Recap: KU's second-half defense made comeback nearly impossible against Davidson


Note: Here is a listing of definitions for some terms used in this blog. Also, feel free to ask questions in the comments section below if something doesn't make sense.

For one half in Monday's 80-74 loss to Davidson, Kansas was on pace for its best defensive turnover percentage game since the opener against Towson.

The Wildcats turned it over 12 times before halftime, with the Jayhawks picking up nine steals — which was already the third-most in any game for KU this season.

Kansas guard Travis Releford scrambles for a loose ball in the first half against Davidson on Monday, Dec. 19, 2011 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas guard Travis Releford scrambles for a loose ball in the first half against Davidson on Monday, Dec. 19, 2011 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Kevin Anderson

The biggest reason for Davidson's win was a total reversal of this statistic in the second half.

The Wildcats, somehow, managed to play the entire second half without turning it over once — any extremely rare feat.

Here's the breakdown by half:

First half — 39 possessions, 12 turnovers, 30.8 percent turnover percentage.
Second half — 35 possessions, 0 turnovers, 0 percent turnover percentage.

KU did seem like it was in chase mode defensively after halftime against Davidson's motion offense, but it's still hard to believe the Jayhawks were unable to force one turnover in 35 possessions.

How does no turning the ball over once affect a team's offense? Here's a look at Davidson's by half numbers:

First half — 33 points, 39 possessions= 0.85 points per possession
Second half — 47 points, 35 possessions= 1.34* points per possession

* — To put 1.34 PPP in perspective, the NCAA leader last year in PPP was Ohio State at 1.20 PPP.

Interestingly, Davidson didn't shoot it particularly well from the floor in the second half. The Wildcats made 12 of 31 field goals (39 percent) and 5 of 17 threes (29 percent).

The thing is, you don't have to shoot it particularly well if you don't turn the ball over once (though it helps to be a great free throw shooting team and make 18 of 21 free throws).

KU's offense had virtually no chance at catching up in the second half because of Davidson's offensive efficiency.

After being disruptive defensively in the first half, the Jayhawks did nothing to bother the Wildcats' offense after halftime.

M.O.J. (Most Outstanding Jayhawk)

A poor outside shooting night from KU might have hidden the fact that Elijah Johnson had a nice night offensively.

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson dunks on Davidson in the first half Monday, Dec. 19, 2011 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson dunks on Davidson in the first half Monday, Dec. 19, 2011 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Kevin Anderson

The junior guard posted 1.31 points per possession used while ending 17.4 percent of KU's possessions while he was in.

Johnson made 3 of 10 three-pointers, but also knocked in all three of his two-pointers with six assists and just one turnover in 34 minutes. His effective field goal percentage of 57.6 percent was his third-best mark of the season and also KU's third-best Monday night.

On a tough night offensively for KU, Johnson was the only KU starter who was able to remain efficient with a decent usage percentage and a high number of minutes.

Room for Improvement

As mentioned above, it wasn't KU's turnovers on offense, but instead, the lack of turnovers the Jayhawks created defensively.

Kansas head coach Bill Self talks with the team during a timeout in the second half Monday, Dec. 19, 2011 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas head coach Bill Self talks with the team during a timeout in the second half Monday, Dec. 19, 2011 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Kevin Anderson

Davidson ended up turning it over on just 16.2 percent of its possessions, which was the second-lowest mark against KU this season.

KU also had its worst shooting game from the free throw line. The Jayhawks made just 18 of 31 shots there for 58 percent; their worst free throw shooting game before Monday was a 64-percent outing against Georgetown.

Tough-Luck Line

Kudos to Tyshawn Taylor for playing 33 minutes just eight days after knee surgery, but if we're just looking at stats, he gets this game's "Tough-Luck Line."

Kansas center Jeff Withey helps up teammate Tyshawn Taylor after Taylor was fouled in second half against Davidson on Monday, Dec. 19, 2011 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas center Jeff Withey helps up teammate Tyshawn Taylor after Taylor was fouled in second half against Davidson on Monday, Dec. 19, 2011 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Kevin Anderson

The senior guard posted just 0.88 points per possession used while ending a whopping 31.1 percent of KU's possessions while he was in.

