I would bet that KU head coach Bill Self would love to take a portion of his Jayhawks game against Arizona and a portion of the game against Michigan State to equal the perfect road game. Unfortunately for KU it hasn’t put together 40 solid minutes on the road just yet.
But there are some positives to take from this one.
1. Sherron Collins Second Half
Sherron Collins exemplified what it means to be tough. After taking a
physical beating that included a nose bleed and a jammed finger Collins
fought off a poor first half (4 points, 6 TO’s) and nearly
led the way for an incredible comeback. Three minutes into the second
half Collins had helped the Jayhawks trim a 19-point deficit to 12 and
KU had life. Collins nearly topped a career-high he posted last
Saturday at home against Tennessee and finished the game with 25
hard-earned points. Collins was truly a leader fighting tooth and nail
until the end.
2. Travis Releford
For most of the game Tryel Reed and Brady Morningstar were non-existent
but Reed was an integral part of KU’s comeback scoring ten
points in the final ten minutes. No disrespect to Brady and Tryel but
this type of game shows why players such as Releford and Mario Little
are important. Reed and Morningstar were unable to use dribble
penetration to beat Michigan State defenders. KU needs another player
that is athletic and can put the ball on the deck. The 6-5 Releford
took positive steps playing 21 minutes. If Releford can put it on the
deck and continue to hold his own on the defensive end he will continue
to give Self more lineup options. Travis still has a ways to go but
certainly earned the chance to play more minutes in upcoming games.
3. The comeback
Kansas looked like it was down for the count down as much as 21, but
the fight wasn’t called. Michigan State relaxed a bit and KU
nearly achieved a Rocky Balboa-like comeback. For nearly one half of
total basketball Kansas outplayed Michigan State and is not as far away
from a decent road win as you might think.
There is no quit in these Jayhawks and that is something any head coach
would be proud of especially one such as Self who believes that no team
should ever take a possession off.
Yes, there were positives but there is a reason Kansas was down 19 in
the first place. The other side of the coin wasn’t quite as
pretty. Kansas has plenty to work on and emphasize before its next road
Kansas hasn’t been particularly great on the boards this
season and this game was a must in the rebounding category. Michigan
State didn’t miss much for most of the first half but when
they did, KU gave up 13 offensive rebounds. You can’t give a
team like Michigan State second chances at home. The Jayhawks did a
better job rebounding in the second half but got outrebounded 42-31 for
the game. Cole Aldrich posted 11 rebounds and no one else on Kansas had
more than three. On the offensive end KU managed just seven offensive
rebounds for the game.
2. Shot selection, turnovers, making the most of opportunities
During part of the Spartan’s big first half run Kansas either
took a poor shot, missed a point blank chance or turned it over. Self
put it quite bluntly, “we stunk”. Kansas went
multiple possessions without getting stops and watching the Spartans
turn mistakes into points at the other end. On the road that equals a
huge deficit – see the 2nd half of Arizona game and 1st half
of this one.
Mistakes are magnified on the road and Michigan State is a top 10 team
for a reason and Tom Izzo’s squad smelled blood.
After flawless execution during the first five minutes of the game KU
went south on both ends of the floor and dug itself too big of a hole
to comeback from.
“We missed shots and then we got tentative,” said
Self recalling the first half. “In that stretch when we went
on a run we had two dunks and a missed layup that was pretty much
uncontested that immediately became points for them on the other end.
You just can’t do that on the road.”
The Hawks didn’t do themselves any favors from the free throw
line going 17-28 and were outscored by nine from the charity strip by
3. Collins and Cole need help
Self has a young team and his two most experienced players
aren’t getting much help. Kansas needs to find a consistent
third scoring option. But it isn’t just in the scoring column
– Self needs some solid rebounders and defensive presence.
The lack of production has left the coach scratching his head and
searching for viable combinations.
Tyshawn Taylor, who looked so good early, appears to have hit a wall.
Taylor was impacting the game on both ends of the floor but lately
he’s not doing much for Self on either end of the floor.
Markieff Morris is giving Self decent minutes but is not consistent.
His twin brother Marcus is racking up more fouls than points. Releford
is not quite ready to contribute in the scoring column. Morningstar and
Reed are solid but failed to contribute much until Tyrel’s
flurry at the end of the game. Self was looking down the bench for help
in the first half and couldn’t find an answer to stemming the
“I was looking for anything. Kieff (Markieff Morris) got two
fouls. Mario got two quick fouls. I wanted to give Marcus a chance and
he wasn’t as effective as I had hoped. When you’re
playing that poorly why don’t you try something?”
Self asked rhetorically.
Right now there are only two players Self knows he can count on night
in and night out and if Collins and Aldrich have an off night, KU is in
trouble. When the team struggles to score it’s Collins that
places the burden on his shoulders and sometimes presses to hard.
“Sherron was put in a bad way today because when we
can’t score he tries to take it upon himself to score and
turned it over too much especially the first half,” said
Aldrich put up another double-double (14 points, 11 rebounds) but also
was forced to log 36 minutes.
“36 minutes is a lot of minutes for a big fella to play and
he’s a really good player but we’re not doing
enough to help him out,” said Self of his sophomore big man.
“I don’t think the guards are doing enough to help
Sherron and I don’t think the bigs are doing enough to help
The good news is Kansas can still have a terrific season, can still win
a Big 12 title, and can still make a run in the NCAA Tournament. Once
Tuesday rolls around the slate is clean – it’s the
beauty of non-conference play.
Kansas Comes Up Short
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