Whenever Udoka Azubuike returns to the Kansas basketball rotation — whether it’s Thursday against Penn, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, or in the days that follow — the No. 1 seed in the Midwest region will essentially roll out an updated version of itself, with noticeable upgrades both in the paint and on the perimeter.
The Jayhawks that won the regular-season Big 12 championship barely used freshman big man Silvio De Sousa.
The KU team that captured the league’s postseason tournament crown in Kansas City, Mo., didn’t benefit from one second of Azubuike.
The Kansas team trying to navigate its way to the 2018 Final Four should be able to throw Azubuike, De Sousa and a suddenly-high-scoring Malik Newman at opponents, possibly as soon as the first round.
Senior point guard Devonte’ Graham said De Sousa, who went for 16 points and 10 rebounds in KU’s Big 12 title game win over West Virginia, and Newman, the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, broke through at just the right time.
“Now on the scouting report it’s not just going to be me, Svi (Mykhailiuk) and Udoka (Azubuike), Malik,” Graham said. “It’s going to be Silvio — they’re going to have to guard everybody. When you’ve got five guys out there that can be in attack mode it’s hard to guard that. It’s perfect timing and the perfect time for them to get hot.”
Newman, a sophomore guard who transferred from Mississippi State, enters his NCAA Tournament debut (1 p.m. Thursday, on TBS) having just averaged 24 points per game on 15-for-22 3-point shooting at the Big 12 tournament.
His explosive three-day-long performance followed back-to-back single-digit scoring games to close the regular season. Now those ineffective outings seem as if they transpired months ago, instead of occurring in the previous two-plus weeks.
“I feel like I’m playing at a very high level,” Newman said. “That’s just thanks to my teammates and the coaching staff. Those guys had confidence in me throughout the year, no matter if I was at my lowest or at my highs. They’ve just always said, ‘Be aggressive and things are going to be fine.’ So credit to those guys for rallying around me and keeping me high.”
Similarly, De Sousa’s teammates always trusted he eventually would bloom and begin playing to the potential of a five-star prep prospect — even though he arrived in Lawrence during the middle of the campaign, in late December, as an early high school graduate.
“He’s been working so hard in practice,” Graham said of the 6-foot-9 backup forward, who played sparingly for KU in January and February, “and going through ups and downs. Learning all the plays in two months is extreme for him. He’s just been battling and it’s starting to pay off.”
Graham could see it coming. It just so happened everything began clicking for De Sousa when KU needed him most, with Azubuike out of the lineup in Kansas City, due to a left-knee injury. Even before De Sousa averaged 10 points and 9.7 rebounds at the Big 12 tournament, KU’s team leader witnessed the young big “grinding” at practices, arriving early and spending extra time studying video with assistant coach Norm Roberts.
“At any point in time we knew he was going to have a breakout game, and it was the perfect time with Dok being out,” Graham added, “so his confidence should be high. Sky high.”
Newman left K.C. this past weekend impressed with De Sousa the player and the man, praising the freshman’s character and speaking of the way he seemed to respond to any and all adversity with a smile and positive attitude.
“Each day he just tried to learn. Whenever he messed up he would just go ask coach. ‘Coach, what do I need to be doing? Did I do this right?’ Things like that. We knew sooner or later he was gonna turn the corner,” Newman shared. “Not too long ago in the regular season I remember saying that Silvio, he was on the porch, but he’s not in the house yet, as far as him just being comfortable. But I think this tournament, I think it really helped him and let him know that we’ve got confidence in him to go out and play.”
De Sousa brought energy to KU’s frontcourt in the Big 12 championship game, and made impactful plays to help the Jayhawks win without their starting 7-footer, Azubuike. In doing so De Sousa looked completely different from the freshman whom coach Bill Self hesitated to keep checked into games for more than a minute or two as recently as a month ago.
“I’m not gonna lie, when I came here out of high school I knew it was going to be hard,” De Sousa said. “And I just believed in myself and just tried hard during practices. Now, months later, I’ve actually got my confidence up. Today I finally can play a lot better than I used to.”
When Azubuike returns to the floor, Graham thinks Kansas (27-7) will have an even more dynamic team to unleash in the NCAA Tournament, now that De Sousa has proven he can produce and play with confidence.
