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Archive for Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Jayhawks restore normalcy

February 2, 2011

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— Snow colored this southwestern town white, the wind-chill dropped below zero, and a Betty White story with photos was trending higher on Yahoo! than a Heidi Klum feature and photo gallery.

Just when I was convinced I had either entered the opposite world Seinfeld character George Costanza invented or brain freeze had warped the planet, order was restored by the Kansas University basketball team.

In the opposite world, Kansas would have stood on the perimeter, fired jumpers and hoped for the best. Instead, the Jayhawks took the easy path to victory and threw the ball inside for easy buckets Texas Tech had no chance of contesting.

At least the Jayhawks did that in taking target practice from point-blank range in building an insurmountable early lead on the way to an 88-66 victory inside spirit-less United Spirit Arena.

Kansas had such an overwhelming advantage in size, skill and quickness on the interior, and it wasted no time in executing the game plan, a big part of which was not hurrying.

Pass, pass, pass, moving the defense that way, this way and back that way, entry pass, easy bucket. Big lead.

By the 5:53 mark of the first half, Kansas had a 41-19 advantage, and the portion of the 9,055 who purchased tickets and braved the cold to use them grew awfully quiet.

The methodical pummeling that led to a 50-29 halftime lead featured Marcus Morris (18 points), Thomas Robinson (17 points, nine boards) and Markieff Morris (11 points, 12 boards) turning entry passes from Brady Morningstar, Josh Selby and Tyshawn Taylor — the guard trio combined for 11 assists and two turnovers — into easy buckets.

“The way that Tech guards, which is the way a lot of people guard, is they try to deny you the ball in the post,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “If that’s the case, we just want to be patient and give the ball a chance to get to the second and third side, so maybe we can isolate. It’s not very hard (to deny the post) on the first side. It’s little bit harder on the second, and on the third side, it’s a lot harder.”

Kansas won’t face many teams as incapable as Texas Tech of putting up a fight on the inside, but even against tougher opponents, having Self’s inside-outside philosophy so thoroughly reinforced by the early dominance can’t do anything but help this team.

“We were pretty patient there for a while and were able to get the ball in pretty deep and pretty tight,” Self said. “That’s not anything new. We try to do that every game. That’s our strategy each and every game.”

As is almost always the case with college basketball teams that storm to big leads, the second half had its sloppy stretches. Instead of staying with the patient philosophy designed to work the ball inside, the Jayhawks were quick to put up shots coming out of the break. A timeout later, they were back to peppering the paint.

And then there was the normal high percentage of fast-break breakdowns. Think back to your youth basketball coach gassing you by putting you through three-on-two fast-break drills. The guy in the middle either stops at the foul line and passes to the guy on the left or the right, or he keeps the ball and takes it all the way in for a bucket. Not in today’s game. It’s, take it too far for a charge or throw an unnecessarily high-risk pass and have it deflected.

“You get five of those a game, you’ve got to come away with 10 points,” Self bemoaned. “We’re coming away with two.”

Self took the blame, saying he needs to devote more time to that weakness in practice. He will, and they’ll get it right. The 21-1 team is getting better, and the Big 12, even earlier than usual, has turned into a two-team race for the title. At the moment, Kansas, the No. 2 team in the nation, is running second in the Big 12.

Interactive Timeline

2010-11 KU men's basketball timeline

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