Hawks Send Saints Marching On

Heading into last night's game with Siena, it seemed as of Kansas boss Bill Self had been warning his team about how dangerous an opponent they were since the first appeared on the Jayhawks schedule. During the first few minutes, the Saints proved worthy foes before Kansas hit them with a 25-1 run between the 16:28 and 9:46 mark of the first half to open up a 30-10 lead.

Looking as if they were on their way towards a blowout win, the Jayhawks instead had to hold on tight for a 91-84 win as they survived a second barrage of three pointers and several defensive lapses.

After scoring 18 points and dishing out four assists, junior point guard Sherron Collins was happy to get the win but disappointed with he and his teammates defensive effort.

“I didn’t think we did a good job of contesting shots or staying in front of them,” said the Chicago native. “They did a good job of creating space and then they shot over us.  They hit their shots and you can’t take that away from them.  We allowed them to get a lot of open looks and they hit their shots.

“There were times that we didn’t guard them at all and they got a lot of open shots and made shots.”

After setting a new career high with 14 points, sophomore guard Tyrel Reed was more interested in discussing the poor defensive display than his shooting from behind the three point line and the charity stripe.

”We had some defensive lapses that you just can’t have that allowed them to get back in the game,” said Reed. “Defensively we just played dumb. I know I played very dumb. We’ve just got to improve on that.”

While Siena dipped to below 50% from the three point lane with a couple of late misses, they still set season highs for field goals attempted (67), made (32) and assists by a Kansas opponent this season. Afterwards, it was pretty clear that Self was anything but pleased about it.

“We were horrible defensively, that was a bad defensive team tonight,” said Self. “Their offensive players were just better than our defensive players tonight.

In particular, he was upset with the way his team handled ball screens.

“We weren’t going to trap them after they split a couple of ball screens early,” said Self of his defense. “Basically the guy guarding the ball has got to be a lot tougher. They set a screen, get over the screen, don’t get screened. That didn’t happen tonight.

“The second half I thought that our on the ball ball screen defense was about as soft as any team that I’ve ever been around.”

That isn’t to say that the game wasn’t without some positives. Self was pleased with the team’s offensive efficiency and how well they handled the ball against Siena’s pressure. He pointed out freshman Marcus Morris’ terrific stretch during the first half and he was happy to see Collins hit some big shots late.

Above all, though, he was impressed with the play of his sophomore big man Cole Aldrich who set a career high in scoring with 24 points. He added 13 rebounds and four blocks to go along with those 24 points and Self says that he may be the best offensive rebounder he’s ever coached.

“I told our guys after the game, best I’ve ever had on the offensive end,” said Self of Aldrich’s work on the glass. “He’s leading the league in offensive rebounds per game in a league with Blake Griffin in it. He is doing a fabulous job. How many points has he gotten us this year by not only reading it, but not allowing his guy to block him out. His effort on the offensive glass has been stellar.

Unassuming and hard working, the 6-11 sophomore credited his teammates and his willingness to create buckets off the glass for his performance.

“The biggest thing about scoring 24 was just hitting the offensive boards hard and trying to get those easy points like I try to do every time,” Aldrich said of his career high scoring outing. “I just let them set me up. I know Brady (Morningstar) had some real good passes into the post and I’m really excited that they are throwing it in. They know that if they throw it in I’m not going to be selfish.”

With Tuesday night’s win, the Jayhawks move to 11-3 on the season. Saturday they’ll get their final out of conference test of the season when they travel to face Michigan State who is ranked number eight in the country.

Looking ahead to that game, Reed knows some things will need to change in order for the Jayhawks to enjoy success on the road.

”We’re satisfied with the win, we enjoy winning,” said Reed. “But, we’re not satisfied with our play. That’s definitely got to keep getting better every day in practice. We’ve got to bring the intensity that we had against Tennessee to every game.

“Communication is going to be a big part. We’ve got to switch and all of that stuff. Just jumping to the ball and being in position is a big part of it.”

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