KU’s game Tuesday night against Duke was a classic Jekyll and Hyde performance. It showed what the Jayhawks can be at their best and their worst.
Kansas looked like the best team in the country during the first six minutes of the second half. KU used pinpoint entry passes to get easy baskets by Udoka Azubuike and David McCormack and played lockdown defense, culminating in quality outlet passes that led to scores.
Overall, that span featured a 14-0 run by the Jayhawks, which was ended by two straight threes from Blue Devil big men. The rest of the game was a bit harder to watch for Jayhawk fans.
The most glaring stat is the 28 turnovers committed by Kansas, the most since 1988. KU was downright reckless all night; leaving their feet to make bad passes and trying to squeeze the ball into windows that were already shut.
This was on display in the game clinching play. McCormack tried to make a bounce to an open Azubuike in the lane for an easy basket that would’ve put the Jayhawks up one with under a minute to play. The pass was a second late and Jack White had an easy steal resulting in a foul and two made free throws for Duke.
Turnovers weren’t the only issues that plagued Kansas. KU shot only nine threes, compared to Duke’s 24.
They also only grabbed 10 offensive rebounds against a young frontcourt. Offensive rebounding should be a strength of this team and must be a priority to justify playing two big men. That’s something to watch going forward and will likely be an indicator of good and bad games.
There were a few bright spots that went beyond that six-minute stretch in the second half. The defense was steady, especially against a team that featured two long-range shooting bigs, which will be one of the toughest matchups KU faces all year.
Ochai Agbaji played well and looks to have taken the step forward many thought he would. He shot 2-3 from three and snagged four steals while playing 38 minutes. Tristan Enaruna also played a surprising 16 minutes and made his only three-point attempt of the night. The fact that he played the most minutes of any bench player is a good sign. Clearly Bill Self trusts him.
The spin on this game is simple. Even when the Jayhawks are playing their worst game, they’re still a really good team. KU had all those turnovers and somewhat questionable shot selection, but they still only lost by two points against one of the best teams in college basketball.
Hopefully this is a teaching moment more than anything for Self and maybe the Jayhawks will have a chance for revenge come late March.