Sunday, December 23, 2018

Inability to hit from outside as much to blame as anything for KU’s first loss of 2018-19 season

Kansas guard Quentin Grimes (5) shoots over Arizona State guard Rob Edwards during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Kansas guard Quentin Grimes (5) shoots over Arizona State guard Rob Edwards during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)


Despite 30 points and 14 rebounds from junior forward Dedric Lawson, the top-ranked Kansas men’s basketball team dropped its first game of the season on Saturday night in the desert, 80-76 to No. 18 Arizona State.

After the loss, Lawson and freshman point guard Devon Dotson pointed to the team’s mistakes down the stretch and inability to close out a game which it led for more than 37 minutes as the biggest reasons why things went south at the end for the 10-1 Jayhawks.

And while Kansas coach Bill Self wholeheartedly agreed with both of those issues, the KU coach, as he usually does, also offered an alternative look at what cost Kansas.

“We didn’t make shots and we forgot who our best player was for a key stretch,” Self said.

That player, of course, was Lawson, who, at times, looked unstoppable, getting deep post position, working for easy buckets and shooting soft jump hooks over the Arizona State defense to carry Kansas.

Few plays this entire season, if any, have looked as smooth as his driving layup out of a spin move in transition that put the Jayhawks up 34-24 late in the first half.

But in the second half, the Sun Devils made it clear that they were not going to sit back and let Lawson alone beat them. And the Jayhawks aided their cause by shooting too many quick-trigger 3-pointers instead of giving their versatile power forward a chance to make something happen.

“He needed to be great if you don’t make shots,” Self explained after the loss. “And 7 of 28 from 3 is awful. The thing about it is, when you go 7 of 28, the thing that tells me is why’d we shoot 28? I mean, geez. Throw it to (Lawson) and just exercise enough patience to make sure he gets a chance to score. And we didn’t do that.”

For three consecutive seasons, the Jayhawks have set school records for 3-pointers made in a single season, knocking in 304 during the 2015-16 season, 318 the season after that and a whopping 391 last season in an average of 38 games per season.

Those marks were good for an average of nearly nine 3-point makes a game and the Jayhawks were able to consistently carry that kind of firepower throughout each of those seasons.

So far this season, a much different looking Kansas team has made 78 of 217 triples, good for 36 percent.

Projecting that pace out over 38 games puts the Jayhawks on track to make 267 3-pointer this season, their lowest total since the 2014-15 season, when they made 213 and Devonte’ Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk combined to make just 32 in limited minutes.

Even that, however, is not a given when you consider that Kansas, in its first 11 games of 2018-19, already has made fewer than seven 3-pointers four times, a reality that, if it continues, would knock that pace well below 267 by season’s end.

KU freshman Devon Dotson made 2 of 4 3-point attempts against the Sun Devils, marking just the sixth and seventh 3-point makes by Dotson and Quentin Grimes (0-for-5 vs. ASU) in the past eight games.

Grimes enters winter break shooting 11 of 38 (28.9 percent) from 3-point range — 5 for 28 (17.9 percent) since the opener — and Dotson has made just 9 of 21 through 11 games, even with Saturday's 2-for-4 effort.

Until Saturday, even off-shooting nights from those two and others had not cost Kansas, which, be it through defense, transition offense or clutch play late in games, had been able to avoid disaster against the nation’s sixth toughest schedule.

"We had some individuals that aren't making shots and still kept shooting," Self said Saturday. "It's good to have confidence and to keep firing, but not at game point."

That might have been the most frustrating part of Saturday’s loss for the Jayhawks, who struggled to accept their inability to close after playing a spectacular first half and leading by eight at the break.

“We played beautiful basketball early in the game,” Self said.

ASU shot 29 percent in the first 20 minutes and 53 percent in the second half. And even that might not have mattered had KU played with more poise in getting the ball to Lawson when it mattered most.

“The second half, I thought they did a much better job of getting to our shooters and we didn’t really do much from beyond the arc,” Self said. “And when you don’t do that then you’ve got to get the ball to Dedric and have him get touches. … Hopefully we’ll learn from it. We didn’t close the game right at all, so hopefully we can learn from that and get better from that.”

