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Even KU’s missed 3-pointers helped the Jayhawks beat West Virginia

Kansas guard Marcus Garrett (0), West Virginia forward Derek Culver (1), Kansas forward Jalen Wilson (10) and West Virginia forward Gabe Osabuohien (3) compete for a loose ball during the second half, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Marcus Garrett (0), West Virginia forward Derek Culver (1), Kansas forward Jalen Wilson (10) and West Virginia forward Gabe Osabuohien (3) compete for a loose ball during the second half, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Kansas didn’t win its top 10 matchup with West Virginia Tuesday night at Allen Fieldhouse just by making 3-pointers. The No. 3 Jayhawks actually found a way to beat the No. 7 Mountaineers with missed 3-pointers, too.

Sure, an assertive 16-for-37 display from beyond the arc set the stage for KU to comfortably win its final basketball game on the 2020 calendar, 79-65. But so did the Jayhawks’ newfound ability to pile up second-chance points by tracking down long misses.

The offensive glass is an area where Bob Huggins’ Mountaineers typically rule. But the same KU team that went to Texas Tech five days earlier, secured just six offensive rebounds and got outscored 16-5 in second-chance points, looked a lot more active in discarding West Virginia. The Jayhawks tracked down 19 offensive boards against WVU’s burly front court and bested the visitors at their own game, outscoring them 25-14 in that specialty category.

“The 3-ball helped us win, because we made them,” KU coach Bill Self said after his team improved to 8-1 overall and 2-0 in the Big 12. “But the 3-ball also allowed us to offensive rebound, because long shots mean long rebounds, and now block out and size don’t become a factor. It’s basically being lucky a little bit and it’s also running down loose balls. And we did a great job of running down a ton of long misses.”

During his postgame video press conference, Self guessed of the 21 missed KU 3-pointers, the Jayhawks got 10 of them back on the offensive glass. Not too shabby. He was only off by one.

KU actually extended a possession with an offensive board after a missed 3 on 11 different occasions. And 16 of the 25 second-chance points the Jayhawks produced came after a missed 3.

“We thought 50-50 balls and long rebounds would be a key,” Self said. “And it turned out to be pretty important for us.”

The work of three Jayhawks in particular stood out on the offensive glass, as Ochai Agbaji and David McCormack each hauled in six and Jalen Wilson seized four more.

Their efforts allowed the Jayhawks to easily outperform their offensive rebounding production from their first four games against ranked opponents. Against Gonzaga, Kentucky, Creighton and Texas Tech, KU never scored more than 11 second-chance points and averaged 8.0 per game. The Jayhawks only managed five offensive boards versus Gonzaga, had 13 against Creighton, and finished with the aforementioned six at Tech. When KU had 19 offensive boards versus Kentucky, those came on a night when the Jayhawks shot a season-worst 29.9% from the floor and missed 47 field goal attempts.

Facing a WVU team that has led the nation in offensive rebounds each of the past three seasons might have inspired the Jayhawks to prove themselves in that category, too. Both teams finished with exactly 19 offensive rebounds.

While Self described his team’s inability to limit WVU’s second chances as “awful,” McCormack called KU’s rebounding handiwork on the other end of the floor “major” after the win.

“We know that West Virginia crashes hard offensively and defensively. And we knew if we could try to beat them on the glass or at least get a lot more second-chance shots that would put us in a big advantage,” McCormack said. “It was just being aware of the type of team that we’re playing and how they play. We were more cognizant that we needed to crash the glass, which opened a lot more opportunities.”

Self wouldn’t describe these Jayhawks as a great offensive rebounding team around the rim, namely because they only have — at most — one traditional big wedging for position inside when shots go up.

But there might be something to this whole extending possessions off missed 3-pointers idea. Self thinks Agbaji, Wilson and Christian Braun (the same three who happen to be KU’s best 3-point shooters) can bring an active approach to the offensive glass with a running start and add another positive to KU’s approach.

“And they’ll be better offensive rebounders if we shoot more 3’s. I’m not saying that’s the strategy we’ll use every game,” Self made it clear. “But in this game it was obviously pretty easy to try to do, because they played zone.”

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