Even with their play through the first seven games of Big 12 play, it’s difficult to think that No. 6 Kansas was going to run through its 18-game conference slate without a blemish. So in that regard, their 81-69 loss at No. 25 Texas doesn’t mean that the sky’s falling or that the Jayhawks are now prohibited from winning the national title.
But the defeat marked the third consecutive game in which Kansas has seen its opponent shoot 40% from the field or better. Texas shot 42.9% on Saturday afternoon, with Isaiah Taylor (23 points) and Jonathan Holmes (22) being the toughest match-ups for the Jayhawks. The Longhorns were able to convert in the paint, scoring 32 points, and they scored 1.16 points per possession on the afternoon.
The current three-game stretch of teams shooting 40% or better is the longest such streak of the season for Kansas, a program that during the Bill Self era has consistently ranked among the nation’s best in field goal percentage defense. Prior to this season the worst field goal percentage that a Self-coach Kansas team allowed for an entire season was 39.4% in 2010-11 (last year’s time limited teams to 36.1% shooting).
Before Saturday’s loss this group was allowing opponents to shoot 40.9%, and while that number doesn’t seem “bad” it is a departure from what Kansas teams traditionally allow, as only two teams during Self’s tenure have allowed teams to shoot 39% or better from the field.
This is happening in spite of the presence of Joel Embiid, who’s been one of the nation’s best interior defensive presences this season, and he’s not the only Jayhawk with the ability to defend either. Players such as Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor have the size needed to be factors inside, and their perimeter contributors have the athleticism needed to make things difficult on opponents as well.
At times this season that’s happened, but there have also been points where the level of play on the defensive end of the floor hasn’t been where Kansas needs it to be. Can it be fixed? Yes, and based on Self’s track record it would be wise to bet on that happening. If anything Saturday’s defeat served as a reminder of sorts for this team, that in order for them to reach their full potential they have to be consistent defensively.