LAWRENCE — Bill Self wasn’t certain of the exact number, but the Kansas basketball coach knew enough to label it an “unbelievable stat” — and not in a pleasant way.
“I think since the first game we’ve made seven 3s as a team, and Lagerald (Vick) has made 28,” Self said Monday ahead of the No. 2-ranked Jayhawks’ 7 p.m. Tuesday home contest against Wofford. “So I could be off. Maybe it’s eight. But it’s still a pretty big size differential.”
Ten made 3-pointers powered the Jayhawks to a 92-87 victory over Michigan State in their season opener, but in the five games since, the team has connected on just 37 treys, with Vick accounting for 28. Quentin Grimes’ three makes is the next-highest total, with Devon Dotson and Charlie Moore hitting a pair apiece and Dedric Lawson and Marcus Garrett accounting for one each to round out the nine non-Vick 3s.
"So that shows you a lot that we’re fortunate that we have the record that we have,” Self said, “but also I think when other guys start seeing the ball go in the hole I think it will definitely change our team."
Truthfully, the arc has been a two-way problem for the Jayhawks (6-0) — “I’d say the 3-point line in a concern both ways,” Self acknowledged.
While Vick is connecting on 59.6 percent of his 3-point attempts, his teammates are at a 31.7-percent clip, a figure that includes the opener. On the other end, the Jayhawks’ season-long struggle defending the 3-point line has continued — Stanford made 12 of 34 attempts last Saturday, including 11 of its final 26, and lost 90-84 in overtime simply because Vick countered with seven made 3s, including a game-tying shot with seven seconds left.
KU is allowing opponents to hit 37.3 percent of their 3-point attempts, ranked 300th nationally in that category entering play Monday.
“We haven’t defended the arc very well,” Self said. “Stanford came in here probably the worst 3-point shooting team we’ve faced this year statistically — doesn’t mean they are, but statistically. They played a guy (Isaac White) they hadn’t played all year long and he makes five on us. So not defending the arc is probably not a remedy for success playing Wofford, because they’ll probably be the best 3-point shooting team we play all year.”
One could certainly make that argument.
Paced by guard Fletcher Magee — the 6-foot-4 senior, averaging 17.9 points and 10.9 attempts from 3-point range, is considered by some one of the truest shooters in the country — the Terriers (6-2) average 28 long-range attempts per contest, which ranks 31st nationally. Their 39.3-percent conversion rate, meanwhile, ranks 41st.
That kind of volume and accuracy can be a lethal combination.
“They’re good. They’re one of the better teams we play this year,” Self said. “Obviously well-coached, well-drilled. They can score inside. But primarily you know you’ve got to defend the arc. They’ve got some guys that can really shoot it, and they’ve got some guys where what appears to be a marginal shot or a bad shot are good shots for them.”
A 15½-point underdog Tuesday, Wofford nevertheless enters Allen Fieldhouse with a bit of a reputation as a giant killer. The Terriers trounced South Carolina, 81-61, on Nov. 26 in Columbia, S.C., and last season, coach Mike Young’s squad earned a four-point victory at then-No. 5 North Carolina.
Self isn’t sure there is a “simple fix” to the Jayhawks’ 3-point defensive woes, though a starting point has been identified and emphasized in recent film review sessions.
“I think a lot of it is we don’t play our man before he catches it, so he catches it in the scoring area and you’re at his mercy on the shot fake or whatever,” Self said. “We’ve done a terrible job of pressuring out and making them catch a step farther out. It’s not necessarily (a problem) with Wofford — they’ll shoot it from five feet beyond the arc and it’s a good shot — but most teams you catch it five feet beyond the arc and you eliminate them from being a triple threat. They can just be a dual-threat as a passer or a driver, so the shot fake is eliminated. We haven’t done a good job of that at all.”
Even an apparent silver lining, the Jayhawks’ seventh-ranked 3-point shooting mark of 43.9 percent, is “so misleading,” Self said, as it's more a reflection of Vick than the team as a whole. Still, Self remains hopeful for his team’s long-term prospects from long range, citing Moore, Grimes and Lawson as potential candidates to break through.
“We know we have capable guys,” Self said. “They just haven’t had success knocking ’em down yet.”
VICK, LAWSON RECOGNIZED AGAIN
Vick and Lawson are the Big 12's player and newcomer of the week, respectively, the conference announced Monday. It's the second player of the week honor of the season for Vick and the first newcomer of the week award for Lawson, who himself has been named the player of the week twice in the season's first four weeks.
Vick scored 19 of his 27 points in the final 7:30 of regulation and overtime against the Cardinal, while Lawson notched his third straight double-double (24 points, 15 rebounds).