Christian Braun’s big night vs. K-State the result of increased intensity, aggressive mindset

Kansas guard Christian Braun (2) goes baseline against Kansas State forward Xavier Sneed (20) during the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Now that the dust has settled and suspensions have been handed out for the brawl that marred the latest edition of the Sunflower Showdown, it’s time to take a quick look back at the performance of KU freshman and native Kansan Christian Braun.

The 6-foot-7 guard from Burlington, who attended high school at nearby Blue Valley Northwest, was sensational in his 29 minutes against KU’s in-state rival.

He scored a career-high 20 points on 7-of-15 shooting and made 6 of 10 3-pointers, tying him for the most made triples by a KU player in a single game this season. Senior graduate transfer Isaiah Moss also hit six in a game (tying his career-high) in KU’s win at Oklahoma.

All of those marks were career bests for Braun, and all of them came from a clear effort on his part to be more aggressive both behind the 3-point line and in front of it.

He shot was he was open, never hesitating to pull the trigger. And when he wasn’t, he put the ball on the deck and drove hard to the basket.

Some of his shots around the rim were a little wild and came off a little hard. But I never once saw KU coach Bill Self do anything but clap about the effort. You can’t constantly preach that your players be more aggressive and then be upset when they are. And Self wasn’t.

There’s no doubt that Self will discuss some things about Braun’s drives to the rim and try to find ways for his surging freshman to attack with more control. But that type of performance was exactly what Self has been searching for from his bench, Braun and Moss in particular.

Their ability to be threats and consistent outside shooters changes everything for this Kansas team and makes 7-foot center Udoka Azubuike, who is in the middle of easily his best season as a Jayhawk, all the more dangerous down low.

That was just Braun’s part of what made Braun’s night so memorable. And that was part of the reason Self was disappointed that Braun’s efforts were overshadowed by that ugly ending.

In addition to his stats, Braun brought great intensity and passion — something that Self pointed out is typical of Kansas kids in this game — and both his play and his energy fired up his teammates and the Allen Fieldhouse crowd.

His arrow slinging gesture after made 3-pointers is one that has been missing since Svi Mykhailiuk left town. And you can bet it’s one that the Kansas fans and coaches have been missing.

Here’s a look at more specifics from Braun’s big night:

• The 20-point night topped his previous career-high of 11 points, nearly doubling it.

• His 6 3-pointers did double his previous best output in that area and also were the most 3-point makes by a KU freshman since Quentin Grimes went off for 6 3-pointers in the opener against Michigan State a season ago.

• Braun also added two steals, which tied a career high and spoke even more to the aggressive nature with which he played.

• And his 7 made field goals and 15 attempts — which were both career highs — outdid his production in that department from his previous five games combined.

Braun has been on a serious uptick since the start of conference play, logging more minutes and contributing more meaningful statistics while on the floor.

It should be interesting to see just how much this last outing helps advance his contributions to this team, and, with David McCormack (2 games) and Silvio De Sousa (12 games) suspended, the third-ranked Jayhawks (15-3 overall, 5-1 Big 12) will be playing plenty of four-guard lineups during the next week or so, giving Braun plenty of opportunities to build on what he did against the Wildcats in the weeks to come.


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