Though Taylor notched 42.1 percent of KU's available assists while he was in, he also spent 26.3 percent of his used possessions on turnovers. He also made just 4 of 11 shots and was 1-for-5 from the three-point line.

Taylor has been in quite the offensive funk as of late, as can be seen in the graph at the link below.

After notching better than 1.26 points per possession used in his first three games against Towson, Kentucky and Georgetown, Taylor has been under 0.93 points per possession used in four of his last six games*.

* — KU's team PPP this year is 1.08 to give you a baseline.

Bottom Line

KU had little chance to come back in the second half because of an inability to force turnovers.

Still, part of the reason the Jayhawks were in the hole to begin with was because of a horrible shooting night.

Thomas Robinson pulls up for a jumper against Davidson in the second half Monday, Dec. 19, 2011 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Thomas Robinson pulls up for a jumper against Davidson in the second half Monday, Dec. 19, 2011 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Kevin Anderson

KU's effective field goal percentage of 45.2 percent was its third-lowest this year. I bet you can guess the other two games that were lower: Kentucky (37.3 percent, loss) and Duke (44.9 percent, loss).

It's going to be very difficult to win any game shooting like that. Last year, KU went 2-2 in games where it shot worse than a 45.2 eFG%. One of the wins (at Michigan) was in overtime, while the other (vs. Oklahoma State in Sprint Center) was by a single point.

KU finished at 1.0 PPP, its worst mark since the Duke loss.

Meanwhile, Davidson's 1.08 PPP were the most against the Jayhawks this season.

Credit that number to Davidson's incredible turnover turnaround in the second half.


Clarence Haynes 10 years, 9 months ago

I am thinking that this game was an aberration. Let's see if the 'Hawks respond and play more collectively against Southern Cal!

Mike Kendall 10 years, 9 months ago

Davidson is an honorable opponent. Nothing wrong with losing to this type of team and getting some mistakes corrected before the Conference season and the Big Dance Tourney. The coach for Davidson is a good one and knows his stuff. The Jayhawks depth was exposed big time in this game. It might be an on going problem throughout the season. Time will tell. The thing is the Jayhawks need to improve on a lot of things, including free throw shooting. Davidson is one of those teams (you can't really call them mid-majors anymore), that could cause some headaches for storied programs in the Big Dance. Creighton, Wichita State, Gonzaga, and others, come to mind, too. One has to be ready to play on any given night or day. There are really good teams out there now. Head coach Bill Self said this, but there is hardly any room for error when this team steps on the floor and plays another good program. Hope the Hawks learn from this loss. rcjhgoku!

Kevin Crook 10 years, 9 months ago

It's killing us that we have no depth yet at PG. Tyshon is wearing down in these games. He will be DONE by the middle of February, like Sherron Collins was a couple of years ago, if we don't get him some help. It wears a player out being asked to play that many minutes, with his hands on the ball so much, playing tough defense. His bad plays come mostly when he gets tired. We need Tharpe to step up, or anyone else, maybe let The Prophet handle the ball more in spots. We also need someone to be more consistently better at scoring to open it up for TRob. We looked tired and unfocused last night. Too many times we left shooters open in transition or gave up post positions too easily. We look like a 10-12 loss team.

jaybate 10 years, 9 months ago

Yes, exactly. This was a mid major. This was pre conference. If Self is not going to amp up his teams for a mid major in the Madness, he sure as heck was not going to amp them up for one in December.

We got caught flat on an off shooting night.

We got beat.

End of discussion.


