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Recap: Duke's defense deserves credit following win over KU

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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.

Lost in the shuffle of Duke's 68-61 victory over Kansas on Wednesday night is the fact that the Blue Devils made a pretty significant improvement defensively in the second half.

Kansas guard Travis Releford and Duke forward Ryan Kelly fight for a loose ball during the second half Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011 at the Lahaina Civic Center.

Kansas guard Travis Releford and Duke forward Ryan Kelly fight for a loose ball during the second half Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011 at the Lahaina Civic Center. by Nick Krug

KU scored on its first three possessions of the second half to take a 41-34 lead with 18:37 remaining.

Here are the point-per-possession totals for both teams before and after that point.

KU before 18:37 in second half — 1.14 points per possession (41 points, 36 possessions)
KU after 18:37 in second half — 0.71 points per possession (20 points, 28 possessions)

Duke before 18:37 in second half — 0.97 points per possession (34 points, 35 possessions)
Duke after 18:37 in second half — 1.17 points per possession (34 points, 29 possessions)

As you can see, KU's offense tailed off nearly a half-point per possession in the game's final 18 minutes.

To put 0.71 PPP in perspective, only once has a Bill Self-coached KU team had a production that low throughout a whole game: against Arizona during a 61-49 loss in 2005.

It's going to be hard to keep any lead with production like that.

Obviously, KU's turnovers contributed to the low output, but let's also give credit where it's due.

A lot of times, the Jayhawks were forced to try to go through Tyshawn Taylor offensively because the Blue Devils were guarding KU's ball screens so well.

Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor looks for a shot as he is defended by Duke forward Miles Plumlee during the first half on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011 at the Lahaina Civic Center.

Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor looks for a shot as he is defended by Duke forward Miles Plumlee during the first half on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011 at the Lahaina Civic Center. by Nick Krug

Taylor might have ended many of KU's late possessions with a turnover, but the reason he was being forced to create was because Duke amped up its defense and didn't allow openings for KU's normally efficient offense.

M.O.J. (Most Outstanding Jayhawk)

Thomas Robinson had another stellar game on the defensive glass, but Jeff Withey earns the honor for M.O.J.

Withey posted a team-high 1.49 points per possessions used while ending 18.1 percent of the possessions he was in.

Kansas center Jeff Withey is fouled on the way up between Duke defenders Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly during the first half Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011 at the Lahaina Civic Center.

Kansas center Jeff Withey is fouled on the way up between Duke defenders Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly during the first half Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011 at the Lahaina Civic Center. by Nick Krug

The big man also was active in nearly every single statistical category.

He led KU in free throw rate (85.7), steal percentage (coming away with steals on 2 percent of Duke's possessions while he was in), block percentage (blocking 8.3 percent of the Blue Devils' two-point attempts while he was in) and offensive rebound percentage (grabbing 13.8 percent of the available misses while he was in).

Not only that, he tied with Elijah Johnson for the team lead in effective field goal percentage (57.1 percent) and had a great night on the defensive boards (coming away with 25 percent of the available defensive rebounds).

Withey continues to show improvement and also a lot more aggressiveness than we'd seen from him earlier in the year.

Kansas defenders Jeff Withey (5) and Travis Releford (24) pressure Duke guard Seth Curry during the first half Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011 at the Lahaina Civic Center.

Kansas defenders Jeff Withey (5) and Travis Releford (24) pressure Duke guard Seth Curry during the first half Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011 at the Lahaina Civic Center. by Nick Krug

Self complimented him after the game as well, saying he was "outstanding" and that he had gotten some "big-boy" rebounds in Maui.

The biggest obstacle with Withey continues to be fouls. He has 20 of them in 108 minutes — or roughly 7.4 fouls per 40 minutes of game time.

That number needs to come down dramatically, as he's quickly becoming one of KU's most irreplaceable players in the lineup.

Room for Improvement

Two areas stand out: Turnovers and three-point defense.

Yes, those are the exact same words I wrote in this spot in Wednesday's Recap blog following the UCLA game.

The Jayhawks turned the ball over on 26.6 percent of their possessions against Duke — their fifth-highest mark in the last two seasons.

The Kansas bench and players watch the final moments against Duke on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011 at the Lahaina Civic Center.

The Kansas bench and players watch the final moments against Duke on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011 at the Lahaina Civic Center. by Nick Krug

Perhaps the strangest part about that stat is that while KU had 17 turnovers, Duke only had four steals. That means at least some of KU's turnovers were unforced, with a lot of those coming on plays when the ball went out of bounds.

The Jayhawks also struggled for the second straight game defending threes, as Duke made 11 of 25 outside shots (44 percent).

In five games this season, three teams have already made 44 percent or more of their threes against KU — a feat that only happen six times against KU in 38 games last year.

Tough-Luck Line

This goes to Tyshawn Taylor, though you're not going to hear me ragging on him for his play.

Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor is fouled fighting for a loose ball with Duke guard Austin Rivers during the first half Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011 at the Lahaina Civic Center.

Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor is fouled fighting for a loose ball with Duke guard Austin Rivers during the first half Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011 at the Lahaina Civic Center. by Nick Krug

The senior posted a team-low 0.75 points per possessions used while ending 37.8 percent of KU's possessions while he was in.

That 37.8 percent number is around the highest for a player that I've ever seen in one game. In other words, Taylor — who played 38 minutes — was being asked to do almost everything for the Jayhawks against Duke.

Here's another way of looking at it: Taylor ended 23 KU possessions, which was the fourth-highest for a player in a game during the Bill Self era. Previously, he'd never had more than 16 possessions ended in a game.

Taylor's turnovers kept him from an effective night. But he also was being asked to do so much (including chasing down Duke shooters) that I don't see how he can be faulted for his effort.

Self took some of the blame afterwards for Taylor's turnovers, saying he needed to rest the guard more. The play-by-play seems to back that up.

Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor gives words of advice to teammate Travis Releford after a first-half turnover against Duke on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2011.

Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor gives words of advice to teammate Travis Releford after a first-half turnover against Duke on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2011. by Nick Krug

Looking back at the box score, Taylor sat out exactly 91 seconds at the 4:48 mark of the first half before coming back in.

Seven of Taylor's 11 turnovers came in the final 11:52 of the game.

KU was playing with a fatigued Taylor during the most important stretch of Wednesday's game. Look for Self to get him some sort of rest in the second half of each game from here on out.

Bottom Line

After building a seven-point lead, KU couldn't maintain its previous scoring level against a stingy Duke defense.

Kansas forward Thomas Robinson puts a shot over Duke forward Ryan Kelly during the second half on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011 at the Lahaina Civic Center.

Kansas forward Thomas Robinson puts a shot over Duke forward Ryan Kelly during the second half on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011 at the Lahaina Civic Center. by Nick Krug

The Jayhawks not only turned it over at a high rate, they also didn't shoot it well. KU's effective field goal percentage of 44.9 percent was its sixth-lowest mark of the last two seasons, while KU's two three-pointers tied for the lowest in the last two seasons.

Playing its third game in three days with a thin bench, KU — and also Taylor — appeared to be affected by fatigue late in Wednesday's game, and the numbers seem to reflect that drop off.

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