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Recap: Here's why Iowa State's 14 three-pointers didn't keep things close
Note: Here is a listing of definitions for some terms used in this blog. Also, feel free to ask questions in the comments section below if something doesn't make sense.
Kansas coach Bill Self might want to market this.
The Jayhawks' 89-66 victory over Iowa State could be the basis for a do-it-yourself book for NCAA basketball teams: "How to face a team that's shooting the lights out from three ... and still win by 23."
Really, this isn't a formula you see that often. Iowa State went 14-for-32 from three-point range — a number that usually gets a team beat or at least puts a good scare into it.
Instead, the Jayhawks used this three-step method to dominate ISU, even on its hot shooting night.
1. No foul play
The Jayhawks haven't been great at avoiding fouls this year, but they were outstanding in this area Saturday.
KU ended with just seven fouls, the fewest it's had in a game since at least the 1988-89 season. Iowa State didn't make it to the free-throw bonus in either half.
Though part of this was due to the way ISU was trying to attack KU (or not attack KU, depending on how you look at it), the Jayhawks still did a great job of avoiding cheap whistles. In the teams' first game in Ames, Iowa, ISU managed to get 10 free throws.
On Saturday, the Cyclones had two free throws. Two.
ISU's free-throw rate (free throws/field goal attempted) was 3.0 — the third-lowest FT rate in any Div. I game this season.
Considering that the Jayhawks' Big 12 opponents have shot free throws at a 79.9-percent clip, it's no surprise that by eliminating those tries, KU was able to greatly help out its overall defense.
2. Nothing inside
Lots of threes don't help as much if a team can't hit anything from inside the arc.
That was the case for the Cyclones on Saturday. ISU actually shot a much better percentage from three-point range (43.8 percent) than two-point range (11 of 35, 31.4 percent). The Cyclones made just 4 of 18 two-point tries in the first half (22.2 percent).
The Jayhawks' length obviously bothered the Cyclones, who had 10.4 percent of their twos blocked while grabbing just 28.6 percent of the available offensive rebounds.
Combine a poor two-point shooting night with a lack of free throws, and you end up with some crazy point splits.
At the end of the game:
• 3 percent of ISU's offense came from free throws (ISU season average is 15.7 percent)
• 33.3 percent of ISU's offense came from two-pointers (ISU season average is 53.9 percent)
• 63.6 percent of ISU's offense came from three-pointers (ISU season average is 30.3 percent)
3. Just score, baby
Saturday's performance didn't drop from that level a bit.
The Jayhawks notched 1.31 points per possession, which actually is second-best in this impressive six-game stretch.
The biggest help for KU on Saturday was its low turnover count. The Jayhawks gave the ball away on just 13.2 percent of its possessions — good for the third-best mark of their 25-game season.
KU also took extra possessions on the glass, pulling down 40.6 percent of the available offensive rebounds (about five percent above its season average).
Not a bad three-step formula for beating a team that can't miss from the outside. The Jayhawks might want to keep it around for March, just in case.
M.O.J. (Most Outstanding Jayhawk)
Though it's close between Markieff Morris and Tyshawn Taylor, I'm giving the edge to Markieff.
The junior forward posted 1.54 points per possession used while ending 19.6 percent of KU's possessions (slightly below his personal average). When he ended a possession, KU scored at least one point 71.5 percent of the time (second on the team behind Jeff Withey).
Perhaps most impressive about Markieff's game is that he contributed in nearly every statistical category. He pulled down a team-high 23.1 percent of the available offensive rebounds and also 21.1 percent of the available defensive rebounds.
He also assisted on 36.8 percent of KU's made field goals while he was in (highest on the team) while posting just one turnover. Add in that he blocked 8.4 percent of Iowa State's two-point attempts while he was in the game, and you have about as complete of a statistical line as you'll ever see from a college center.
Here's more: In Markieff's last five games, he has made 31 of his 42 field-goal attempts (73.8 percent) and 5 of his 9 three-point tries (55.6 percent).
That's about as efficient as you can get.
Room for Improvement
Pretty obvious here: KU did not defend the perimeter well against a strong outside shooting team in Iowa State.
As mentioned above, the Cyclones made 14 of 32 three-pointers (43.8 percent) and 8 of 16 treys in the second half. In fact, ISU's 14 made threes tied for the second-most in a game for a Cyclones team in the last 15 seasons.
Though KU started out as one of the best teams in the nation guarding threes, the stats show that the Jayhawks' three-point defense has been slipping as of late.
KU still is ranked 11th nationally in three-point defense according to KenPom (29.6 percent), but since Big 12 play began, the Jayhawks have allowed opponents to shoot 37.2 percent from beyond the arc. That number ranks seventh in the Big 12.
Outside of three-point defense, there's not too much to nitpick about KU's performance. The Jayhawks' free-throw rate (free throws/field-goal attempts) was a little low at 28.1 (compared to season average of 39.1), so KU's players might have settled for a few jump shots, though they made a lot of them.
Other than that, the Jayhawks performed at average or better in nearly every statistical category. And that's without Thomas Robinson or Josh Selby — two of KU's top seven players — available to play.
Looking at the numbers, this really can only go to one player: Travis Releford.
The sophomore was the only KU non-walkon to post less than one point per possession used (0.81). He didn't end a high number of possessions (13.5 percent), as he missed two three-point attempts and went 2-for-3 from the free-throw line with an assist and a turnover in 13 minutes.
I feel like I'm picking on Releford a bit, but KU's offense was so balanced that it didn't leave many other options.
When KU's ninth man in the rotation is listed here after an 0-for-2 shooting effort, it's probably a sign that the Jayhawks had a pretty good offensive day.
KU's offense continues to be on a historic pace. The Jayhawks posted at least 1.2 points per possession for the sixth straight conference game — a feat that no KU team has accomplished in the last 15 years.
The Jayhawks scored at least one point on 63 percent of their possessions, and they also maximized their possessions by taking care of the ball and grabbing offensive rebounds.
Defensively, KU held ISU to 0.97 PPP by completely shutting down two phases: free throws and two-pointers.
Though we won't know whom the voters choose as the new No. 1 until Monday, I think this much in the Big 12 is clear: The league's best defense (by a long shot) resides in Austin, Texas, while the league's best offense (also by a long shot) plays its home games in Lawrence.