Forcing turnovers and blocking shots is a great recipe to win games, and Kansas basketball proved that in its victory over No. 20 Colorado Saturday. The Jayhawks forced Colorado to turn the ball over 17 times and sent away four shots in the contest.
The Jayhawks also forced the Buffaloes into taking bad shots, holding them to just 30% from the field and 20.6% from the three-point line.
The Jayhawks put their feet on the gas right off the jump ball, forcing three turnovers on Colorado’s first four possessions. The defensive effort was highlighted by junior guard Marcus Garrett.
After Colorado junior guard Tyler Bey stole the ball two minutes into the game, Garrett quickly reversed all the momentum and took it right back from Bey. He ended the half with three steals and would have had four had he been able to corral the ball after he knocked it away from Colorado.
Garrett wasn’t the only force on defense. It was collective effort that made Kansas so dominant in the first half. As pointed out by coach Bill Self, it was the collective effort of the team, not just Garrett, that limited Bey, who leads Colorado in scoring, rebounding, steals and blocks.
Bey did not hit a single field goal in the entirety of the first half, scoring his two points in the first half on free throws. He finished the game with five points on 1-of-3 shooting.
Garrett credited the scouting report to being able to limit Bey, knowing Bey likes to catch the ball down low and make an explosive play to the rim. Garrett said he was trying to force Bey to catch the ball on the outside of his body to not allow him to make those explosive plays.
Colorado struggled getting down low, too. Of the Buffaloes first 10 shots, eight were three-pointers. At first, Kansas allowed a couple wide-open looks but clamped down.
The presence of senior center Udoka Azubuike and his two blocks in the first half kept Colorado behind the arc, as the Buffaloes finished the first half with 15 three-point attempts. Coming into the game, Colorado averaged 18 three-point attempts.
Credit to the Jayhawks’ defense, Colorado shot a mere 26.9% from the field and turned the ball over nine times in the first half.
The defense continued the pressure in the second half, as the Jayhawks opened up the period with a steal from sophomore guard Ochai Agbaji.
Garrett also continued to be a force, grabbing a steal just three minutes later. Two minutes after that, Garrett knocked away what would’ve been an easy layup by the Buffaloes.
Azubuike continued to dominate in the paint. The Buffaloes grabbed a steal and were moving up the court, and Colorado senior forward Lucas Siewert looked like he was about to have a wide-open layup until Azubuike slid over and sent the shot back into the stands.
Garrett said knowing Azubuike is behind him helps the perimeter rotate and never sag off defenders.
“With me, Ochai [Agbaji] and Devon [Dotson] on the perimeter, then we have [Azubuike], I feel like we can guard anybody,” Garrett said.
From tipped passes to blocked shots, Kansas never let up on the defensive end. Led by Garrett’s four steals and Azubuike’s three blocks, the Jayhawks proved to be a defensive nightmare for their former Big 12 conference foe.
“Defensively, I do think we’re pretty connected,” Self said. “We’ve gotten much better switching.”