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The Recap: Kansas 73, UCLA 61
Traveling to UCLA's Pauley Pavilion and emerging with a 12 point victory usually augments a team's resume and boosts morale. But when the team in question is the nation's unquestioned No. 1 and the Bruins aren't the Bruins of years past, the trip back home doesn't feel as sweet.
Perhaps the Jayhawks needed to brush away the road trip cobwebs for the first time this season. Maybe it was Kansas' not-so-stellar all-time record against UCLA rearing its head. For whatever reason, KU certainly didn't possess its usual pizzazz Sunday in Los Angeles.
Despite senior guard Sherron Collins' newfound willingness to hang back and shoot only when necessary, the KU offense generally goes as its floor leader goes. Sunday, Collins didn't go so well. Among starters, Collins took the highest proportion of KU's shots in his floor time (25 percent), but finished just 6-for-15 overall and 0-for-2 on three-pointers. Collins did contribute a 2/1 assist-to-turnover ratio, but in terms of Basketball State's wonderful efficiency per possession stat, Collins' off-afternoon ended up being his worst since the team's Big 12 Tournament loss against Baylor last season.Nick Krug/LJW Photo — KU guard Sherron Collins lofts a running shot
Collins seemed to force the issue at times on offense (a symptom of playing in a hostile environment?), but he didn't have much help from many of his teammates. Junior guard Tyrel Reed, sophomore forward Marcus Morris and sophomore guard Tyshawn Taylor each played 20-plus minutes without making many positive offensive contributions.
In the end, efficient performances from freshman guard Xavier Henry and sophomore forward Markieff Morris propelled KU to a just-above-average 1.03 points per possession. The Jayhawks held their opponents below one point per possession for the seventh time in as many games this season.
Here's how the ebb and flow of the game looked, compliments of StatSheet.com:
What went well for KU:
• Markieff Morris
It's beginning to seem like either Markieff or Marcus Morris is primed to have a superb game anytime KU takes the court. After a disappointing 2-for-7 shooting night against Alcorn State, Markieff recovered by posting a career-best 19 points on 8-for-11 shooting. The Philadelphia native grabbed offensive rebounds on 15 percent of his available opportunities, didn't turn the ball over and scored nearly a point a minute. Until Sunday, Markieff had displayed remarkable efficiency at a low volume. Against UCLA, the sophomore center was KU's most active offensive player, taking 33 percent of the team's shots while he was on the floor.Nick Krug/LJW Photo — KU guard Tyshawn Taylor embraces teammate Markieff Morris as an official looks on
• Another solid defensive performance
KU has been average or better defensively every time out this season, doing most of its damage by restricting opponents' open shot attempts. The Jayhawks haven't allowed any team to post an effective field goal percentage better than 43.5 percent (national average is about 50 percent). Against UCLA, KU didn't just limit the Bruins' good shots, they limited their usable possessions by forcing a turnover on 21.4 percent of UCLA's possessions. This number is more solid than outstanding, but the mayhem the Jayhawks caused during a crucial stretch of the first half gave KU some much-needed separation.
What went wrong for KU:
• Backcourt inefficiency
As stated above, Collins didn't have his A game on Sunday. Neither did Taylor, who tallied three turnovers to just one assist. The pair wasn't a bright spot, but their shaky play illuminated a potential positive for Kansas. With Collins and Taylor cold from the field, the Jayhawks still scored on 54.5 percent of their possessions and turned the ball over just less than 20 percent of the time. Collins' decision to take on a more secondary role in the team's offense through the first few games might have convinced Henry and Markieff Morris of their ability to assert themselves on offense.
The Bottom Line: KU wasn't great on offense against UCLA, but given the fact that the team was making its road debut there wasn't much to be worried about. Several Jayhawks struggled from the field, but that might have come as a result of UCLA's strength and effort on defense, as KU coach Bill Self said postgame.