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KU's three-point struggles impacting Perry Ellis' offensive flow

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Kansas forward Perry Ellis is covered by the Florida defense during the first half on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013 at O'Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis is covered by the Florida defense during the first half on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013 at O'Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida. by Nick Krug

Counting the Jayhawks' two exhibition games, sophomore forward Perry Ellis scored in double figures in six consecutive games to open the season and averaged 16 points per night.

In the past five games (three of them losses) Ellis has reached double digits three times and has averaged just over 10 points per game.

For the season, Ellis is averaging 13.3 points per game in 30 minutes, but it's clear that teams have started to figure out Perry's importance to this Kansas offense.

In KU's three losses, Ellis attempted just 17 shots, including just three in the most recent loss at Florida. That fact would not be quite as alarming if not for the reality that the rest of the Jayhawks — outside of leading scorer Andrew Wiggins (16.4 ppg) — are struggling to put points up around Ellis, who seems to be the most versatile scoring threat on KU's roster.

Given the fact that the Jayhawks have seen so much zone from opposing defenses lately, Ellis' quiet games make sense. The sophomore from Wichita loves to operate in the short corners — the area halfway between the lane and the sideline that is critical to attacking zone defenses — and Ellis mentioned Thursday that he noticed teams were making a concerted effort to keep him away from those spots.

“They try to really keep me out (of there) and try not to let me catch it on the post a lot,” Ellis said. “That's something I've noticed. That's the main thing.”

Fixing that and giving Ellis more of a chance to get back to his favorite spots on the floor is a matter of breaking down the zones. And the easiest way to do that is to have shooters knock down shots. Until they do, teams likely will continue to funnel everything to KU's jump shooters on the outside and, in a sense, tell KU's offense that they would rather live with the Jayhawks shooting three-pointers, where KU is hitting 31 percent, versus letting Ellis catch the ball in the short corners and create easy points.

Of course, there are other factors in play here, as well, most notably the struggles of the KU point guards to (a) get the team into its half-court sets and (b) keep from turning the ball over. But those things will hurt any offensive player anywhere on the floor.

We all know by now that Ellis is as good as it gets at finishing around the rim, but even if he cannot put the ball in the basket, one of the best ways to create points is by getting to the free throw line. Attacking the rim from the short corners has led to a bunch of free throws for Ellis, who has made a team-best 80 percent from the line this season but is just third on the team in free throws attempted.

During the past two games — both losses — Ellis failed to reach the free throw line one time.

While Ellis' stats are trending the wrong way during recent weeks, this, by no means, is a reason to panic. Ellis is a smart and skilled basketball player with a loaded offensive repertoire and he and the KU coaching staff no doubt will figure out a way to put him in position to score even if teams continue to take away the short corner.

But whether that comes from the high post or from attacking the rim more off the dribble, Ellis' recent numbers are just another indicator of how important finding three-point shooting is for this Kansas team.

Perry Ellis game-by-game

• PITT STATE (exhibition) --- FG: 7-10 — FT: 2-2 — Pts: 16 — Min: 23
• FORT HAYS STATE (exhibition) --- FG: 3-4 — FT: 7-7 — Pts: 13 — Min: 20
• LOUISIANA MONROE --- FG: 3-5 — FT: 6-8 — Pts: 12 — Min: 29
• DUKE --- FG: 9-13 — FT: 5-6 — Pts: 24 — Min: 35
• IONA --- FG: 9-11 — FT: 3-4 — Pts: 21 — Min: 32
• TOWSON --- FG: 4-7 — FT: 2-2 — Pts: 10 — Min: 22
• WAKE FOREST --- FG: 3-8 — FT: 3-4 — Pts: 9 — Min: 23
• VILLANOVA --- FG: 3-8 — FT: 5-7 — Pts: 11 — Min: 39
• UTEP --- FG: 6-12 — FT: 7-8 — Pts: 19 — Min: 32
• COLORADO --- FG: 5-6 — FT: 0-0 — Pts: 10 — Min: 31
• FLORIDA --- FG: 2-3 — FT: 0-0 — Pts: 4 — Min: 24

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