University of Kansas

KU coach Bill Self bothered by team’s poor free-throw performance

KU’s Devonte’ Graham, who scored 14 points against Nebraska on Saturday, is tied for the team lead in free-throw shooting at 77.8 percent.
KU’s Devonte’ Graham, who scored 14 points against Nebraska on Saturday, is tied for the team lead in free-throw shooting at 77.8 percent.

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self has grown weary of watching his players misfire from the free-throw line.

“There’s no excuse for our team missing free throws,” Self said Saturday after the Jayhawks converted just 14 of 25 attempts (56 percent) in an 89-72 victory over Nebraska at Allen Fieldhouse.

“We have a gym where we live with goals in it just for guys to shoot free throws. I said yesterday, ‘100 shots for every miss.’ Josh (Jackson, 3 of 8 vs. Nebraska) will be out there a while and ’Doke (Udoka Azubuike, 1 of 4), too. Obviously practice them more … that’s what we need to do.”

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The Jayhawks (9-1) have made 130 of 221 free throws for 58.8 percent. The lowest free-throw percentage for a KU team in the 14-year Self era is 66 percent in 2006-07.

“It will cost us. It hasn’t yet,” Self said of the team possibly losing games because of poor free-throw shooting. “We were lucky against Duke, going 9 for 19 (yet winning, 77-75). It will cost us if we don’t start making shots.”

Devonté Graham and Lagerald Vick have both made 77.8 percent of their free throws to lead the team. Frank Mason has made 74.1 percent, followed by Landen Lucas (68.4), the suspended Carlton Bragg (66.7), Jackson (54.7), Azubuike (37.0), Svi Mykhailiuk and Dwight Coleby (33.3). Mitch Lightfoot hit his only free throw attempt Saturday and now is 1 for 8 on the year.

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“We’ve been awful from the line,” Self said, noting that freshmen Jackson, Azubuike and Lightfoot especially need to start converting.

“I hate to say this, but if you look at our freshmen from the line, I don’t know what they are (40 of 88 for 45.5 percent), but if you would just look at the freshmen, other than that, we’re probably shooting 75 percent from the line (69.2 percent, not counting walk-ons).

“Now, if you were to remove those three guys, I don’t know that it’s that bad, but still can get better. So I think as a team, and those three are obviously an important part of our team, I think that’s probably the bigger concern is getting those guys making them consistently.”

Finals week is here

Basketball practices tend to be a bit shorter than normal (under two hours) during finals week, with players needing to fare well in the classroom to maintain their eligibility and continue progress toward a degree.

“I’m lucky. I’ve got four papers to do. I don’t really have to study. I’ve just got to type and do a couple of research papers,” junior guard Graham said after the win over Nebraska.

The Jayhawks’ next game is Saturday against Davidson at 6 p.m. at the Sprint Center.

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“I like that way better than sitting in class and taking a final,” added Graham, who scored 14 points with one assist and two turnovers in the Nebraska game.

Jackson planned on hitting the books Saturday and Sunday night.

“I’m just going to try to study as much as I can this weekend and next week and hopefully I’ll do pretty well,” Jackson said after scoring 17 points with six rebounds and five blocks.

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He said he has received advice on academics from some upperclassmen.

“Probably Landen (Lucas) and Tyler (Self) the most,” Jackson said. “When Coach isn’t around, they are like the dads on the team.”

Successful start

Graham says the team deserves passing grades for work on the court through 10 games.

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“I think we are at a good point now,” Graham said, “because I know we can get a whole lot better. But we’ve been playing well. We can get better defensively as guards on the perimeter. Inside as well. Once our big guys get going — Landen had a big game (12 points, seven boards) and Udoka played well (seven points, six boards) — I can see big things in our future,” Graham added.

The missed dunk

Jackson was unable to flush a dunk in the second half off a pass off the backboard from Mykhailiuk.

“The plan in my head was Svi was just going to give me the ball. I didn’t know the ball was going off the backboard, so when I saw that happen I was a little unprepared,” Jackson said.

Mykhailiuk said: “I should have just thrown a regular pass.”

Gary Bedore: 816-234-4068, @garybedore

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