Sunday, January 18, 2009

Colorado React, Texas A&M Pre-Game

In watching yesterday’s game, there were only two things a Kansas fan could bemoan: turnovers and free throws. Those two aspects aside, they were fabulous. They got good shots, they knocked them down and they stayed focused on defense. And it added up to a 17 point win on the road.

We listed three primary keys to victory

1. Dominate the boards. Check. They came up with a +10 margin (31 to 21) and in a game with only 44 missed shots, that’s a pretty sizeable difference. Cole had his usually 10. Brady actually came up with a very surprising 8 after not grabbing a single one against KSU. Markieff, who is becoming a pretty decent rebounder, had 5 in 18 minutes. There was one particular instance where we didn’t box out well and let them get one they shouldn’t, but for most of the day we did a great job.

2. Tempo. Half check. We didn’t dominate it like Missouri did, but we also didn’t try to, nor should we have. I won’t give a full check, because despite their non-pressure defense, we turned it over too much to truly control tempo. But with that said, we definitely had spurts of forcing it and that was plenty to let us play a majority of the second half with a double-digit lead.

3. Stay poised. Big check. Just like our other losses, we came out and got an early lead and quickly let it slip away. But instead of panicking, we stayed calm and focused and took a decent lead into halftime. Then Colorado made a “run” to start the second half and cut it to 2. But again, we didn’t recoil; we simply calmed down, ran our offense and extended the lead back through where we had it, once reaching 21 with about five or six minutes left. Would we have had that same poise in a more hostile environment? Hard to say. But it doesn’t matter, because we had it when we needed it and now we have some confidence going forward.

All in all, a great effort in front of a great Jayhawk – not to mention the 6,000 others that made the trip. It wasn’t the toughest place to get our first road win, but it was the best. Confidence is a funny thing with college kids and I think yesterday did a lot to boost this team’s heading forward as they have to first defend their home floor against a better than expected A&M team and then go to Ames & Lincoln – two places that are always tougher to play than the opposition would indicate.

Speaking of the Aggies, if you’ve yet to see them, they’re better than advertised. Thus far in league play they’re a disappointing 1-2. However, both losses are plenty forgivable as the first took place in Stillwater and the second was just yesterday to the prohibitive favorite Sooners – the difference in the latter being as simple as making free throws (OU was 83% while A&M was 61%). And their win isn’t too shabby either, coming in semi-comfortable fashion over a good Baylor team. For a quick synopsis of them, you can see our mini-preview here.

But specifically in reference to tomorrow, we’ll have to play much better than in either of our previous two league wins to emerge victorious. They’re two best players are probably on the perimeter, but they’ll still be the best inside team we’ve seen since East Lansing. As you know, we have had trouble rebounding against some of our better competition and if we don’t get a body on all five Aggies, they’ll make us pay.

1. Match their intensity. We’re a much more skilled team than the Aggies, but we’re not as tough as them. Every guy they put out there is going to try to rough us up and make us uncomfortable. Thus, we need to do the same. And we also need to not let what they do bother us. As expected, they’re a very good defensive team and we’re sure to go through some dry spells on offense. It will be imperative to recognize these stints and bear down on defense so they’re never able to string together big runs. It will be just as imperative to not waste our good defense by giving them easy second chance points – as always, winning the boards will be key.

2. Sherron & Cole. Sherron needs to control the game like he did against Tennessee. He needs to set the tone at both ends of the floor, take care of the ball, get others involved and hit shots. Hey, we don’t ask for much. Cole just needs to post hard, defend smart (so as not to get into foul trouble) and keep converting his touches into points. After yesterday, he’s now shooting over 64% from the floor and 80% from the line, which adds up to a fantastic 1.72 points per shot. If Sherron controls pace and we let Cole not just be efficient but also productive, we’ll be in great shape tomorrow (and any game, for that matter).

3. Take care of the ball. K-State wasn’t bad defensively, but really, they just pressured on the perimeter and had very little waiting once you got past the guards. The same will not be true tomorrow. I wouldn’t expect A&M to zone us, but rather man up and just try and beat our ass. They’ll be as good at this as anyone we’ve seen – how we react very well could be the primary difference between a win and a loss.

**Update** Tyshawn Taylor was just named Big XII Rookie of the Week for the third time this season after two solid performances following his no-show in East Lansing. Something to watch tonight will be how he handles the athletic, aggressive defenders from Texas A&M. If he puts together another great performance, I think we can safely consider him past his freshman wall.

Not too long ago, I considered this game as an easy win. Having watched them a couple more times this past week, I'm no longer quite as confident. Don’t get me wrong, we should still win. For one, I think we’re a better overall team. For another, it’s in the Phog. So if we come to play and handle their pressure and stay true to who we are, we’ll get our third league win. However, if we come up short on any of these things, they’re plenty good to steal one from us on or home court – something that we simply can’t afford if we’re to contend for the conference this season.

Rock Chalk!

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