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No. 2 Kansas has a lot to work on following Battle 4 Atlantis experience (VIDEO)

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While in-season tournaments present great opportunities for programs to rack up multiple quality wins in a neutral setting, there also valuable when it comes to the growth of a roster. That’s certainly the hope for No. 2 Kansas, which despite its 2-1 weekend at the Battle 4 Atlantis did not enjoy the best of weekends in The Bahamas.

One night after losing to Villanova on a last-second three-pointer by Ryan Arcidiacono the Jayhawks failed to put away UTEP, and that combined with some poor decision-making down the stretch resulted in a “closer than it should have been” 67-63 victory. Perry Ellis led the way offensively with 19 points, scoring 15 of those points in the second half when the Miners were able to slow things down on both ends of the floor, helping offset a quiet night from freshman Andrew Wiggins.

Wiggins scored just six points on 2-for-9 shooting, with UTEP’s multiple defensive looks successfully confusing Wiggins and many of his teammates. And he wasn’t the only freshman who struggled either, as one night after showing signs of being one of Kansas’ best decision-makers guard Frank Mason committed two unnecessary fouls in the game’s final minute. Add in 15 turnovers and as head coach Bill Self noted after the game, there are plenty of “teachable moments” for he and his staff to derive from this weekend in The Bahamas.

Kansas shot just 39% from the field and three-point shooting (5-for-19) remains a concern for the Jayhawks, who entered the game shooting 31.9% through six games. Kansas traditionally ranks among the best shooting teams in the country when it comes to overall field goal percentage, but they’re going need some guys to show that they can consistently knock down perimeter shots as the season wears on. Because even with the firepower on the roster, as UTEP showed Saturday night a zone or “junk” defense can be used to keep the Jayhawks out of the paint.

Some may wonder why there would be so much angst in the aftermath of a victory, but even with UTEP’s status as one of the preseason favorites to win Conference USA beating the Miners isn’t the standard set for Kansas. The Jayhawks certainly have to clean things up and they’ve got time to do that, and remaining non-conference games against Colorado, Florida, New Mexico, Georgetown and San Diego State will test their progress.

The goal for any team with hopes of cutting down the nets is to hit its stride in March, not November. So while there are some areas of concern for Kansas, their uneven weekend in The Bahamas will help them in the long run.

No. 4 Maryland refocuses, slows down No. 18 Purdue

Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon watches from the sideline during a break in play in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Purdue, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016, in College Park, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
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No. 18 Purdue and No. 4 Maryland exchanged leads for most of the first 33 minutes before the Boilermakers scored five straight points on layups by Rapheal Davis (who was fouled on his make) and Caleb Swanigan. Purdue was getting the touches it wanted around the basket, and Mark Turgeon’s Terrapins weren’t doing a whole lot to keep it from happening either.

Turgeon called a timeout to get his team back in sync defensively, and as a result Maryland went on a 9-0 run that ultimately led to their winning by the final score of 72-61.

Maryland’s big men, Robert Carter Jr. and Diamond Stone, did a much better job down the stretch of keeping Purdue from getting the ball inside to senior center A.J. Hammons. Hammons finished the game with 18 points and ten rebounds, but only two of those points came after Maryland’s 9-0 second half run. But keeping the ball from getting inside is just as much about the players defending the passers as it is keeping the big(s) from getting to his preferred spot.

Defensively Maryland took away the passing angles and essentially made Purdue’s guards make plays, something they’ve struggled with at times this season. That led to far too many perimeter shots for Purdue, which shot 3-for-23 on the day from beyond the arc. Add in the fact that they attempted just five free throws as a team, making two, and areas in which the Boilermakers can benefit went neglected in College Park.

By comparison Maryland was able to make a habit of going to the foul line, shooting 24-for-27 from the charity stripe with Rasheed Sulaimon and Melo Trimble combining to go 17-for-19 on the day. The foul line helped Trimble make up for an off day from the field, as he shot 2-for-12, but the sophomore’s ability to work off of ball screens ultimately opened things up for Maryland even with his shots not falling.

Add in the fact that Sulaimon (21 points, ten rebounds) and Carter (19 points, seven rebounds) were able to pick up the slack, with Diamond Stone adding 12 points and six rebounds, and it’s easy to see why Maryland was able to turn things around down the stretch.

Maryland’s been a good defensive team this season, but they got away from that for a significant portion of Saturday’s game. A key timeout to get the team refocused paid off, the the Terrapins defending at a level that made it incredibly difficult for Purdue to get anything going. And as a result, Maryland remains within a game of leaders Iowa and Indiana in the Big Ten title race.

Darryl Reynolds shines, Kris Dunn struggles as No. 3 Villanova beat No. 11 Providence

Villanova forward Darryl Reynolds (45) dunks the ball in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Creighton, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016, in Villanova, Pa. Villanova won 83-58. (AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)
(AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)
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Replacing the injured Daniel Ochefu, who missed his third straight game as the result of a concussion, Darryl Reynolds finished with a career-high 19 points and 10 boards as No. 3 Villanova went into Providence and knocked off the No. 11 Friars, 72-60.

Josh Hart chipped in with 14 points and 13 boards (seven of which were offensive), Kris Jenkins notched a double-double as well and Ryan Arcidiacono added 16 points for the Wildcats, who improved to 10-1 in Big East play, keeping them all alone in first place in the league.

Perhaps the most impressive part of this win, which wasn’t quite as close as the final score would indicate, is that Villanova did it while shooting just 5-for-22 from three. The Wildcats have been reliant on the three during this recent run atop the conference, and on Saturday, they won by controlling the the glass and the paint.

Reynolds’ performance was something else. This is a guy who entered the game averaging just 2.3 points and a reputation for being little more than the reason that Ochefu played so many minutes, but it got to the point on Saturday that he was being double-teamed in the post to get the ball out of his hands. That’s pretty remarkable.

As if the fact that Villanova, playing without their best rebounder, grabbed 12 offensive rebounds and totally controlled the defensive glass.

 

Much of that is likely due to the fact that Ben Bentil, the 6-foot-8 forward for the Friars that is the Big East’s leading scorer, was dealing with an ankle injury he suffered at DePaul earlier this week. He finished 20 points, but much of that came in the form of jumpers and shots at the rim while his two rebounds was much more indicative of the impact that he was able to make with his ankle.

But what was really concerning for Providence was that Kris Dunn was downright awful. He shot 4-for-15 from the floor, committed six turnovers and simply made the wrong decision too many times. Yes, he was likely pressing due to the fact that Bentil was injured and Villanova’s defense was keying on him, but it’s not exactly comforting to know that this is what his floor is.

He’s Kris Dunn.

He’s going to be keyed on by defenses every single time he steps on a basketball court.

He has to be better than he was today.