The Day After: A three-point takedown at Texas Tech
Judging by the response on Twitter, our live game blog and the comments section below the stories from last night's 73-51 victory over Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas, we may have entered the point in the season where three-point lovers have separated themselves from three-point likers.
Tuesday night in its trouncing of Texas Tech, the Kansas University men's basketball team, once again, was red hot from three-point land, finishing with 11 makes in 20 attempts, including 6 of 7 in the second half.
The Jayhawks made 10 of 20 in Saturday's loss to Oklahoma State and, for the season, now have made eight or more threes in a game 11 times in 24 tries and are shooting .409 from three-point range as a team. In case you're unaware, that's damn good.
The question that has popped up — and in some ways divided the KU fan base — is should KU shoot more three-pointers because the team has proven to be so effective from behind the arc? KU coach Bill Self doesn't think so, calling such a high percentage from three-point land “fool's gold.”
I happen to agree with Self and think it's risky business to become so reliant on the three-point shot, regardless of a team's percentage from deep or the fact that three is worth more than two.
Either way you slice it, this team appears, at least for now, to be most comfortable hanging out behind the line and firing away. Because the Jayhawks don't have a dominant (or even reliable) low post presence, this, to many, seems to be the best way for KU to run offense. But as Self pointed out in his postgame comments, there are plenty of ways to score outside of the post and inside of the three-point line. Transition buckets, 15-footers, drives to the basket that produce layups, dunks or free throws. All are viable options that well-rounded offensive teams routinely employ. This team has not consistently shown it understands that and until it does, it looks like it'll be a live-by-the-three-die-by-the-three scenario for the Jayhawks.
Time will tell how that works out, but at 20-4 on the season and 9-2 in Big 12 play, it's hard to argue too strongly against it, regardless of your basketball philosophies.
Cliff Alexander made just his second start of the season in this one and he looked much better against the Red Raiders than he has in a number of games. Alexander was active in the paint, both in protecting the rim and cleaning up the glass, and, although he proved over and over that he still has a long way to go in terms of playing fast and free and avoiding silly fouls or bad mistakes, what Alexander offered was much better than what Jamari Traylor has brought to the floor in recent games. Traylor still played 19 minutes and has a role on this team. But if the Jayhawks want to be true contenders, they need to bring Alexander along to the next level and Tuesday night was a good step toward that progress.
Three reasons to smile
1 – After firing up 13 three-pointers in the first half, the Jayhawks heeded their coach's words in the second half and put greater emphasis on scoring inside the arc. Fans don't have to like it, players don't have to like it, but if Self says they need to do it, they probably should find a way to do it. KU made 6 of 7 three-point shots in the second half but also scored 28 points inside the three-point line, one more than the Jayhawks scored in the entire first half. Nobody here is arguing against the three-point shot as an offensive weapon, but, at least to me, it's clear that this team is best when it finds balance.
2 – Even though it didn't last, I thought KU delivered a great response to a crappy start to Tuesday night's game. Credit two Cliff Alexander blocks and a pair of three-pointers, along with better overall urgency than we've seen of late, for putting the Jayhawks up 8-2 and eventually 15-4 when they easily could have been trailing during the first few minutes given the number of turnovers and missed shots they had in the initial stretch of the game.
3 – I already mentioned Alexander's solid game, but I think the one aspect of it that stood out the most was his defensive presence in the paint. Alexander finished with four of KU's seven blocks and each one of them brought back oh-so-subtle visions of Jeff Withey — dare we call it a Cliffy Block Party? — in that Alexander didn't just try to block the shot, he tried to humiliate the guy taking the shot. That kind of edge and presence could be huge for the Jayhawks down the stretch.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – As good as the Jayhawks were during that opening stretch of the game, they were equally as bad in allowing the Red Raiders to tie the game at 20 and be in the game at the half. I realize that no matter how good you are, you can't just blow everybody out, but had Wayne Selden not knocked down that three from the corner — which Frank Mason should get most of the credit for after making a tremendous play and pass to get him the ball — KU would have led by just two over a lousy team after jumping out to a 15-4 lead. The strong second half made that a mere afterthought, but it speaks further to this team's inconsistency.
2 – We've already talked a lot about three-pointers in this Day After and I don't want anyone to think that I'm anti-three-pointer by any means. But when you see a team get three three-pointers blocked in a single half, I think you're looking at a team that has fallen a little too in love with the long-range bomb. In at least two of the three situations where Tech blocked a KU trey, a simple shot fake followed by two dribbles and a pull-up would have produced a wide open 15-foot jumper. I know that sounds a little too Bob Knight for some of you, but doesn't it also sound better than getting a three-pointer blocked? I'm all for the three-pointers if they come within the flow of the offense, are a result of good ball movement and are open looks. Anything else, though, seems like lazy, selfish basketball.
3 – Piggy-backing on the three-point theme of this blog, I'd really like to see Kelly Oubre be one of the guys who attacks the rim more. I think his frame, length and general good size are all ideal for a guy who could slash to the rim and, at the very least, draw some more fouls. Oubre finished with just six points — on two made three-pointers and zero attempts from inside the arc — and has looked a little out of sorts offensively for the past few games. I know people didn't always think Andrew Wiggins was all he should have been offensively, but that guy knew how to attack the paint and get to the free throw line and KU would definitely benefit from someone on this team filling that role, as well.
One for the road
The Jayhawks' second rout of the Red Raiders this season...
• Marked the 26th year in a row that Kansas has tallied 20 or more wins, the longest active streak in the NCAA. (North Carolina holds the record with 31-consecutive 20 win seasons from 1970-71 to 2000-01).
• Guaranteed KU at least a .500 record in conference play, which is also the 26th-consecutive season that KU has posted a .500 or better record in league action (beginning in 1989-90), tying the third-longest active streak in the NCAA with Kentucky and behind only Xavier (32) and Murray State (27).
• Extended KU’s win streak against Texas Tech to 12 in a row and improved KU’s all-time series advantage against Texas Tech to 29-4, including a 22-4 mark in Big 12 games.
• Marked the fifth straight win for KU against TTU inside United Supermarkets Arena (formerly United Spirit Arena), and improved Kansas to 11-4 against Tech in Lubbock (7-3 in Tech's current arena).
• Improved Self to 345-73 while at Kansas, 16-6 against Texas Tech (15-3 at Kansas) and 552-178 overall.
• Made KU 2,146-826 all-time.
The Jayhawks return home Saturday, when they'll take on No. 21 Baylor at noon at Allen Fieldhouse. The last time these two faced each other,the Jayhawks beat the Bears 56-55 Jan. 7 in Waco, Texas, in a hard-fought Big 12 opener for Kansas.