rebounding only makes and they get the opportunity to rebound misses, because you're under the basket. There's a lot things to it.”
However, Self made it clear he won’t let his perimeter players use a size disadvantage as an excuse.
“The biggest thing, and I've heard Coach (John) Wooden say this, you want teams to block out, but it's a lot more important to have guys who go after the ball than it is to block out,” Self said. “And we don't attack the ball near as well as what we have in years past, but we're also not near as big.”
The undersized Jayhawks most likely to go compete for rebounds in the fashion described by their coach are Malik Newman (9.1 TRB% in Big 12 games) and Marcus Garrett (8.3% in Big 12). But it will take a more assertive approach by every player in a KU uniform for this team to turn around a weakness in a crucial category.
— Below is a list of KU’s rebounding success in past Big 12 title-winning seasons under Self. Note: the Big 12 didn’t begin tracking rebounding percentages until the 2009-10 season.
IN BIG 12 PLAY
|20017-18||-7.1 (9th)||.620 (8th)||.275 (9th)|
|2016-17||+2.8 (2nd)||.676 (3rd)||.349 (4th)|
|2015-16||+3.7 (3rd)||.656 (6th)||.324 (4th)|
|2014-15||+1.2 (4th)||.704 (2nd)||.326 (6th)|
|2013-14||+7.7 (1st)||.709 (1st)||.388 (3rd)|
|2012-13||+6.6 (1st)||.714 (2nd)||.356 (2nd)|
|2011-12||+5.1 (1st)||.731 (1st)||.340 (4th)|
|2010-11||+6.7 (1st)||.663 (8th)||.401 (1st)|
|2009-10||+5.6 (1st)||.741 (1st)||.342 (5th)|