Iowa State made 18 threes.
That’s a school record, and it’s also the biggest reason why Kansas fell 92-89 in overtime to Iowa State on Saturday afternoon at Allen Fieldhouse.
So how does that happen? And what’s the fix?
The answer, as you might guess, isn’t simple.
Let’s start with this: hitting 18 of 34 threes is tough. Iowa State deserves credit for making them, but more than that, it should be lauded for firing away without fear, understanding that strategy was a wise move as a double-digit underdog.
For KU … this is about a lot of things. And they’re not all the same.
One of the costliest breakdowns came in the final minute of overtime. When Monte Morris drove middle, KU’s Svi Mykhailiuk lost his man, and Donovan Jackson faded to the corner for his team’s final three.
“Certainly we were ball-watching,” KU coach Bill Self said, “and didn’t get there.”
Mykhailiuk, in a stand-up way, admitted his mistake after the game, but he was far from the only person who had perimeter issues.
Josh Jackson, time and again, struggled to get out to Deonte Burton. It’s true the Iowa State big man had only made 18 threes coming in — with 31-percent accuracy — but once someone makes five of his first seven from out there, he should be given extra attention.
That didn’t happen twice late. Once, in transition — after he’d hit a three the previous possession — Burton dribbled calmly up to the wing and hit a shot over Jackson, who was caught off guard and flat-footed.
Then, in overtime, Jackson reacted a step slow on Burton again, failing to close out with high hands as the senior made his seventh three.
This all seems fixable, even if it wasn’t corrected Saturday. Jackson came to KU known for his competitiveness, while Self has a long reputation of getting talented players to give great effort on the defensive end. Add in that Jackson has the height and wingspan to challenge shots, and it’s not hard to see how he still could turn into an above-average defender.
On Saturday, though, Jackson was part of a team that wasn’t able to focus well enough on the defensive details. And without a true rim-protector like Jeff Withey or Cole Aldrich, this team’s margin for error defensively is obviously much smaller.
Guard Frank Mason was asked afterwards how KU could improve its perimeter defense and commented that the team could pressure more while also following the scouting report better. In other words, KU’s players could potentially help less on guys that have previously shown they can shoot from the outside.
Squint hard enough, and you can see this type of shooting team as a bad matchup for KU’s defense down the line. The Jayhawks’ zone sets have been effectively lately, but against a roster like Iowa State’s that is filled with shooters, Self can’t go to this changeup because it would likely allow more open outside shots.
Defending spot-up attempts — man or zone — has been a weakness for this KU team. The Jayhawks rank in the 15th percentile in those situations according to Synergy Sports Technology’s logs, meaning that overhelping and late closeouts were issues long before Saturday.
It’s still no reason to panic. No other team is likely to hit 18 threes against KU, and few have as many shooters as Iowa State. The Jayhawks also, for most of the season, have done a good job of discouraging other teams from taking perimeter shots.
KU didn’t do this effectively Saturday, though. Iowa State kept buying lottery tickets (53 percent of their field-goal attempts were threes) and ended up hitting the jackpot.
It just means the Jayhawks have work to do defensively. And that likely starts with more attention to detail.