Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s 81-70, Big 12 title game victory over West Virginia on Saturday night at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.
Five guys in double figures. Big shots and timely moments. Spreading the wealth and going for the dagger late instead of trying to run clock. It wasn't a perfect night on the offensive end, but there's no doubt that the Jayhawks did and got what they wanted for much of the game. The Jayhawks shot 56 percent from the floor, 55 percent from 3-point range and managed to win despite shooting 50 percent from the free throw line in two fewer trips than the Mountaineers.
Daxter Miles Jr., scored 25 points but needed 20 shots to do it. Jevon Carter added 17 points but shot 5-of-12 to do it. And Silvio De Sousa's 10 rebounds, six from Malik Newman and five from Lagerald Vick all were huge parts of the defensive effort in this one. Kansas limited WVU to 40 percent shooting for the game, including 33 percent from 3-point range. There were some rough stretches, but they were few and far between and most of what West Virginia got on offense was a credit to them. The Jayhawks competed all night and were terrific when they had to be.
Udoka Azubuike sat in street clothes and Mitch Lightfoot delivered little. Luckily for the Jayhawks, Silvio De Sousa decided to have his best game of the year. In 26 minutes, the freshman tallied 16 points and 10 rebounds and provided more than enough for the Jayhawks inside.
Newman buried 6-of-8 3-pointers and Svi Mykhailiuk knocked in 4-of-8. Devonte' Graham chipped in three triples and added 18 points and 13 assists. And Lagerald Vick gave terrific effort for most of the game, making a couple of big shots, none more impressive than the baseline riser early in the second half that is basically indefensible. In short, KU got big time games from all five guards who played, including Marcus Garrett, who did not put up big numbers but was key against the WVU pressure.
Even though he started the second half, Silvio De Sousa is technically still a bench player. Good thing, too, because that keeps alive KU's stretch of A's from this game. As you know by now, De Sousa was sensational in this one, helping lead Kansas to the Big 12 title with equal parts grit and passion. If this really is just the beginning for the big fella, the next couple of weeks could get pretty interesting.
The ninth-ranked Kansas men's basketball team stormed into the Big 12 tournament title game on Friday night with an 83-67 victory over fourth-seeded Kansas State.
It marked the 10th time the Jayhawks and Wildcats have hooked up in the Big 12 tourney and the Jayhawks are now 10-0 in those games. It marked the third time the Jayhawks and Wildcats hooked up this season. And the Jayhawks are now 3-0 in those games.
Their reward? West Virginia at 5 p.m. Saturday night for the Big 12 title.
Check out the latest KU Sports Extra for more thoughts on KU's win over K-State and the upcoming showdown with West Virginia.
Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s 83-67 Big 12 semifinal victory over Kansas State on Friday at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.
Malik Newman caught fire for the second night in a row and he and Svi Mykhailiuk, combining for nine 3-pointers, both hit some incredibly well-timed shots. Outside of that, KU's offense was a little bit sloppy and lacked rhythm. Part of that could have been the fact that the Jayhawks' energy was not where it needed to be. The other factor might have been point guard Devonte' Graham dealing with some kind of mild illness. Either way, KU was good enough in this one but far from anything that would be considered great.
The Jayhawks were much better on the perimeter here than they were inside, where Makol Mawien went 13-of-19 for 29 points. And, like the rest of the game, KU slipped in and out of good moments and bad when it came to their defense. Kansas State shot just 2-of-13 from 3-point range and was merely average attacking the rim off the dribble.
The numbers for Mitch Lightfoot and Silvio De Sousa were good for the second game in a row. Sixteen points and 14 rebounds combined, certainly seem like good numbers in place of Udoka Azubuike. But it sure seemed like KU coach Bill Self was yelling at both players a lot more than he did on Thursday and Self, himself, said after the game that both players did some good things and also were awful at times. They'll have to be better on Saturday in the title game.
Newman's 22-point night puts him at 26 points per game in the tournament so far and makes him the front-runner for Big 12 tourney MVP if the Jayhawks can win on Saturday. Graham came through with eight assists and Mykhailiuk knocked down 50 percent of his 3-point attempts. All are things the Jayhawks need to get consistently from this point on. Getting Lagerald Vick going again would not hurt either. He finished with 10 points and four rebounds in 28 minutes but did not seem to be as engaged as the Jayhawks want/need him to be.
Marcus Garrett made the play of the night — a steal after his own miss that helped KU pull away for good — and De Sousa logged career-highs in minutes (19) and rebounds (11). The only other player who checked in off the bench during real game minutes was Sam Cunliffe and he went out almost as quickly as he came in after fouling on his first possession and throwing the ball away on his second.
The Kansas men's basketball team avenged a pair of regular season losses to Oklahoma State with an impressive 82-68 victory over the Cowboys in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals on Thursday at Sprint Center.
Playing without sophomore center Udoka Azubuike, KU outscored OSU by a point in the first half and by 13 in the second en route to the run-away victory.
Malik Newman poured in 30 points and Silvio De Sousa and Mitch Lightfoot combined for 14 points and 14 rebounds to make up for the absence of Azubuike.
