No. 16 Kansas notched its third straight victory by handling previously unbeaten Toledo 93-83 on Monday night at Allen Fieldhouse. One day later, we offer three observations on KU’s performance and the Jayhawks’ path moving forward.
By RUSTIN DODD
The Kansas City Star
1. Even when Joel Embiid has a quiet night, he’s still pretty good. Kansas’ victory against Toledo was mostly about Naadir Tharpe’s shooting, Perry Ellis’ assertiveness, and Andrew Wiggins’ continued offensive growth. Embiid, meanwhile, just seemed to blend in.
He had three turnovers and was a little shaky on offense during the first half. But by the end, Embiid still managed 14 points and 10 rebounds while shooting five of nine from the field.
By more advanced metrics, he scored 1.08 points per possession, the fourth straight game he's been better than a point per possession. (That included a season-high 1.71 against New Mexico.) During the same stretch, Embiid has made 17 of 25 from the field while averaging nearly eight rebounds per game.
“Even when you think he’s not playing good,” Wiggins said, “he’s playing good.”
On the whole, the Kansas offense recorded its most efficient night of the season, scoring 1.28 points per possession. The Jayhawks, of course, needed all that offense after getting cut up by Toledo for large chunks of the game. But we’ll hit more on KU’s defensive issues later this week.
2. Andrew Wiggins and the question of efficiency. Wiggins played a season-high 38 minutes against Toledo, but here’s something else that was a little intriguing: Wiggins, who had 20 points, was five for five on dunks and layups and just two for nine on jump shots. That sounds bad, of course, but it could bode well for the future.
As efficient as Wiggins’ has been — he’s shooting 47 percent overall — he could probably be even better at the rim. After last night’s game, Wiggins is shooting 64.2 percent on shots at the rim, according to Hoop-Math.com. That’s behind fellow starters Joel Embiid (76.4 percent), Perry Ellis (70.8 percent) and Wayne Selden (73.3 percent). It’s still above the national average (60.9 percent), but for somebody with Wiggins’ skill set and athleticism, it stands to reason he could convert on a few more shot attempts at the rim.
3. How will Michael Cobbins’ injury affect the Big 12 race? For Kansas, the most important development from Monday night probably took place in Stillwater, Okla. While Kansas was playing Toledo, Oklahoma State starting power Michael Cobbins went down with a foot injury during the Cowboys’ victory over Robert Morris. On Tuesday, Oklahoma State announced that Cobbins would have surgery on his left Achilles and miss the rest of the season, according to the Tulsa World.
For Oklahoma State, preseason co-favorites with KU in a loaded Big 12, it could be a devastating blow.
Cobbins was averaging just 4.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, but he was an invaluable piece in a rather thin frontcourt. The Cowboys are a perimeter-oriented team, with guards Marcus Smart and Markel Brown and swingman Le’Bryan Nash taking on most of the scoring load. Sophomore Kamari Murphy, who is playing 20 minutes a game, can pick up some of the slack. But the rest of the frontcourt is unproven.
The Cowboys travel to Allen Fieldhouse on Jan. 18. Last season, Cobbins averaged eight points and 11 rebounds in two games against Kansas. We should find out pretty quickly if Oklahoma State (sans Cobbins) can match up with Perry Ellis, Joel Embiid and the rest of KU’s deep frontcourt.