Thursday, February 28, 2008

Back on Track?

The Recap: Darrell Arthur wanted the ball and coach Bill Self was determined to get it to him early and often. KU's best offensive threat came out firing. Shady scored 18 points and took 18 shots, hitting nine. He also grabbed 10 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season. The three point game was working as well for the Jayhawks; they hit 7-11, including three each from Brandon Rush and Mario Chalmers. Rush and Chalmers each had 15 points, Chalmers starring in the first half, while Rush did his work in the second stanza. KU shot 46% from the field, 14-18 from the line, and outrebounded the Cyclones 41-28, led by Arthur and PG Russell Robinson with 10 a piece. Wesley Johnson led ISU with 20. He hit five of the Cyclones eight three-point shots.

The Whup

Feed The Beast - If the Jayhawk guards didn't see last night that the offense must run through Arthur, than they never will. He took a career-high 18 shots and scored in a variety of ways. At first glance, 18 shots seems like plenty, but actually it the amount of shots he should be taking every game. It also means Shady has spent the night on the floor rather than on the bench in foul trouble. “Coach told me to get more shots. I had the opportunity to score,” said Arthur, who indicated it was “real fun” roaming inside without a team trapping him on the post for “the first time I can remember in a long time (courtesy of His 15 foot jump shot was money again all night long. The bottom line is that KU must run everything through Shady first.

Mario's First Half - As good as Shady was early, Chalmers may have been even better. He scored 10 points in seemingly the blink of an eye, including two triples that helped to take the Ames crowd out of the game. He looked more aggressive in the first 20 minutes and defensively he was again working his magic off the ball, getting in passing lanes and wreaking havoc on the ISU guards. “Coach says to knock down the open shots,” Chalmers said. “People had been hesitant lately. The coaches said, ‘Let it fly,’ and I think we did that. I think it was a team effort. We had the mind-set to getting back to playing Kansas basketball today.”

Brandon's Second Half - The Brandon Rush we all want to see was on display in the final 20 minutes. He nailed two threes, scored 12, and played solid defense on Wesley Johnson. Now if there was just some way we could bottle that up and turn it into a full 40 minutes, KU would be in great shape.

The Seven Man Rotation - With Rodrick Stewart missing due to the death of his brother and Cole Aldrich not needed because Arthur actually stayed out of foul trouble, Coach Self stuck with his "seven-starters" all night and did a nice job rotating them. He got eight points and three blocked shots out of Sasha Kaun (who played another solid game by the way) in 16 minutes and seven from Sherron Collins in 18 minutes. Rush and Chalmers played the most minutes (37 and 36), but nobody seemed tired. We expected to see Tyrel Reed or Jeremy Case, but that never materialized.

The Weak Beav

Sherron's Not The Same - You could see it again last night and ESPN's Stephen Bardo pointed it out: "Collins is a shell of himself out there." He just doesn't have the lift on his jumper and his explosive speed off the dribble isn't there. Give him a ton of credit for gutting it out, but I think we need to realize he will not be close to 100% at any time this season, and that's a shame. During the middle of last year when Collins was crossing over everybody and knocking down open threes, we all expected that this woul dbe his break-out year. Injuries have ruined that. You saw it last night when he turned the ball over four times and seemed unsure of himself at times.

Rush's First Half - As much as we praise him for his second half play, this trend of one good half, one bad half that Rush is currently caught in is getting annoying. Why can't he play a full 40 minutes of inspired, aggressive ball? He hit a three-pointer two minutes into the game, then didn't score again the rest of the half. Not only did he not score, but you wouldn't even have noticed he was on the floor. If the Jayhawks are going to go deep in the tournament, they need the good Brandon Rush to show up, especially since Collins is going half speed.

Mario's Second Half - Chalmers scored 10 in the first 10 minutes of 4-5 shooting. I thought this would be the game Mario decided that he was going to be the lead perimeter player. But in the second half, he took just three shots and seemed more intent on getting his teammates involved. Mario has so much ability as a scorer and why he is taking only eight shots, three in the second half, baffles me. He has the most pure three-point stroke on the team (sorry, Brandon) and as stated in yesterday's preview, we would like to see him shoot it more.

Cole's J - Memo to Cole Aldrich. You have a fine future in front of you at Kansas. You have done a lot of things the right way this year and said all of the right things. But we beg you - never take a jump shot from 15 feet again the rest of the season.

Letting Them Back In - Continuing a disturbing trend, the Jayhawks take a big lead, 21 points, the decided to coast for a few minutes and before you knew it, Iowa State had cut it to 10. To start the second half, they allowed the Cyclones to score the first seven points to cut the lead to six. The whole team seems to fade in and out each game for some period of time. That isn't going to fly in the Tournament.

The Ames Crowd - Every year it's the same. Any call that doesn't go their teams way, they freak out and boo. Last night was no different. There is no bigger bunch of whiners that the Hilton Coliseum crowd.

Analysis: It was good to get back on the winning track no doubt. While the 'Hawks played much better and shot the ball well, they still didn't overly impress. It's amazing when you are at a school where the expectations are so high that 25-3 doesn't seem quite good enough at this point. It's not that the record isn't impressive, it's the way they've been playing of late. The good news was that the offense ran inside/out through Arthur and it opened up the perimeter for Rush and Chalmers. KU again dominated the glass and unlike some of their last few performances, were the aggressor. Kaun gave big minutes in the post off the bench and the Seven-man rotation worked for us. Now comes the fun part, the rematch with those kitties from Manhattan.

