It wasn’t always pretty, but the young Jayhawks emerged from Hilton Coliseum with their second straight road win moving their mark to 4-0 in the Big XII with a trip to Lincoln awaiting. The keys were pretty simple and they were able to ring the bell on all but one. Let’s just get that out of the way first.
1. Make Craig Brackins work. I didn’t expect us to pass this test and we most definitely did not. 11-19 shooting for 42 points and 14 boards. As you may have noticed, 11 makes won’t get you to 42 points so he also made a living at the line hitting 17 of his 21 attempts. The foul disparity* in this one was a disgrace and Brackins was the primary recipient. He really was on fire today though and for that, he deserves a gratuitous tip of the cap, but we didn’t defend him like we need to and I always have to shake my head when one guy shoots three more free throws than the other team combined – especially when that team shot a few of their free throws late due to intentional fouls.
2. Keep Diante Garrett on the perimeter. Passed with flying colors. He got into the lane and got fouled once, but he was frustrated all day and didn’t register a single FG. He did have 4 assists, but he also turned it over four times – and if I remember correctly, I think a few of those assists were basic ball movement passes to Brackins, and he took care of the rest. This game was won on account of our excellent perimeter defense and that all started with how we frustrated Garrett.
3. Keep an eye on the arc. Another bravo. Brackins was 3/5, but his three makes represented half of their total and 1 of them came in the last 2 minutes. Vanderbeken was 2/8, Boozer, Haluska & Peterson each missed their lone attempt, Garrett was 0/3 and Staiger was 1/7 with him being the late make. Just as he’s done all year, Brady trailed him all over the court, slid past screens and never let him get much space. As was on perfect display today, no matter what Brackins did, this team was going to have to hit a lot of threes to beat us and our fantastic perimeter defense prevented that from happening. A job very well done.
Offensively, we didn’t do anything special – but we kept attacking, didn’t turn it over very often and ultimately, just knocked down shots. That last part is becoming quite a theme with this team – and the opposite has been true for their opponents. In all four league games, we’ve shot over 50% while holding our opponent under 40%. That’s a beautiful recipe for winning and the biggest reason we’ve yet to drop a Big XII contest (see below). Factor in us winning the rebounding battle (+8) and no matter what Brackins did, there was just no way we were going to lose this game.
KU 58% KSU 39% (+19)
KU 61% KSU 37% (+24)
KU 51% A&M 33% (+18)
KU 51% ISU 35% (+16)
I would do grades, but really, I think everyone without the last name Morris deserves a gold star today so there’s not much point. Sherron brought us out on fire and even after cooling off, he still ended up with 26 points, 5 assists and 4 boards. Cole was pretty much the opposite, struggling in the first half and taking over the second to finish with another ho-hum 16 & 12 with a couple blocks. Tyshawn didn’t shoot it quite as well as he’d like (3-10), but he played great defense on Garrett and still got to 10 points, 6 boards, 3 assists and 2 steals. We already talked about Brady’s defense, but he also pitched in 9 points, 3 boards, 3 assists and didn’t turn it over. Similarly, Tyrel played better defense than we’ve become accustomed to and also added an efficient 10 points, 2 boards, an assist and no turnovers. Mario Little also came off the bench to add a nice little spark, giving us 8 points (4-4), a board and a steal in 12 minutes.
And then there’s Quintrell Thomas. As you may remember, I’m a little worried about us retaining Quintrell due to his lack of PT right now and possibly into the future. And on a day when neither Morris could get anything going (combined for 2 points, 6 boards, 2 steals, 5 turnovers & 8 fouls) Quintrell came in and gave us some good minutes. His defense on Brackins wasn’t much better than theirs, but he did pull down 4 big rebounds in his time on the floor. Long story short, it’s very good to see that he’s still working hard enough to deserve some time and that he was ready to contribute when called upon. I remain very optimistic about his ability to help this team out now and in the future and I hope today reaffirmed that to him as well.
We may have to play better to get another win on Wednesday, but this was a very solid road win. Brackins scored over 60% of their total points, but we played excellent defense on everyone else. Perhaps even more impressive was the way in which we scored 82 points – the most they’ve allowed this year. We didn’t always look in sync and we never really got a ton going in transition, but we kept executing, stuck to our game plan and knocked down most of our open looks. To go into that building, against a good defensive team and have no trouble putting up that kind of number is no small feat and deserves plenty of recognition. This team is really coming together as everyone has started settling into their roles and they look ready to compete for another conference title.
* Note: Late in the game, Cameron Lee was inserted to foul 5 times in a minute because at the time Iowa State was shooting the double bonus, while having only been called for 2 fouls in the 18 minutes of the half to that point.