Testing Bill Self's theory: How was KU's late-clock defense against Texas A&M?
Kansas coach Bill Self had some interesting comments about his team's defense following the Jayhawks' 64-54 victory over Texas A&M on Monday.
The coach was most upset with his team's late-clock defense against the Aggies. Here's his quote:
"I think if you were to go back and look at us statistically — which I don't have any way to do this, but we probably need to start charting this — I would say the percentage of people scoring against us is far higher in the last seven to eight seconds of a possession than it is in the first 27. We don't finish possessions. How many times tonight did they score under five on the shot clock, or we foul? That's the thing that's so frustrating, because we're not finishing possessions, and that's something that we really emphasize."
So how poor was KU's late-clock defense against Texas A&M?
Let's take a look.
After going back to the tape, here is a graph showing each Texas A&M field goal, along with how much time was left on the shot clock. Please note I did not include Dash Harris' shot right before the halftime buzzer, as the shot clock was turned off.
As you can see, KU's late-clock defense doesn't appear to be as bad as Self remembered.
A&M scored only twice with less than 8 seconds left on the shot clock. That's only 10 percent of its field goals (two out of 20), which is much lower than Self's original prediction.
If you calculate it, the Aggies' average field goal came with 22.7 seconds left on the shot clock (among those 19 shots when the shot clock was on). That appears to be relatively early, especially considering A&M plays at a slow pace.
Here are the three times when KU was scored upon with less than 10 seconds on the shot clock.
With 12:20 left in the first half, KU center Jeff Withey switches on a ball screen, then doesn't get out far enough to contest Elston Turner's three-pointer.
On A&M's next possession (and perhaps this is why it stuck in Self's mind), A&M's Dash Harris gets by Elijah Johnson off the dribble, which forces help from Withey. Harris sees the help coming and dishes to Keith Davis, who puts in an easy layup.
Then, with 16:52 left in the second half, Withey helps with a ball screen, then trips and falls down in traffic. Elston Turner realizes this and is able to find David Loubeau for a wide-open layup.
To be fair, Self also said that KU fouling at the end of the shot clock should be considered as poor late-clock defense as well.
"I think it's breakdowns," Self said, explaining why his team was struggling late in possessions. "Travis (Releford) fouled twice because he reached. Or guys forget we're switching or trapping or whatever it could be. Then the other thing is, offensive teams are always most aggressive in the last five or six seconds of the shot clock because they've got to get a shot. So I think it's just a combination of things."
Going back to the tape, there were two instances of KU fouling with less than 10 seconds on the shot clock.
With 15:15 left in the first half, Tyshawn Taylor is whistled for an apparent blocking call ...
and with 17:40 left in the second half, Releford is called for a reach when he had help from Thomas Robinson behind him.
Taking the whole game into account, it doesn't appear that KU's late-clock defense is as much of an issue as perhaps the eye test told Self it was.
That doesn't mean the Jayhawks can't (and won't try to) improve in that area before their next game against Iowa State.
Postscript: A few commenters said they would like to see a graph that included KU's fouls and also the times when A&M scored points off an offensive rebound.
After going back to the tape, here's a graph that includes those two elements.
This seems to only support the statement above: KU's late-clock defense — at least against Texas A&M — did not hurt the Jayhawks as much as it might have originally appeared.