University of Kansas

Jayhawks on pace to become highest-scoring team in the Bill Self era

Kansas guard Frank Mason drives on Davidson’s Nathan Ekwu for a shot during the first half Dec. 17 at the Sprint Center. KU beat Davidson 89-71.
Kansas guard Frank Mason drives on Davidson’s Nathan Ekwu for a shot during the first half Dec. 17 at the Sprint Center. KU beat Davidson 89-71. rsugg@kcstar.com

Fueled by its four-guard lineup, Kansas’ basketball team is on pace to average more points than any squad in the 14-year Bill Self era.

An 89-71 victory over disciplined Davidson on Saturday at the Sprint Center hiked the Jayhawks’ points per game average to 88.0 with two nonconference games left to play — Thursday at UNLV and Jan. 28 at Kentucky.

Self’s highest-scoring team — the 2009-10 Jayhawks — averaged 81.6 ppg en route to a 33-3 overall record and 15-1 mark in the Big 12. The Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich-led Jayhawks lost to Northern Iowa in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

“Moving the ball, really,” KU freshman guard Josh Jackson said of a key to KU’s offensive success. He scored 18 points Saturday and was one of four KU players to reach double figures. KU (10-1) has had four or more double-figure scorers in nine of its 11 games.

“We are unselfish,” added Jackson, KU’s second-leading scorer at 15.1 points a game. “When one guy has a good shot we look over and see another guy has a better shot. It’s a matter of making the extra pass.”

Frank Mason also scored 18 points, while Svi Mykhailiuk had 13 and Devonté Graham 10 for the Jayhawks, who have scored 89 points or more in six-straight games. It is the longest streak of 89 points or more since Roy Williams’ Jayhawks posted six consecutive games of 91 or more points from Jan. 4-18, 1990. During that stretch, KU beat Wichita State, 93-66; Winthrop, 94-51; Nebraska, 98-93; Miami, 100-73; Oklahoma State, 91-77 and Elizabeth City State, 132-65. That 1989-90 KU team also had 21 straight games of scoring 83 points or more.

“Our ball movement has been pretty good,” Self said. “It’s a very unselfish group. Everybody is looking to make the extra pass.”

The unselfishness has resulted in the 88.0 ppg average, which on Sunday ranked 12th nationally in points per game. Only three teams in KU history — all coached by Williams — averaged more than 88 points a game in a full season.

The 1989-90 Jayhawks, who were led by Kevin Pritchard, Mark Randall, Terry Brown, Jeff Gueldner and Rick Calloway, averaged a school-record 92.1 points per game. That 30-5 team lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Williams’ 2001-02 team, led by Drew Gooden, Kirk Hinrich, Nick Collison, Jeff Boschee and Wayne Simien, averaged 90.9 ppg. That squad went 33-4 overall, 16-0 in the Big 12 and lost to Maryland in the Final Four. The 2001-02 team had a stretch in which it scored at least 86 points in 14 straight games.

Williams’ first KU team — the 1988-89 Jayhawks who were ineligible for the NCAA Tournament — averaged 89.0 ppg. That 19-12 squad was led by Milt Newton, Randall, Pritchard and Mike Maddox.

This KU team has made 52.4 percent of its shots, the best mark since Self became coach and best overall at KU since the 1989-90 squad hit 53.3 percent.

“Any of the four guards can drive downhill and create for other teammates,” said Mason, KU’s leading scorer at 20.3 points a game.

Mason has made 56 percent of his shots, trailing only Udoka Azubuike (62.9) and Landen Lucas (60.5), who have taken 35 and 38 shots respectively all season to Mason’s 134.

“We want to play within the flow of the offense,” Mason said. “However the shots come, be prepared to take the shot. If it’s not there be prepared to create for a teammate. We knew all along we had good shooters on the team.”

KU, which struggled early from three, has the team percentage up to 41.8 percent.

“We worked really hard throughout the summer,” Mason said. “Every day in practice we put a lot of reps in. I knew at some point in time we’d get it going.”

The Jayhawks, who hit 17 of 24 free throws versus Davidson, have been scoring at a productive clip despite 60 percent free-throw shooting. According to the KU media guide, if that mark stood all season it’d be worst performance from the line in school history. KU hit 60.5 percent in 1957-58.

“It’s unacceptable right now. We’re not shooting them well,” said Mason, who hit eight of nine versus Davidson and has made 76.2 percent on the season. “We’re practicing them a lot more. If guys are not in, they step to the side shooting free throws, keeping track of how many you make and things like that. We also shoot a lot of free throws in our off time. Hopefully it’ll get better as games go on.”

“We shoot them during practice. When you are not on the court, just go shoot on the side for five to 10 free throws,” said Graham. He was 0-for-2 versus Davidson and has made 70 percent in 11 games. “It’s something we’ve got to get better at as a team. It’s going to cost us a game, if we don’t start making our free throws. We’ve got to stay in the gym knocking ‘em down. It’ll translate over to the game.”

Gary Bedore: 816-234-4068, @garybedore

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