Jayhawk Insider: Lessons learned in Baton Rouge
LAWRENCE, Kan. – During the third week of the 2018-19 college basketball season, Kansas hit the road for the first time to face LSU on Nov. 29 in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge inside the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
The Jayhawks stormed ahead in the first quarter and never looked back, earning its first road victory of the year and improving to 6-0 on the season. Here are a few lessons learned on KU’s business trip to Baton Rouge.
Lesson No. 1: Kansas can win on the road in SEC Country
It may have been the first road test of the 2018-19 campaign for Kansas, but the Jayhawks looked every bit as confident on the road as they do inside Allen Fieldhouse. With the help of its senior-heavy roster, KU jumped out to an early lead and by the end of the first quarter owned a double-digit advantage over the Lady Tigers.
Although LSU fought to make a comeback coming out of half time, the Jayhawks performance just got grittier as the game progressed. While Kansas was knocking down 3-pointers on one end of the hardwood, LSU was turning the ball over at the other end. KU stuck to the game plan, which meant the Lady Tigers turned the ball over a season-high 26 times. Kansas capitalized on each miscue with unselfish play, finding the open Jayhawk to knock down the next bucket.
Coach Brandon on the road win:
“It was a good game for us in that we got off to a fast start, but LSU came back and grabbed some momentum coming into halftime. It was a typical ebb and flow game, but we really had to buckle down and play with some grit and toughness down the stretch to close it out.”
Lesson No. 2: Seniors will lead Jayhawks to new heights
With seven seniors on Kansas’ roster, it’s no surprise that group in their final season has led the Jayhawks to a 6-0 start to the year. The seniors contributed 51 of KU’s 68 points at LSU, including double-digit scoring efforts from Kylee Kopatich (14), Jessica Washington (12) and Christalah Lyons (10).
It’s not just the senior’s offensive production that is making a difference in 2018-19, but the hustle, heart and leadership that the group brings day in and day out. It’s the hustle plays and leading by example that the senior class shines at, Kansas has taken 16 charges through the first six games and 12 of those are from Lyons and Washington.
The seniors accounted for nearly half KU’s rebounds and steals against the Lady Tigers. The upperclassmen’s confidence and experience is evident and rubbing off on the underclassmen with each practice and game.
Coach Brandon on the play of his seniors at LSU:
“Kylee Kopatich was terrific on both ends of the floor. She had a great night. Jessica (Washington) and Christalah (Lyons) didn’t shoot the ball as well as they would’ve liked, but to play as many minutes as they did against those types of athletes and pressure they managed the game well. They only had three turnovers between them.”
Lesson No. 3: Everyone can shoot from long range
Being on the road didn’t faze the Jayhawks Thursday night as Kansas finished the game with a season-high 12 makes from long range, which is the second most triples in a game by a KU squad.
Kansas opened the ballgame with four Jayhawks combining for 83.3 percent (5-of-6) shooting from the 3-point line. By half time, Kansas had six different players with a made 3-pointer. By the time the game ended, KU connected on 38.8 percent of its attempts from long range with seven Jayhawks contributing from beyond the arc. Six of the seven Jayhawks finished shooting above 50 percent from the 3-point line.
Coach Brandon on KU’s success from the 3-point line:
“We knew that LSU was going to play matchup zone and a kind of gap man-to-man (defense). We felt like we’d have some opportunities from behind the (3-point) line and that we’d need to step up and shoot them with confidence. To start the game, maybe four different players made one and in the first half multiple players made one, so it was nice to see everyone be shot ready and release it with confidence.”
Lesson No. 4: This squad is Tough and Together
For the last four years, you’ve seen the hashtag on social media. The tagline on all printed materials. It’s said inside the huddle at the end of each practice, but what is tough and together? The definition lies in Kansas’ victory at LSU.
For the Jayhawks being tough is not backing down no matter the venue or environment. It means giving it your all for 40 minutes. Taking charges. Flying across the floor to save the ball from going out of bounds or to snag another steal.
Being tough and together is being capable of fighting off comebacks. Staying composed when you’re at the free throw line in the final minutes of the game. It’s cheering on your team, picking a teammate up off the floor.
These are all things that coach Brandon has instilled as important factors to the Tough and Together culture. And more importantly, all things that you saw at some point during the win at LSU.
Coach Brandon on the Tough and Together culture:
“You can’t go on the road and win games, especially against that level of competition, without being physically and mentally tough. There were multiple possessions on Thursday night where we demonstrated some physical toughness. But most importantly, demonstrated some mental toughness. I don’t think we ever fragmented when LSU was making runs at us and cutting the lead. I thought our positive culture really showed itself.”
Kansas continues its two-game road tilt at Nebraska on Wednesday, Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. inside the Pinnacle Bank Arena. The game can be listened to on the Jayhawk Radio Network.
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