Campus Corner

The Bonus: How Perry Ellis helped KU attack TCU's zone

Updated: 2014-02-16T23:32:49Z

By RUSTIN DODD

The Kansas City Star

— One day after No. 7 Kansas rolled over TCU 95-65 at Allen Fieldhouse, here’s the latest edition of The Bonus: Three takeaways from the Jayhawks’ latest victory.

1. Most of Saturday’s victory was about sophomore forward Perry Ellis. He pretty much did it all: a career-high 32 points; his first two three-pointers of the Big 12 season; and eight rebounds in a blowout win against a totally overmatched TCU team. But one of the more interesting numbers in Ellis’ line was his five assists, also a career high.

Nobody would call Ellis a selfish offensive player, of course. But when the ball goes to Ellis on the block, he’s usually attacking the basket. It’s one reason he’s the least turnover-prone Kansas starter; his 26 turnovers are 18 fewer than any other KU starter. But he also entered Saturday with just six assists in his last eight games.

It’s an area where Ellis can certainly improve, not just assists but setting up for others from the high post and finding shooters from the block.

After Saturday’s victory, Kansas coach Bill Self referenced former KU forward Julian Wright, who used to love facilitating offense from the high post, especially against zones. Ellis showed some of that ability on Saturday. He also showed some solid vision, hitting freshman Andrew Wiggins on a short lob pass from the opposite block.

“I knew he’d go get it,” Ellis said, “so I just decided to throw it up.”

But with TCU playing a two-three zone for most of the day, the Jayhawks tried to play through Ellis on the block and high post. Here’s one example of how Kansas used Ellis to attack the middle of TCU’s two-three zone.

Midway through the second half, with KU already leading by 19, freshman guard Frank Mason initiated a set against TCU’s zone. Ellis started on the block, while Jamari Traylor gave Mason some space to work with a screen on one of the top men in the zone. Meanwhile, Andrew Wiggins started in the opposite corner. Here's a look at how it started:

After setting the screen for Mason, Traylor dived to the block, where he and Ellis set a double screen on TCU’s Karviar Shepherd, the middle man in the two-three zone. Wiggins cut along the baseline, flashing to the corner.

With Wiggins’ flash occupying one of the bottom defenders in the two-three, Ellis was free to rub off Traylor’s screen and flash free toward the high post. (Pause for a second to single out Traylor, the unsung hero of this play. In the span of seconds, he set what amounted to three screens, never touching the ball.)

Ellis actually bobbled the entry pass from Mason, which allowed the TCU defense to recover. But with TCU now concerned with a dialed-in Ellis at the high post, Selden was able to cut backdoor toward the bucket.

The pass was delivered on time, Selden finished the layup, and Ellis had one of his five assists.

Kansas has struggled against zone defenses this season, and Wiggins has never looked that comfortable finding creases to attack. Nobody will confuse TCU’s zone for Syracuse, but if Ellis can be a scorer and facilitator from the high post, it definitely makes KU more dangerous against similar defenses.

2. Kansas’ own defense. Once again, the Jayhawks’ defense was a question mark in the first half. The Jayhawks allowed TCU — one of the worst offenses in the country — to shoot 56.5 percent from the floor. Maybe it was just guard Kyan Anderson (seven of eight for 21 points) having a great half. But still, it was some ugly film. The Jayhawks turned it up in the second half, holding the Horned Frogs to just 33.3 percent shoot. And from here, we’ll let reader Jeff bring up the following point.

For years, it seems, the idea of pressing has been a favorite question among Kansas fans. And for years, Bill Self has pulled it out in rare occasions — mostly when KU is down late, like last Monday night at K-State.

But the idea of “press as defensive catalyst” is interesting, especially with a KU team that can lack focus and energy on the defensive end at certain times.

3. We probably overdo around here it with the daily barrage of KenPom.com numbers . But after Saturday’s victory, a few things from KU’s updated KenPom.com profile caught my eye. Kansas now ranks No. 5 in offensive efficiency and 25th in defensive efficiency, according to all those formulas and spreadsheets. Almost every year, the eventual NCAA champion ranks in the top 20 in both categories, so it’s worth tracking. But here’s something else that jumped out.

KU ranked No. 10 overall in the KenPom rankings, while Wichita State ranked No. 11. Even more interesting: Kansas ranked fifth on offense and 25th on defense; the Shockers ranked 25th offense and eighth on defense. For the moment, pretty close to mirror images. Might be an intriguing matchup.

 

To reach Rustin Dodd, call 816-234-4937 or send email to rdodd@kcstar.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/rustindodd.

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