For the first four minutes of Saturday’s 79-67 win over the Texas Longhorns, it looked as if the Kansas Jayhawks finally had figured out how they can be at their best this season.
They came out in a full-court press, and when Texas broke the press, they would double-team the post and play the passing lanes. They went up 19-5, and forced eight turnovers in the first six-and-a-half minutes of the game.
But Kansas backed off, and Texas fought back, as most Big 12 basketball teams do. When Frank Mason came out of the game after picking up his second foul with 10:16 remaining in the first half, Kansas saw a 24-12 lead get trimmed down to just three.
Texas did most of their damage on offense through their two big men, Jarrett Allen and Shaquille Cleare. Cleare finished with 11 points, and Allen finished with 22 points and 19 rebounds. With Landen Lucas battling with Cleare for most of the game, none of Josh Jackson, Carlton Bragg, or Mitch Lightfoot provided much resistance to Allen.
Lucas, who was reportedly sick, finished with only 2 points, but did contribute 14 rebounds. Devonte’ Graham paced the Jayhawks for most of the first half with 15 points, and finished the game with 18 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals.
The second half was much of the same, with Texas continually pounding the ball inside to Cleare and Allen. Frank Mason did much of the offensive work in the second, finishing the game with 17 points and 7 assists.
Apart from some of Mason’s timely shots, Kansas continually tried to find Josh Jackson in the post, who had the much smaller Kendall Yancy on him for much of the second half. It probably didn’t work quite as well as Bill Self had hoped, as Jackson finished with 15 points on 6-14 from the field, and also had six turnovers.
The lead hovered around 10 for much of the second half, and with Kansas up seven with under four minutes to play, a quick 8-0 run by Svi Mykhailiuk and Devonte’ Graham all but put the game away. Mykhailiuk had 12 points on 2-4 from three.
What to watch going forward: the defense… again
I’ve beaten this dead horse a ton this season, but what really confused me is why Bill Self completely stopped running a full court press. I understand that they can’t run if for the entire game, especially considering they really only play seven guys, but why not run it on and off?
Kansas looked fantastic in that press early on, and that’s exactly how a team like Kansas needs to play defense. They’re quicker than almost every team in the country. Why not just try playing a full-court press for, like, 15 minutes per game?
Not only could it force the other team into turnovers, it also means they’re starting their halfcourt offense later in the shot clock than normal, making it a much more difficult to pound the ball inside to their big men. Which, if you haven’t noticed, is the major weak point of this Kansas team.
Kansas only allowed .91 points per possession, which is a great number. However, that’s mostly because the 19 turnovers that Texas committed, and eight of those were committed in the first six or so minutes of the game, when the press was on.
I don’t know if pressing the other team is the answer to fix all of this team’s problems on defense. But it sure looked like it early on Saturday. So why not give it a shot?