CardHawkFan 10 years, 9 months ago

Here is a stat that I would like to know and it is based upon our style of defense. I typically never question HCBS and won't necessarily here, but Jesse or anyone for that matter, I would like to know what the percentage of three pointers surrendered per game is for a team that hedges on ball screens (like KU) versus a team that switches on ball screens. It seems as though every time the Jayhawks lose to an "underdog," it is because we give up a considerable amount of offense from beyond the arc (Davidson, VCU, Northern Iowa, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech a few years ago) maybe it is just lack of effort not fighting through or under screens...I don't know. I understand that you don't want the switch and end up a with a mismatch, but two points is less than three, obviously. Any thoughts?

Dyrk Dugan 10 years, 9 months ago

our "hedges' defense doesn't have anything to do with it. the dude's last three pointer was 5 foot behind the line with TRob right there. there was one three pointer where the guy ran to the corner on a secondary break and NOBODY covered him. that doesn't have anything to do with how we defend ball screens.

most of the time, it's our non sticking to the scouting report...that gets us in trouble. in other words, we double down on a guy that we should leave with the solo defender...and we leave the shooter open.

they were 11-33 from three....5-17 in the 2nd half. i'll take both percentages any day....we just didn't make enough shots on our side...and the rebounding battle should not have been close...and like this article said, we couldn't turn 'em over.

i don't see how we, as a fan base, can question the defensive coaching ability of a coach with great historical stats on defense, seven straight league titles and a national championship. we lose one ball game, and now the specific defense of how we defend ball screens is under scrutiny? give me a break....

Michael Luby 10 years, 9 months ago

+1 I know, I know. Its rediculous. Im no scholar of basketball but I dont think we should be bashing Coach Self for this loss. That three pointer you mentioned where the guy ran into the left corner and drained that 3. Nobody was even close because they were all bunched up at the top of the key. Thats not a coaching error, thats a brainless player error. Ive said it once, I'll say it again. We are not a good team this year but we will be again. Every single one of the top 5 college teams has had down years. KU is no exception.

Robert Brock 10 years, 9 months ago

KU did not look mentally ready to play. Since the Hawks are a top-flight program, I am curious as to why they were so un-prepared.

VaJay 10 years, 9 months ago

The other thing was Davidson was very good at setting "moving" screens just inside the 3 pt line. Now the refs should've called them, but if the Jayhawk defenders would've flopped a little on those instead of trying to fight around the moving screens, the calls could have been more obvious and several 3 pointers would have been erased.

jaybate 10 years, 9 months ago

Excellent point.

Anytime a coach can figure out an unfair advantage, something the refs aren't going to call, it is a huge advantage.

jaybate 10 years, 9 months ago


First, I'm always grateful to you for looking at the numbers.

It always makes me think and i don't want you to think I am always being a critical old turd.

But I want to discuss your focus on the second half stats.

Stats for a half are stats for a half, not for a game.

Wins and losses are a product of two halves, not one.

Its just a fact, not an insight. :-)

This people forget sometimes in parsing data about individual basketball games.

You don't lose a game in a half. You don't win a game in a half. What you did over 40 minutes is the only stat that is decisive in a W, or an L.

When you shoot 50 percent from trey the first half there is a significant chance you will shoot 30% the second half if you are a 40% trey shooting team. There are central tendencies that events gravitate around when humans are involved and the issue is a matter of skill. And there is such a thing as runs analysis. Human beings are not coin flips in a random universe. They have tendencies.

So: shooting 30% the second half does not lose you a game, or win you the game, after shooting 50% the first half. Shooting 40% is the decisive number. It is the number tied to the Win, or the Loss.

Over 40 minutes, KU's stats were mostly very close to Davidson's and these are reliable indicators of why the game was so close.

KU's defense was close to good enough to win the game, when both halves were combined, even on a bad shooting night and that shows that KU has quite a bit more talent than Davidson. It was able to play Davidson a close game on a poor shooting night.

Just look at the stats for strips and TOs and rebounds for both halves. Very, very close.

KU's problem was that for two halves it shot 26% from trey and 58% from the FT stripe and Davidson shot significantly better.

Even McKillops, who was trying to auto stroke himself about the win had to resort to the vagary of well, we got out there and made their outside shooters move their feet.

