No disrespect to Lehigh but if Kansas sleepwalks on defense and fails
to hit shots during a large portion of Saturday’s game, Northern Iowa
Lehigh played with great effort and poise but let’s face it we are
still a ways away from a 16 seed being able to sustain enough firepower
to take out a 1 seed. It may happen someday but until then 1 seeds are
a perfect 102-0.
But the 90-74 win by the Jayhawks was enough to bring to light some
causes for concern for KU.
This is a Jayhawk squad built on defense and giving up that many points
(especially the 45 points in the second half) to Lehigh isn’t Kansas
basketball. If this team is going to win a title it is going to be
because it defends better than anybody on any given night.
“I thought our defense was not very good at all, and I thought
offensively the first half we were pretty stale and didn't shoot it
very good,” said KU head coach Bill Self after the game. “The second
half offense's efficiently was very good. But we gave up 45 points. I
never felt in the second half after we started playing that we were in
jeopardy of losing the game, but I did feel like we just didn't put
them away. And I think that give them credit on that as much as
anything else. They kept making some plays.”
KU’s interior defense specifically at times was lacking. It was
somewhat shocking to see Zahir Carrington, who is 6-7, score with such
ease. Carrington finished with 15 points and really didn’t become
ineffective until KU started trapping the post.
On the perimeter, don’t let the baby face fool you - C.J. McCollum can
really stroke it. Kansas knew that going in but the talented frosh was
still able to net 26 points on 7-21 shooting. It has been a problem for
KU all season but they need to defend the three-point line better. In
most of the upsets that occurred Thursday, and there were a lot,
three-pointers were at the heart of most of them. The Panthers are 17th
in the nation from behind the arc and proved on Thursday they’ve got
plenty of perimeter marksmen to do damage (9-19 from three). 47 percent
is about what they hit on average for the season and Northern Iowa shot
that number on Thursday but none bigger than the game-winner from Ali
Farokhmanesh (5-9 from three for the game).
“I'm not leaving out of here totally fired up right now, because I know
that if we defend like that, then it will be very difficult, very, very
difficult anyway, to beat Northern Iowa, and that would certainly make
it a real tough challenge, because we've got to be better than that
defensively,” said Self.
The good news for Kansas wasn’t totally absent. Collins (18 pts) led
the team again and scored like he needs to for KU to win this thing.
Cole Aldrich was a dominating presence on the defensive end (11pts, 5
blocks), though I still think KU needs more an offensive presence from
the big fella. Marcus Morris (26 points, 10 rebounds) continues to be
huge and his versatility still provides a nightmare matchup for any
“His game has grown a lot, to be honest with you,” said Carrington who
played high school ball against Marcus. “Playing him in high school,
they were, first of all, they weren't as bulky. They put on some size
and weight. His game has expanded as far as being able to shoot the
ball. Before he was a decent shooter, but now I think with that and his
game at his height, that allows him to stretch the floor and stuff.”
Another bright spot on the perimeter for the second straight game was
Tyrel Reed. The KU junior came off the bench and hit critical shots
with 12 points on 4-7 shooting from three.
“He was a significant factor in this game tonight, without a doubt,”
admitted Lehigh head coach Brett Reed. “We were trying to patrol the
interior and provide as much help as we could because we were outsized
in our front-court positions. It was a constant battle. And when you
require other people to come over for help or change some of your
defensive schemes, occasionally you let somebody loose on the
perimeter. Reed was really able to capitalize on each of those shots in
that type of situation.”
“Tyrel was probably the most efficient player we had in the game
offensively because his shots came at big times, which really kind of
kept the game, the distance great enough where we never really felt
threatened,” Self added.
Be sure of this. Northern Iowa is a legitimate threat. The Panthers
will undoubtedly be up for the challenge KU presents. They have weapons
in the starting five and on the bench, the Panthers have size in the
post (7-0 Jordan Eglseder), and threats on the perimeter. The headlines
read “KU crushes Lehigh”, “Kansas Rolls” but KU fans and the coaching
staff know differently. There was plenty to raise an eyebrow over and
know that if parts of the Lehigh game rear their ugly head again KU
could go home way earlier then planned.
But keep this in mind Marcus and Markieff worked hard over the summer
so that an early exit wouldn’t happen again, Sherron Collins and Cole
Aldrich returned to win a national title, Xavier Henry came to KU to
win a championship, and this staff has been here before. Now is not the
time for KU to doubt itself, now is the time to bring an “A” game it
will need from here on out.
With a remarkable 33-2 record I still don’t think we’ve seen the best
for 40 minutes from this KU team. Don’t get me wrong, there have been
impressive stretches and KU is a spurt team. But now would be a good
time to put together an iron clad 40-minute game against a tough