Whether March brought out the best in De Sousa and Newman or the emerging Jayhawks just have impeccable timing, Newman isn’t ruling out the idea of another KU player stepping to the forefront soon.
“Svi could’ve stepped up, Lagerald (Vick) could’ve stepped up and did what I did,” Newman said of carrying the offensive load this past weekend. “Or instead of Silvio playing how he played, Mitch (Lightfoot) could’ve played like that. I don’t think it’s just me and him. It was one man goes down, one man step up.”
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.
Though his team-first attitude never took a hit during weeks of far more watching from the bench than actually playing for Kansas, freshman Silvio De Sousa still needed his own on-court moment to take the next step in his progression.
Monday’s romp over Oklahoma at Allen Fieldhouse provided De Sousa the opportunity to finally advance past the starting gate of his college basketball career.
In past, far-more-brief cameos, the 19-year-old who didn’t join the program until late December had the misfortune of his first on-the-floor action being a foul, turnover, bad defensive rotation or some other type of mistake. But against OU, not even a second had ticked off the first-half clock when De Sousa’s confidence received a boost.
All it took was a simple box-out of Jamuni McNeace on a missed Kameron McGusty free throw. De Sousa had a defensive rebound and a favorable start to his night.
At that instant, De Sousa later revealed, he thought to himself, “Oh, I’m going to play a lot tonight.”
His 13 minutes probably felt like 40 for the gung-ho young big man after playing three or fewer in his previous seven appearances, and not getting off the bench at all in two others.
After contributing career-highs of 10 points and 6 rebounds, as well as his first assist as a Jayhawk — he tracked down a loose ball and passed to Malik Newman for a deep 3-pointer — De Sousa has to be feeling much different now about his status and potential.
“I’m sure he is,” KU coach Bill Self said Thursday, adding De Sousa had some “bounce” during the team’s mid-week practice that followed his breakout game. “Our whole team did. But I think that had to do a world of good for him from a confidence standpoint.”
At 6-foot-9 and 245 pounds, De Sousa isn’t just a large body. The freshman from Luanda, Angola, works hard. Size and effort can go a long way for even the rawest young players. Now De Sousa, his teammates and the Kansas coaches have seen how he can positively impact the team.
De Sousa hustled his way to his first basket versus Oklahoma. When Newman swiped the ball from a driving Trae Young and took off in the other direction, De Sousa could’ve sat back and watched Newman and Svi Mykhailiuk execute a two-on-one fast break.
Good thing he didn’t. Newman held on to the ball too long and lost his handle when McGusty lunged for a possible steal. Newman hurried a layup upon recovering and when it missed, De Sousa, who had sprinted the floor with Newman and Mykhailiuk, easily tipped it in.
In the second half, De Sousa came through with two offensive rebounds on one possession, which concluded with him drawing a foul and finishing the sequence with two points, showing what his coach called “pretty touch” at the foul line.
“He had some good things happen the other day, but he still played very well,” Self said of De Sousa, who converted on all three of his shot attempts and went 4 of 4 at the free-throw line, too. “He did some really nice things. And he just really hasn’t had the chance or the ball hasn’t bounced his way or whatever in the time that he’s been here so far. So that had to do wonders for his confidence, and hopefully moving forward that’ll be a more confident move by our staff to go to him in certain situations, especially when the game’s on the line.”
When you play as diligently as De Sousa did, favorable results are bound to result eventually. The still-learning big man wasn’t available for Kansas (22-6 overall, 11-4 Big 12) when Texas Tech beat the Jayhawks, 85-73, on Jan. 2.
In Saturday’s rematch with the Red Raiders (22-6, 10-5), in Lubbock, Texas, Self should finally feel more comfortable going to his freshman big off the bench, now that he has witnessed De Sousa thrive, instead of fizzle, when his name is called.
What better time to find yourself with an addition to your rotation than the final weeks of the regular season, with at least a share of a conference title just one win at Texas Tech away?
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
Almost nothing went right for Kansas on Saturday, in an 80-64 loss at Baylor.
From a pre-game black eye for senior Svi Mykhailiuk to failing to match the Bears’ energy, Bill Self’s team had far more problems than solutions during its trip to Waco, Texas.
And a 40-percent shooting performance for the offense was just one cause for concern for the Jayhawks.
Here are five stats that stood out from a defeat that Kansas will have to find a way to put behind it quickly.