Yeah, sure, Bob. And maybe you guys were casting some spells too. :-)

KU's stteaky shooters were just on a cold streak. Period.

jaybate 10 years, 9 months ago

McKillops is full of shizz and he knows it and you know it and I know it. He's just trying to give his boys a mental boost by making them think they caused the bad trey shooting. Well, how did they get KU to mover their feet on the FT stripe, eh, Bob? :-)

These two stats--trey shooting percentage and FT percentage--not Davidson's defense--are the only reason KU lost the game.

KU did not have enough talent to turn it into a grind it out from inside contest of 2 point shooting efficiency the way it has had last year with the Twins.

Self had to keep 'em pulling the trigger, because McKillops had decided to double down on either big, when the ball went inside.

McKillops said so.

His thinking was that KU could beat them inside even on a bad night of outside shooting with TRob, if they didn't double down. He knew it meant leaving the trey stripe exposed. McKillops had watched tape of us. He knew our trey shooters--EJ and Conner--were streaky type trey shooters. He knew Tyshawn wouldn't be able to make treys on a knee a week out of surgery. McKillops gambled that KU's streaky trey shooters might go cold long enough to ice a close win. He gambled right.

Always resist the temptation to analyze a win or a loss in terms of half the data. The rule in statistical analysis is to be data inclusive regarding the event being studied. Its the only way to avoid fooling yourself.

Its okay to study second half data if what you want to argue is KU's defense wasn't very effective the second half. That is valid. But you cannot validly generalize from one half not being very effective defensively is what killed KU. It doesn't follow logically.

Frankly, I don't recommend most none QA types get in what I am about to say, but most games are sensitively dependent on initial conditions, because of the phenomenon of emergent complexity. Errors the first five minutes of a game tend to have a vastly greater effect on outcome than those in the second half, because the early errors then have a much longer time for compounding effect. By the time the second half is played out, early errors have massively biased the outcome. But this gets way deeper into QA and game theory dynamics than is appropriate here.

Suffice it to say: had KU shot near their average, it was an easy W for KU.

Had they played their best, it would have been a blow out, just as Duke blew Davidson out when Duke played one of its better games and shot well.

And when Davidson shoots poorly, they can be beaten by minor majors.

As Kevin Costner said in The Untouchables, "Many things are half the battle, gentlemen. We are interested in the whole battle."

And so it is with statistical analysis.

There are a lot of things I don't know spit about.

But stats?

Well, let's just say I've had to think about them a little over the years. :-)

VaJay 10 years, 9 months ago

Part of the reason for our poor shooting was the Davidson defense, which was pretty good, and the ball sticking to the players' hands too long - so we couldn't make them pay for an over aggressive defense. It's tough to figure out which of those two things had the most impact. Another small factor is Teahan who doesn't appear to have ice in his veins - hopefully that will change as he gets more looks late in games.

jaybate 10 years, 9 months ago

What caused KU's poor shooting?

You say Davidson defense.

It certainly did not help. :-)

But KU has shot well against some other defenses as good, or better.

How can this be? :-)

And KU shot poorly at the FT line.

Davidson's defense again? :-)

Two things appear to drive team shooting percentage in a game.

  1. Shooting to one's central tendency given one's skill.

  2. Fatigue.

You can't be a better shooter than you are.

You can't shoot to your skill level if your legs are gone.

So we have oscillations around central tendencies being biased by leg fatigue.

Remember I am speaking about team shooting percentage, not individual. Individual shooting for a game is often biased by a specific match up problem. Rarely a team creates match up problems across the board. UK did for KU. Davidson did not.

So we are left with leg fatigue vs. Davidson.

We suspect this because KU shot below par at the FT stripe.

So what causes fatigue?

Certainly an opponent's sticky defense is part of it.

But an opponent's motion offense helps alot too.

And if your coach is unwilling to let you switch, motions motion offense is even more taxing.

