Kansas Defense Steals Show in Win

Dec. 2, 2009


The Jayhawks suffered their largest deficit this season when they trailed visiting Alcorn State 4-0, but it didn’t take long for Kansas to get into rhythm. From then on out, Kansas’ pressure defense got the best of the Braves.

“I think we could have done a little better, but I think our energy was there after going what we’ve been going through for these past few days,” freshman guard Elijah Johnson said. “We showed a lot of energy.”

“A lot of energy” might have been an understatement, as the Kansas defense would not let the ball anywhere near the basket. Alcorn State couldn’t get anything going on offense: no open looks, hands in the face, effective trapping, and Kansas guards poking at every ball within reach.

After the Braves scored the first four points of the game, the Jayhawks went on a 36-0 run, holding Alcorn State scoreless for nearly 12 minutes. Kansas’ 36-straight points were one point shy of the NCAA record, which is held by Utah State in a game against Idaho in 2006.

Junior guard Conner Teahan said in his time as a Jayhawk, he had never seen any team go on a run quite like Wednesday night’s 36-0 run.

“It felt like we couldn’t do anything wrong; we were just playing good defense and getting steals,” said Teahan. “Coach [Self] always says that defense leads to exciting plays. We had that going for us today.”

In the first half alone, the Jayhawks forced eight steals and Kansas took a 41-point lead into halftime against the winless Braves (0-9, going into the game). Outscored 53-12 at halftime, Alcorn State’s 12 first half points were the fewest by a KU opponent since the Jayhawks allowed 10 points in the first half to Northern Arizona in 2007.

The pressure defense didn’t stop at halftime as the Jayhawks increased their lead and never let up. The energy that Johnson spoke of carried over into the second half when the team created 13 additional steals. In all, Kansas forced 30 turnovers and scored 35 points off of turnovers.

“Every halftime he [Coach Self] says to play like the score is 0-0,” Teahan explained. “You are at the same position as you were at the beginning of the game and that’s what kind of mentality you have to have. We went out there in the second half with that mentality.”

Kansas’ defense allowed just 19 points in the second half and the defense led the way in the 98-31 victory over the Braves.

By the end of the night, the defense had worn out the Braves. The defense totaled nine blocks, 38 defensive rebounds, and 21 steals. The 21 steals, collected by the Jayhawks, tied the mark for second-most in team history.

“Coach was emphasizing that we need to be better on defense so that is something we all wanted to come out tonight and focus on,” Robinson said. “If you do things then you get second chance shots, you get turnovers, you get fast break points, and don’t have to worry about offense.”

The best part about the solid defensive play was that it came when the team had experienced its toughest practice of the season.

“We had a pretty tough practice yesterday and nobody had legs today, but we still came out and played hard,” Robinson said. “We had fatigue going against us and we learned how to control that and play hard.”