No stops to be found
As poorly as Kansas played offensively in the first half (20 points), the defensive end proved even more costly for the Jayhawks during the final 20 minutes.
The Bears converted on 17 of 26 field goal attempts (65.4%) in the second half to drop another 50 points on a faltering Kansas defense.
Both Manu Lecomte and Nuni Omot hit KU with 4-for-5 shooting in the closing half.
The Bears made 14 of their final 20 attempts from the floor. Although they turned the ball over 8 times in the second half, at no point did Kansas manage to make Baylor miss consecutive shots.
BU’s 57%-shooting in the victory was the best marksmanship by a KU opponent this season.
No easy points
While the free-throw line hasn’t always been kind to Kansas (69.3 percent in Big 12 play), getting there with regularity had at least become a strength for the Jayhawks, who struggled to do so during much of the non-conference schedule.
KU, which came in averaging 21.4 free-throw attempts in league games, took a step backward against Baylor, with only 9 shots taken at the foul line.
The Bears’ zone defense often flummoxed the Jayhawks, and they didn’t attack enough to consistently draw fouls.
Though Kansas made 8 of 9 free throws, it marked the team’s fewest attempts in a league game (previously 13 against Iowa State).
Speaking of easy points, KU didn’t get any in transition. The general lack of quick-change opportunities off steals (3) and blocks (3), certainly didn’t help.
Mr. 40 Minutes
For the eighth consecutive game, Kansas senior point guard Devonte’ Graham never subbed out.
Easily KU’s best and most important player, Graham put in 8 of 17 shot attempts (4-for-10 shooting on 3-pointers) to lead Kansas with 23 points.
The Jayhawks had such an off-kilter offense against BU, though, that even Graham could only come up with 4 assists, a season-low for the floor general. His 3 turnovers were only slightly above Graham’s season average of 2.8.
As awry as Kansas looked offensively with Graham playing the entire way, it’s kind of frightening to think about how poorly things would have gone had he come out of the game even for a minute or two in either half.
Dreaded double-digit deficit
Once Baylor achieved a 10-point lead just before halftime you figured the Jayhawks might be in trouble. Unlike last year’s KU team, which routinely climbed out of holes, this group hasn’t been so fortunate.
The Bears built their lead as large as 16 points in the final minute, and became the seventh KU opponent this season to lead by double figures. As was the case for Kansas against Washington, Arizona State, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, the Jayhawks (19-6 overall, 8-4 Big 12) came up short.
This season, only West Virginia, which led by 16, has taken a double-digit lead against Kansas and lost.
The Jayhawks are now 1-6 when trailing by 10 or more points in a game.
Another fruitless De Sousa cameo
When both Udoka Azubuike and Mitch Lightfoot had 4 personal fouls on their stat lines with more than 11 minutes left in the game, Self decided to give first-semester freshman big Silvio De Sousa another look.
Earlier in the week, in KU’s home win over TCU, the 6-foot-9 freshman never got off the bench. The foul trouble and situation —KU down six points on the road in the second half — almost forced Self to at least give De Sousa a chance.
Upon checking in, De Sousa started off positively enough, deflecting an inbound pass underneath the hoop. But that proved to be the apex of his brief appearance. On the ensuing defensive sequence, De Sousa was manning the paint but failed to step up and effectively contest a successful King McClure floater.
When KU headed to the other end of the floor on offense, Lagerald Vick hit De Sousa with an entry pass on the right block but the young big man used a blatant extended left forearm to try and fend off Jo Lual-Acuil as he went in for a layup, that was called off due to an offensive foul.
The stoppage allowed Self to re-insert Azubuike, and De Sousa checked out having played 28 seconds and contributed nothing statistically, other than a foul and a turnover.
In each of De Sousa’s previous six appearances he has played 2 or fewer minutes. The Jayhawks actually needed him on this occasion, but Self didn’t trust the freshman to do anything other than hurt his team’s chances.
In six of his eight games for KU, De Sousa has come away with 0’s in both points and rebounds.
When the arena lights are on and the Kansas basketball team is playing on a national broadcast, the newest big on campus, Silvio De Sousa, has yet to provide his head coach, Bill Self, with much incentive to keep the 6-foot-9 forward on the court.
