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Before this game I felt pretty good about the Jayhawks being able to pull out a win as I thought the Buckeye's would struggle in a half court game. Of course I didn't expect Kansas to turn it over that often or to miss that many free throws. This team is really starting to come together. A few thoughts:
* Elijah was much more aggressive attacking the basket in this game than he has been all season. I'm not sure why he doesn't attack this way in every game but if Elijah can continue this aggressive play off the dribble it will take this team to another level. While he didn't have stats that jumped out at you (other than four turnovers) he was more of the player than Kansas needs him to be
* Coming into this game I had a feeling that if Kansas was going to pull out a victory that McLemore had to have a statement game. Overall, Ben was terrific and showed more of a willingness to put the ball on the floor than he had in past games. While he's not yet refined in his ability to do that, the added threat it brings to opposing defenses will continue to open up his jump shot even more. He did leave a couple of shots short when putting the ball on the floor as he double clutched a couple of times instead of realizing that he can elevate over any defender he faces. He also impresses me with the ability he shows to rebound the basketball from the perimeter. This game has to put him on the national map as he has been flying under the radar this year.
* Withey had a very solid game but struggled to finish shots down low. Too often he gets low post positioning too deep on the block and doesn't leave himself a good shooting angle. He did rebound the ball a little bit better today and really did a nice job of defending the pick and roll as Ohio State's game plan was to make him defend as many ball screens as possible to pull him away from the basket.
* Releford was very good again at playing his role. When defending Thomas he did a very nice job, but with all of switching it was truly a team effort. He didn't take many shots but, as always, made the most of his attempts knocking down an open three and converting in transition.
* Kevin Young may not be noticed by many fans as being a key part of this team but his versatility allowed Kansas to switch ball screens and he did a nice job defensively both in the post and on the perimeter. His activity on the glass was valuable as always and he made Deshaun Thomas expend energy on that end of the floor. The only area where Young really struggled today was his inability to knock down free throws.
* The bench had it's moments today and I was actually very impressed with Tharpe on the offensive end of the floor. While he struggled to defend Scott on the pick and roll in the first half he was solid in handling the basketball against the Ohio State pressure finishing with zero turnovers and three assists. Ellis was just very poor, struggling to rebounding the ball and struggling to finish through contact. He needs to continue to get a lot stronger and a lot more aggressive. Traylor brought some energy to the floor as he always does and was solid in his limited action on both ends of the floor.
* I loved the Kansas game plan defensively. Their versatility was a big key today as they had Withey hedge on ball screens and then switched with their other defenders. If the ball was entered into the post and someone other than Withey was defending the low post, they trapped and used their quickness to rotate out of it. The Jayhawks were also content to play off of Craft on the pick and roll and force him to be a scorer. Ohio State was actually much more effective when Scott operated off the pick and roll as he attacked and looked to score off of it, instead of just create like Craft. He did a much better job of taking advantage of having Withey on the perimeter than Craft ever could. Overall, an outstanding defensive game plan by Self and his staff and a terrific job by his players holding the Buckeye's to 30.8% from the floor for the game.
* Notice that the Jayhawks didn't run their ball screen offense often today? The way that the Buckeye's "Ice" the pick and roll essentially kept Kansas from running a big portion of their offense. I've been a big, big proponent of defending the pick and roll in this way. They do it often in the NBA and Texas had great success with it two seasons ago (don't ask me why they went away from it). I'm not sure why more college teams don't defend the pick and roll in this manner.
* The ball movement the Jayhawks showed today was terrific. They were able to keep the floor spaced to give Withey room to operate on the interior and allowed their perimeter players room to shoot and attack off the dribble. Notice how the Kansas staff has taught the four men (Young and Traylor) how to throw a jump pass into the post from the top of the key area that looks like a jump shot. Unusual but effective. It's impressive for the Jayhawks to finish shooting 51% from the floor against anyone, but it's unheard of to do it against someone as good defensively against Ohio State.
