Kansas ultimately could not overcome its worst long-distance shooting performance of the season in Saturday’s 80-64 setback at Baylor.
The Jayhawks’ 6-of-31 outing (19.4 percent) from beyond the three-point arc resembled a 6-of-26 (23.1) effort in an 85-73 home loss to Texas Tech and 5-of-20 (25.0) showing in a 74-65 loss to Washington at the Sprint Center. The only other sub-30-percent three-point game of the season was 28.6 (8 of 28) in a 65-61 victory over Kentucky in Chicago.
“We shot it miserably,” KU coach Bill Self said after Saturday’s defeat, which combined with Texas Tech’s victory over Kansas State, dropped the Jayhawks (19-6, 8-4) into sole possession of second place in the Big 12. Texas Tech (21-4, 9-3) holds the top spot with six games to play.
“We’ve got to shoot it well in order to play well in a lot of areas because we are not a very physical team,” Self added.
Devonté Graham went 4 of 10 from three Saturday, while fellow guards Malik Newman (2 of 10), Lagerald Vick (0-3) and Svi Mykhailiuk (0 of 6) had off nights.
“There was a time where Svi, Malik and Lagerald were probably shooting about 44 percent between them from the three-point line,” Self said. “We go 2 for 19 (vs. Baylor). That is not very good.”
Vick has struggled the most in Big 12 play. He’s made 13 of 48 threes for 27.1 percent, compared to 24 of 51 (47.1) during nonconference play. Newman has made 20 of 59 (33.9) in Big 12 games after hitting 22 of 61 (36.1) in nonconference action. Mykhailiuk has made 39 of 89 (43.8) in the Big 12 after cashing 42 of 92 (45.7) in the nonconference.
Graham, meanwhile, has made 36 of 89 (40.4) threes in the Big 12 after hitting 40 of 90 (44.4) nonconference.
As a group, Vick, Mykhailiuk and Newman have made 72 of 196 three-pointers (36.7 percent) in league play after hitting 89 of 204 (43.1) in nonconference. The group of four — Graham, Vick, Mykhailiuk and Newman — has combined to hit 108 of 285 (37.9) in league games after making 128-294 (43.6) nonconference.
“Our shots were not falling the first half (2 of 13 threes),” said KU forward Mitch Lightfoot, who said his reaction to the Jayhawks’ 10-point halftime deficit against Baylor, was simply, “they’ve got to fall at some point in time. That’s what we do.”
They didn’t fall in the final half, however. KU went 4 of 18 from beyond the arc.
“We came out to a slow start, which we always talk about we can’t do,” Graham said. “We struggled to make shots against their zone. Their zone … they were pretty active in it. They really kind of had us out of rhythm. We didn’t shoot the ball well at all.”
KU scored 20 points in the first half Saturday, by far its lowest output in a half all season. Kansas had 28 points in a half against both West Virginia and Stanford. The last time KU scored 20 points or fewer in a half was on Jan. 7, 2015, at Baylor, when the Jayhawks totaled 18.
“We obviously weren’t prepared against their zone at all,” Self said. “We were so tentative the first half. Devonté was the only one who played a lick the first half. We didn’t do a good job of attacking it (zone) at all. We were down 10 at halftime and didn’t play a lick but came back and actually cut it to two, not because of our defense, because our defense wasn’t any good.
“They deserved to win the game,” Self added, conceding that fact after watching Baylor outscore the Jayhawks 22-8 in the final 7:21. “We’ve got to get better … fast.”
Now a game behind Texas Tech with six to go — including a KU-Tech game on Feb. 24 in Lubbock, Texas — Kansas travels to Iowa State for a 6 p.m. game on Tuesday.
“If Texas Tech takes care of business in Manhattan tonight, they’ll be in the driver’s seat without question, but this league is unbelievable,” Self said before the Red Raiders beat the K-State 66-47 to grab the one-game lead at 9-3 compared to KU’s 8-4 mark. West Virginia is alone in third at 7-5. Kansas State and Oklahoma are 6-6, followed by TCU, Baylor, Oklahoma State and Texas (all 5-7) and Iowa State (4-8).
“There are no great teams. There are 10 good ones. We don’t have the margin for error not to have everybody turned up and tuned in,” Self added.
Graham noted: “If you don’t bring it one day, that so called underdog is going to upset you. You’ve got to know that each and every game.”