Here are a few thoughts from Tom Keegan and Matt Tait from Sprint Center.
Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s 82-68 victory over Oklahoma State during Thursday’s Big 12 tournament quarterfinals at Sprint Center.
Malik Newman became the seventh KU player to score 30 points in a conference tournament game and missed out on tying Wayne Simien for KU’s record for most points in a single conference tournament game by a single point. Obviously, that stole the show in this one. But, as a team, KU was pretty darn good elsewhere offensively, too. The Jayhawks shot 56 percent from the floor, 40 percent from 3-point range and knocked in 10 of 14 free throws while dishing out 17 assists. It was exactly the kind of game Kansas needed following last weekend’s brutal loss at Oklahoma State.
There were good moments and bad on defense, but, overall, the Jayhawks competed their tails off and the numbers showed that. KU held Oklahoma State to 40 percent shooting, 22.7 from 3-point range, and limited them to just 10-of-32 shooting in the second half. That half included an OSU scoring drought that nearly lasted eight minutes and allowed Kansas to take control of the game.
Graded on a curve, considering the fact Udoka Azubuike was out with a knee injury, the Jayhawks’ big men were still pretty darn good. Fourteen points and 14 rebounds combined for Mitch Lightfoot and Silvio De Sousa was more than enough to make up for the absence of Azubuike. This would’ve been an A had it not been for the handful of bad fouls committed by both players. If they can clean up that part of their game, their confidence and production will only get better.
How about this for an oddity: Devonte’ Graham actually had one of the roughest days of the KU guards. Yes, Graham still had 10 points and nine assists, but he tossed in six turnovers to go along with that. Newman’s 30 points were magnificent and Svi Mykhailiuk added 13 on 50 percent shooting — not to mention grabbing six boards during an active rebounding day for the KU senior — and Lagerald Vick finally got going again in the second half with 11 points and four rebounds.
Marcus Garrett made his mark on the game by competing far harder than his final numbers showed and Silvio De Sousa did the same, albeit in slightly louder fashion. Add to that the essential minutes that football tight end James Sosinski played toward the end of the first half and, all in all, it was a darn good day for the Kansas bench.
After hitting rock bottom via a 1-of-8 free throw shooting performance that contributed heavily to a Kansas loss at Oklahoma on Jan. 23, KU sophomore Udoka Azubuike got serious about his free throw woes.
The 7-foot center from Nigeria reshaped his form, obsessed over his routine and spent extra hours — with teammates, coaches and alone — trying to improve his shot.
In the six games that followed that tough night at OU, Azubuike made 18 of his next 30 free throw attempts. Sure, the improvement from 37.5 percent through the season's first 20 games to 60 percent in that six-game stretch was modest. But that 22-percent jump was enough to keep Azubuike from being an automatic target for the Hack-a-Dok strategy employed by Oklahoma and brought him closer to a respectable number for a man his size.
Fast forwarded to the most recent four games and Azubuike has once again encountered a problem.
The KU starter who enters the postseason as a 41.6 percent free throw shooter has not made a free throw in four games, going 0-of-7 at the charity stripe in that time. Worse than that, the form he worked so hard to overhaul and improve has broken down and Azubuike has looked like a man with very little confidence at the line during those four games.
For what it's worth, Kansas went 3-1 in those four games. And Azubuike's free throw shooting had nothing to do with the lone loss. What's more, he did not even attempt a free throw in KU's victory over Texas Tech on Feb. 24 and made eight of 10 free throw attempts in the two games leading up to this latest slump. So perhaps not all hope is lost.
But there's no question that Azubuike is still a bit of a liability at the free throw line for this team and KU coach Bill Self on Monday said he hoped his big man would use the early part of this week working overtime on finding his groove again at the free throw line.
“We can talk all we want to,” Self said. “He's got to put in some reps, too. But, yeah, it should be a time where he can get a little bit more comfortable. So much of it is repetition.”
Self said the Jayhawks do shoot plenty of free throws in practices throughout the year. But he added that a player like Azubuike, who spends longer at the line before the shot than most players, needs to find more time to shoot on his own to make sure he's getting the necessary reps.
“His routine is so damned long,” Self said. “Have you guys noticed how long his routine is? So even in practice, if he's shooting for 30 minutes, you're going to shoot half as many as what everybody else shoots. So it takes a concerted effort to spend a lot of time on it because he can shoot 25 when everybody else shoots 50. If you say a kid shoots 100 free throws in a day after practice or before or during practice, you say he shot a lot. Well, he can't do that based on how long his routine is. There's nothing wrong with having a long routine, but he's got to really make a conscious effort to put in some time.”
While noting that Azubuike's long routine cut into Azubuike's free throw shooting with the team, Self said it was important that he keep it and find extra time to get shots up between classes, weight room sessions and treatment, because of one thing.