* It was a big concern coming into this game that Kansas handle the defensive pressure applied by the Buckeye's on the perimeter. Early on, as Kansas built their lead, they took care of the ball, but Ohio State made their comeback as the Kansas turnovers started to mount. Through the 8 minute timeout of the first half the Buckeye's had a 12-2 advantage in points off of turnovers. These turnovers led to the 14-0 Ohio State run to give them control midway through the 1st half.
* After the 14-0 run by the Buckeye's, Kansas did a nice job of focusing on getting the ball into the paint. Kevin Young was the recipient of a few of these opportunities. The Jayhawks can't forget to go inside throughout the season.
* Craft's shot is broken right now, which is simply alarming for a guy that they need to produce. Ohio State has one of the best individual instructors of the game on their bench in former Buckeye Chris Jent. I'm sure Craft is working with Jent, or someone on staff now, to clean up his release (elbow is getting out) but they need Craft to produce offensively if they hope to reach their potential this season. For a guy that is, by all accounts, a great kid, I hope he can get it fixed.
* The Jayhawks have to convert their free throws in order to have a shot to reach Atlanta. They can't hope to be 19-30 from the line and win too many big games.
For Kansas to win this game turning the ball over 19 times and missing 11 free throws is remarkable. If you would have given me these statistics before the start of the game I would have been very nervous about my prediction. What a win and what a run of non-conference games for these Jayhawks.
This post was edited by Matt Cumro on 12/22/2012 at 5:33 PM
"* The Jayhawks have to convert their free throws in order to have a shot to reach Atlanta. They can't hope to be 19-30 from the line and win too many big games."
While this is probably true I would point out this is the best FT shooting team Self has had at KU. They are 56th nationally and really this is not a major area of concern moving forward, at least in my view.
"Craft's shot is broken right now, which is simply alarming for a guy that they need to produce. Ohio State has one of the best individual instructors of the game on their bench in former Buckeye Chris Jent. I'm sure Craft is working with Jent, or someone on staff now, to clean up his release (elbow is getting out) but they need Craft to produce offensively if they hope to reach their potential this season. For a guy that is, by all accounts, a great kid, I hope he can get it fixed."
I could care less if the guy fixes his shot but what is there really to fix? The guy took about 12% of the shots for OSU in the past two seasons when they had talent all over the floor to take pressure off of him. Now he is up to around 16% and his shooting is coming down because he is not talented enough to be a primary scoring threat. His offensive efficiency ratings were 110.5, 111.4 and are not 111.7. His 2 point shooting percentage is way down, probably because there is no Sullinger to keep post defenders away from the rim and he constantly gets his garbage packed down his throat when he goes into the paint. He is down from 36% from three to 33% so it is not like his long range shooting has fallen off a cliff. The guy is a pretty limited player that is cracking under the pressure of being the number 2 scoring option when he in no way has the talent to be that guy. Surrounded with 4 other scoring options he is fine. Surrounded with another non-threat or two he is a liability on the offensive end of the floor. And FWIW I think his defensive reputation is pretty massively oversold as well.
Kraft cannot be the guy who has taken the 3rd most shot attempts on any team. Ohio State badly needs someone else to emerge as a legit scoring option if they want to get more efficiency out of Craft.
I generally agree with your assessment of Craft, BigJay, but not as a defender. He may be overhyped, but he really is a fantastic primary defender. I think Releford is a fantastic defender, but most of his success is bound to his ability to keep the ball out of the hands of the guy he's defending. Craft is really, really, REALLY good when his man has the ball. Before the game, I suggested that we might need to see a LOT of Tharpe-Johnson backcourt, and while I wouldn't say we saw a TON of that, I think we saw as much as we did so that we could keep the ball away from Craft's man. Part of it is surely reputation, but it's no mistake that OSU made their two runs when we were turning the ball over in liveball situations and a lot of that was due to Craft. He's an offensive liability at this point because they don't have a secondary scoring option, as you pointed out, so teams focus on Thomas and... Craft isn't a go-to scorer, or a fantastic driver, but he's very effective defensively.
Seems like Gary Parrish agrees with the premise that Craft isn't a legitimate second scoring option.
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