In six games so far De Sousa never has played more than seven minutes. In the past two weeks, his cameos have ended even more abruptly — 2 minutes versus Baylor, 1 at Oklahoma, 2 against Texas A&M and 2 at Kansas State.
Self would like to have another player to fill in for Udoka Azubuike and Mitch Lightfoot in the paint. However, the coach admitted Thursday he still hasn’t totally determined what type of role to assign to De Sousa, who arrived in Lawrence in late December after graduating from high school early.
“I’d like for it to develop. He's had a bad last two Big 12 games. You know, he had three turnovers in one minute,” Self began, referencing the freshman forward’s stat line at OU. “The other day, Wade (Dean, at Kansas State) gets six points, and (De Sousa) has a turnover in one minute. He really hasn't had a chance to do much.”
Neither Self nor De Sousa’s teammates have come close to giving up on the 19-year-old from Angola, though, because the former five-star prospect at IMG Academy (Fla.) has displayed both progress and promise during KU practices, behind closed doors.
At times during the past several weeks, sophomore guard Malik Newman has witnessed the big man not resemble the still-learning post player who has only scored 2 points in 18 minutes over the course of six in-game appearances.
Whether it’s “some kind of crazy” dunk out of a screen and roll, soaring to swat a KU teammate’s shot attempt or simply grabbing a defensive rebound and sprinting the other direction to beat every other player down the floor for a dunk, Newman easily recalls examples of De Sousa forcing everyone in the gymnasium to take notice.
“Did Silvio just do that? Wow. I didn’t know he could do that,” Newman narrated of his reactions in those moments.
Self isn’t one to become as enamored with such examples if they aren’t coming regularly. But even the most demanding man watching De Sousa’s every move affirmed the freshman has made noticeable strides since joining the team just more than five weeks ago, instead of finishing out his senior high school season.
“I think his energy level is better. I think he goes after balls better. I think he's an above-average rebounder when he's doing those things,” Self appraised. “And you can just see the wires aren't quite connecting, but they're getting closer. I mean, there's a chance that they may touch each other here pretty soon. They haven't quite done that yet.”
Since being cleared to play for Kansas on Jan. 13, De Sousa’s far more public auditions to join the rotation haven’t looked nearly as encouraging. He committed 3 fouls in 2 minutes against Baylor. He only has attempted and made one shot during his 18 minutes on the court. In five of six games he didn’t secure a rebound. What’s worse, according to sports-reference.com, his turnover percentage (an estimate of turnovers per 100 plays) currently stands at 83.3 percent.
“Right now I would say his head's spinning,” Self said. “I mean, it's spinning. It's going too fast for him. He shows flashes in practice of being terrific. And he is going to be terrific. He just hasn't been able to probably get the minutes nor the opportunities, nor is he quite confident enough for that to translate to the games yet.”
The man directly ahead of De Sousa on the Jayhawks’ depth chart, sophomore Lightfoot, trusts those hints at a more impactful freshman big man will turn into something more substantial for No. 7 KU (18-4 overall, 7-2 Big 12).
“He’s good. It’ll come to him. It’ll click. I remember first getting here. I thought everything was three times the speed. I was like, ‘Whoa. What the heck is going on?’” Lightfoot remembered of his first few weeks in the program. “It’ll come to him. He’s getting so much better each day in practice. And he wants to get better, so it’ll happen.”
While the process might be somewhat frustrating for De Sousa, Newman said the young backup has maintained high spirits.
“We know he’s got it,” Newman declared. “It’s just a matter of time of him getting comfortable in the system and just him translating from the high school to the college level, and just going out there and relaxing and playing.”
It’s possible Self could provide De Sousa with more game minutes to work through his miscues in the weeks ahead. The coach conceded Thursday he needs to keep the freshman in the game for longer stretches.
Self expressed that possible shift on Feb. 1, the date he for weeks has referenced as a mile marker for when he would have a better grasp of what this season’s roster could become.
But De Sousa has shown his coach just enough in practices to make Self delay his appraisal for the time being.
“I think we have a better idea of it. But we're still not a complete team until he starts giving us more,” Self said, “because he's very capable of being one of the better 6-7, 6-8 guys in our league.”
De Sousa’s next opportunity to prove himself worthy of more minutes comes Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse, when Kansas plays host to Oklahoma State (13-9, 3-6).
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