Bill Self on whether the ship needed to be righted Wednesday: “I think when you’re 24-3, you shouldn’t be able to say that the ship needs righting, but our players all know that it did. We felt it did, too. I don’t know if we did or not, only time will tell, but we were a better team tonight than we were the last 2-3 weeks...I do think this is big, but I don’t think that we’re back where we were. I don’t think you go from playing poor to playing great consistently. I think it’s still a process, and it was a great start.”

Bill Self on Darrell Arthur’s play and his influence on the game’s outcome: “We don’t talk about it being a calming force, but certainly the team has more confidence when you have your best players in the game the majority of the minutes...I think we’ve got really good players, but our players are a lot better if things come to them rather than go force the issue. And playing through Shady on the post is great for our team. Also, running and trying to get easy baskets is great for our team, but also getting the ball to the third side a lot is great for our team. We have been impatient of late because I think individuals are saying ‘I need to go make a play’ as opposed to thinking ‘We need to go have a great possession.’

Bill Self on Sherron Collins: “Oh, he was better than Saturday. He’s still a shadow of himself, but that’s by far the best he’s moved since he’s been with us, playing the last three weeks. He’s not close to being himself, hopefully that bruise will continue to get better, the doctors say it’s just time away, so hopefully that’s the case. He says he’s feeling better.”

Bill Self on getting ready for Saturday’s game with K-State: “The thing about it is Saturday night, I think our guys will be as excited to play as they have all year - I hope not too excited. I think K-State guys will be excited to play. I think Gameday adds to the excitement probably for both teams, because it’s gonna be a hyped up game and all that stuff. But the bottom line is they handled us the first time. And that, right there, in itself, our players know they handled us, there’s no other way to sugarcoat it, that will be great motivation...I would be totally disappointed if - we may not play great, who knows, but I’d be totally disappointed if it wasn’t an unbelievable effort game for us...a great effort game for us.”

Bill Self on preparing for Kansas State: “If you go back and watch the tape, (Jacob Pullen) made eight free throws in the last two minutes. Even though he got 20, he played well, he was the best guard in the game, without question. He was the best guard in the game. And I think we have better players than that and hopefully we’ll do a better job trying to contain him, but it’s kind of a unique situation, watching tape for the next two days. Teams have struggled playing them one way, they’ve had success playing them the same way. Teams have had success guarding them one way, then if you guard Beasley and Walker one-on-one, they can go for 75. But Baylor won. We double-teamed Beasley a lot, they kicked our butt. There’s gonna be some thinking going on on how’s the best way to defend them.”

Sherron Collins on the health of his knee: “It’s getting better. I didn’t like (the brace) either, but the first couple of times I wore it it was for support and help. But now, that’s turned around here a little bit, so I don’t have to wear it...I just couldn’t open it up and turn it into that second gear. It’s coming back, it won’t be too long. I won’t know how long it will be, but at the rate it’s getting better at now, it won’t be too long...I think I’m healthy enough to be the spark off the bench. Because of the injury, stuff doesn’t go well and I’m not at full speed and I can’t really do what I want to do, but I think I’m able to be that spark.”

Darrell Arthur on working the offense through the post: “Yeah, we got to the post a lot, we had a lot of mismatches down there. They had Wesley (Johnson) playing the four, so we just attacked him down low. He usually plays the two or the three, so we just saw the opportunity to attack...We were going inside and out, so if they trapped the posts we were going to kick it out, but if we had one-on-one situations, they wanted us to take them, so that’s basically what we did the whole game...That was the first time (I’ve played one-on-one) in awhile. I don’t even remember (the last time). They never trapped the posts or anything.”

Mario Chalmers on the three-point shooting: “I think it was just having the confidence to take the open shot when you have it. I think a lot of people have been hesitating a little bit lately, and today the coaches were just like ‘let it fly,’ so we did that.”

Up Next: Kansas State, Saturday Night, 9 PM ESPN


Dustin said...

Hey there. Recently found the site and am enjoying your KU coverage.

I share many of your frustrations about the team's recent play, and examining my own criticisms, I've found that I'm being a little too hard on the guys. It's tough to get three guys going offensively at the same time, especially when you have a player like Brandon who's nature is to sit back and take whatever comes rather than forcing action. I'd love for him, Mario, and Darrell to be firing on all cylinders at the same time, but I'm not sure it's realistic.

As hard as it is for me to sit back, I've decided if we can get two guys going at a time, that will be enough. And if that means Mario and Darnell are hot in the first half, then they disappear in the second and let Brandon and Darrell step up, that's cool. In fact, given Mario's ability to step up and hit the big shot (Seriously, if Sherron is healthy, he needs to bring the ball up at OSU and find Mario, because you know 'Rio is hitting the game winner), I'd almost prefer he be the guy to get hot early, get some confidence, then he's ready to hit a dagger or two late after Brandon carries us for awhile.

Rock Chalk

Hiphopopotamus said...

Good take, Dustin. I agree that it's a little too optimistic too think that you can always get three guys going at the same time. Any good defensive team is going to try and take away a thing or two, and they just need to learn to adjust and exploit what isn't being taken away.

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