Injuries cause early fatigue too in two ways. An injured player gets tired faster. An injured player requires more help, so teammates wear tire faster. Tyshawn played 33 minutes on a gimp knee a week after surgery.

Heavy practice before hand can trigger early fatigue. Self views this time of year as a heavy practice time when facing mid majors and cupcakes.

Conclusion: KU was shooting back to its average and it was compounded by fatigue.

HawksWin 10 years, 9 months ago

Jaybate, Great analytics! Indeed, we have to look at the whole data vs half to get a true picture. I agree, our boys had off night in shooting. And I sincerely hope McKillops isn't getting a big head out of this win - for his own good. As always, I enjoy reading your comments. Merry Christmas!

John Randall 10 years, 9 months ago

If we face Davidson again in March, I'll be sure to have an extra package of Depends on hand. Come to think of it, it won't have to be Davidson.

In the conference tourney and in the NCAA tourney, every game Kansas plays is against an opponent coming off a win - usually a big win for them.* Those teams are feeling good about themselves and any lapses early in the games will make it harder to break their confidence – sometimes too much harder.
When the score is close late, the better team will be at a psychological disadvantage because they know they should have settled things already, and the underdog will smell the insecurity.

I'm just so grateful these factors never affect our Jayhawks.

  • Conf — KU always has a bye, then plays winner of some 5-12 game. This year it will be some 7-10 game.
  • NCAA — first round, opponent won tourney from a one-bid conference, after that every game is between two winners because all the losers were sent home. When KU is seeded below #4, there is a slight chance of playing another multi-bid conference's also ran or a mid-major tourney runner up.

Tony Bandle 10 years, 9 months ago

Frankly, the biggest item that seems to be overlooked is Withey's ineffectiveness against a motion offense, thus negating his obvious interior superiority thus forcing HCBS to substitute more mobile alternatives.

Without Jeff in there, TRob was doubled and forced to work extra hard to get his points.

Still, the bottom line was we shot the ball poorly.

My concern is, was this game an aberation or was this game the beginning of a long term trend. As I've stated several times, the loss of BenMac and his outside shooting ability is going to really sting as this season progresses.

The good news, we are going to be totally loaded for at the next two seasons after this one.

Don Perry 10 years, 9 months ago

The offense was stagnant. When Robinson was doubled, there were no dive cuts from the top of the key, no off the ball weakside cuts, and no movement to create a spot up opportunity by Tehan or EJ.

I thought defense was spotty at best. Everyone knows Davidson is a three point shooting team. To defeat that you fight over the top of the screen along with the hedging by the screener's defensive man. Only EJ worked through those situations. Tyshawn continually went under the screen as did Releford and Tehan. To be honest, if Tehan is not making threes, he is nothing but a liability with no ball handling, rebounding or defensive skills.

This team has to work harder to get wins because of the fact there is less talent than previous teams. That's not to say this can't be a good team. They just have to learn the name on the front of the jersey doesn't mean you win. You win by outworking the other team's players and focusing on details - see the game against Ohio State.

John Randall 10 years, 9 months ago

I did see the game against Ohio State.

All game long I had the feeling Motta was almost willing to lose – either to motivate Sullinger to put his discomfort aside or to lessen the pressure of undefeated record and inflated ranking. Boeheim is a past master of this tactic, Izzo as well, and I don't mean to cast any aspersion Motta's way – it certainly won't hurt the Buckeyes the rest of the season.

On the other hand, I felt Bill Self was pushing every button he could find to pull out the win – both to even up the record against higher-ranked teams and to preserve some "Fear the Phog" mystique for the conference season.

Then along came Monday night and the best laid plans went to hell in a handbasket. Not only losing, but playing desperation ball and confirming how little margin for error and how totally the reserves are distrusted even after Young's showing the week before.

I don't see this team 'on the bubble' for the big dance, but the many posts I have read about '8 or 10' losses this year are beginning to seem pretty optimistic. Any talk about another conference title just reeks of entitlement – the tourney title might be a possibility, if we get four guys in double digits and/or someone goes off in each of the three games in KC.

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