“That's all we talk about every day is his routine,” Self said. “He needs to do what's most comfortable to him. I mean, I'm fine with that, but he's just got to do the same thing every time. If he wants to shoot free throws differently or speed it up, it totally negates practice. I mean, why do something that you're not going to do in a game. So you've got to do it the same way every time, and so it takes some time on his part to be able to put that much time in on it.”
Despite this latest mini-slump, Self remains confident that Azubuike will figure it out and help the team immensely this postseason, be it in the post, as a rim protector or even at the free throw line.
“He's tried hard and everything,” Self said. “And he was actually getting better, and I thought the second one he shot at Oklahoma State was really soft and just in and out, but I believe he'll make them, and he's trying, but he's got to stay focused on what his routine is and do it repeatedly for hundreds and hundreds of times as opposed to 50 here, 50 there. I mean, that's not going to get it.”
Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s 82-64 setback at Oklahoma State in the regular season finale at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
KU's percentages aren't terrible — 42 percent overall, 35 percent from 3-point range — but their offense was. They looked out of sync for much of the game, could not run simple sets, at times running into each other, and never got the ball down to Udoka Azubuike with any kind of poise or consistency. Beyond that, the Jayhawks had just one player reach double figures (Devonte' Graham had 15) and scored just 64 points.
For the second time this season, Oklahoma State's offense lit up the Kansas defense, knocking in 50 percent of its shots and 42 percent of its 3-pointers while also getting to the free throw line 23 times. Kendall Smith scored 25 points and at times looked unstoppable and the OSU offense ran with good rhythm for much of the afternoon.
Give freshman forward Silvio De Sousa credit for pulling this grade into the C range because regulars Udoka Azubuike and Mitch Lightfoot played a sluggish game from start to finish and could neither help pull KU's guards out of the funk they were in offensively nor stop the Cowboys at the rim defensively. De Sousa, meanwhile, whom Self said was KU's best big man on Saturday — before admitting that that wasn't saying much — finished with seven points and three rebounds in 13 minutes.
Devonte' Graham, with a small assist from Marcus Garrett, was almost all alone in this one, with Svi Mykhailiuk having a hard time getting going and Malik Newman and Lagerald Vick playing two of their worst games of the season in terms of energy, focus and effort. Graham did what he could, nearly reaching his season averages in both points (15) and assists (8) but shot just 4-of-14 overall and turned it over three times.
De Sousa was solid and Garrett, as per usual, was better than his numbers suggest. He finished with seven points and five rebounds in 28 minutes, but played tough defense and had good energy, which was what led him to the big minutes, spelling Newman and Vick, who were yo-yo'd in and out of the game throughout the afternoon because of Self's displeasure with their effort. Sam Cunliffe played three minutes, mostly in mop-up time and Lightfoot tallied five points and three rebounds in seven minutes.
Whenever people think about former Kansas assistant coaches who have moved on to become head coaches, they generally look at coaches at the Division I level.
Joe Dooley at Florida Gulf Coast. Danny Manning at Wake Forest. Tim Jankovich at SMU. Barry Hinson at Southern Illinois.
And those are just the Bill Self guys.
KU fans certainly still pull for Roy Williams disciples like Jerod Haase at Stanford and even C.B. McGrath at UNC Wilmington.
All of those guys, and others, have had their share of successes since starting out on their own and putting down the foundations of their programs.
But there are a couple of awfully talented head coaches a level down that also are tearing it up and making quite a name for themselves.
One is former Williams player and Self director of operations Brett Ballard, who, in his first year leading the Washburn Ichabods in Topeka, guided his squad to a third-place finish in the MIAA with a 21-8 overall record and a 14-5 conference record, two games behind defending Div. II national champion Northwest Missouri.
Ballard's squad, seeded third, won its quarterfinal conference tournament game on Friday in Kansas City, Mo., and will play again at 6 p.m. on Saturday against No. 7 seed Fort Hays State, which pulled off an upset in its quarterfinal game.
The victim? Second-seeded Missouri Southern State, which is led by former Jayhawk Jeff Boschee, who, just a couple of days earlier, was named the MIAA Coach of the Year.
Boschee led Lions to a 20-win season for the second time in his four-year career with the program. Missouri Southern State was picked to finish sixth in the preseason coaches poll and the Lions finished the season second overall and had two wins against Northwest Missouri. The Lions also snapped the Bearcats' 49-game home winning streak in the process and over the past two seasons, Boschee's squad has delivered three of Northwest's four losses.
Boschee coached the Lions to a No. 6 ranking in the NCAA Division II Central Region poll and the Lions made their 20th-straight appearance in the MIAA Tournament.
Those two guys and all of the others mentioned above certainly have used their Kansas roots to aid their coaching careers. And Self said watching them all have great success has been incredibly rewarding.
"Barry finished second in the (Missouri) Valley," Self began. "Joe is in the semifinals of the Atlantic Sun and they're hosting, so he's got a great chance. Jank's had the worst luck of anybody in the country. There's not a team more beat up than what SMU has been this year he's had. And Danny is going to have to obviously play well in the ACC Tournament, but they're so young. ... Basketball is such a fine line because one guy makes such a big difference. But our guys have done fine."