That was the plan and few players articulated it as well as Lawson, who said the loss was “very tough” and added that he would prefer to see the Jayhawks have better balance offensively to keep teams on their heels.

“Yeah, yeah definitely,” Lawson said. “You always need guys to step up and things of that nature. It’s something we’ve got to learn from. It’s behind us and now we’ve just got to keep moving forward.”


David Robinett 3 years, 11 months ago

Marcus, stop already.

Q, shoot with confidence!

Charlie, look for you teammates rather than your own shot all the time.

Everybody, stop the stupid 3 in the eye hand signal - you don’t shoot that well.

Michael Sillman 3 years, 11 months ago

As we all know, Self’s four guard offense does not work when three of the guards can’t shoot from outside. I know that Self won’t sacrifice wins to develop players. But unless the guards start hitting 3’s he might regret not getting McCormack more playing time to develop an alternative two bigs option for games when Azubuike is unavailable due to fouls or injury.

Craig Carson 3 years, 11 months ago

i think Grimes, Dotson and Moore can make enough 3's to make teams have to play KU honest, but they wont be as effective as Svi/Newan/Graham....Vick is playing better than anyone thought he would..Grimes still looks lost..this team will continue to play in close game after close game until one of the starting guards decides to score on a consistent felt like if Lawson could have gotten just one guard ot knock in some late 3's KU would have hung on the the W.....

Dane Pratt 3 years, 11 months ago

Seven for 28 does beg the question, why are we shooting so much. Quentin was 0 for 5 and Lagerald was 3 for 11. At some point you have to realize they are not falling and cut your losses. And when the shots are not falling, defense and protecting the ball might be what you have to rely on. Defense could have been better and they did not protect the ball. Three TO’s in last three minutes.

Barry Weiss 3 years, 11 months ago

only having 3 scorers on the floor (Dedric, Vick and Dotson) is catching up to us. We need Dok back now so that we can rotate the 5th spot between Grimes, Garret and More.

James Donnell 3 years, 11 months ago

Yeah, having three scorers is not going to cut it. Dork will help, but we need backcourt scoring so the defenses don’t just collapse on the post. Someone has to help Vick. It hasn’t been Grimes, and we are wondering at this point if he is the answer. It certainly isn’t Garrett. The guy doesn’t have a shot (a surprise to see him hit those FT’s). He should just not shoot, period, regardless of being wide open. Moore may help, if he learns when to take the shot (and not hurry it). In the meantime, maybe the answer is Dotson. He is shooting pretty well from 3 and probably needs to shoot more.

Marcus Balzer 3 years, 11 months ago

Remember when Self said the 3 ball was ‘fools gold.’

Lawrence McGlinn 3 years, 11 months ago

I know a lot of people who comment here like the pound-it-inside, big-man game, but we are starting to see some of the contrasts with last year's "overachieving" final four team. They hit the three at a clip of 10 for 25 per game average, and it was actually better than that at the end of the year. That is how the game is going. Even an overpowering performance like Lawson's against ASU went for naught because of weak outside shooting. I don't think we need to drive it more, except to set up the three, and if we are going to lean solely on an inside game we will likely lose to teams that hit the three. I know ASU did not shoot it that well, and the reffing was incompetent, but if we can't find some shooters we will lose well before the final four in the tournament to a hot-three-shooting team.

Kenneth Johnson 3 years, 11 months ago

Quite frankly, the Jayhawks simply have not looked very good this year. Even though they have been winning, their play has been erratic and the wins have been very close. Grimes has been the biggest disappointment. About everyone expected him to be a star, based on his play during the Summer -- but so far a dud. LaGerald has been either very hot or very cold. Dok has been prone to fouling and still hasn't been able to make free throws. In fact, other than Dedric Lawson and Mitch Lightfoot, they all have been somewhat disappointing.

But I expect that all will come around by Conference time as there is a lot of talent.

Now to the ASU game. It was good to see them come out to play well in the the first half, which they haven't done all season so far. But, they simply just got shafted by the refs in the last 3 or 4 minutes. You have to hand it to ASU though, as they were taking full advantage of all the breaks given to them by the refs.

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