Who needs 3s, right?

Kansas basketball certainly didn’t in its victory Saturday at Texas, but asked that very question, Bill Self offered what was perhaps an ominous response not reflective of that one-game outcome.

"It’s going to catch up to us,” Self said. “I mean, yeah, it’s going to catch up to us.”

The No. 6-ranked Jayhawks went just 2 of 10 from beyond the arc in their 66-57 victory over the Longhorns at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas, instead riding stout defense, a 40-29 advantage in rebounding and a 40-30 edge in points in the paint to the win. Isaiah Moss (1 of 1) and Devon Dotson (1 of 4) accounted for KU’s only successful attempts from deep.

The outcome represented KU’s eighth game this season with four or fewer made 3s, with three of those outputs coming in the team’s five Big 12 contests.

“It’s going to catch up to us,” Self reiterated. “We were fortunate today, but we’ve got to be a team that can knock them down. We’re not going to shoot as many as most because we’re going to try to get the ball inside more than most, but if you shoot 18 3s, we’ve got to be a team that can make six or seven. Certainly it puts too much pressure on your defense to get stops when you can’t stretch the floor.”

Saturday was only KU’s second game this season with 10 or fewer 3-point attempts — the Jayhawks (14-3, 4-1 Big 12) went 4 of 9 in a season-opening 68-66 defeat to Duke on Nov. 5 in New York. In KU’s three losses this season, Self's squad is a combined 10 of 37 from 3.

So what can be done to keep this issue from catching up to the Jayhawks?

For starters, KU won’t and shouldn’t abandon it’s philosophy of running the offense through senior center Udoka Azubuike — duh. If anything, the team’s guards arguably should be looking to get the nation’s leader in field goal shooting percentage more touches — averaging 7.4 field goal attempts per game, Azubuike on Saturday finished with 17 points on 7-for-9 shooting, authoring an early second-half scoring outburst that turned a seven-point deficit into a two-point lead.

But Azubuike, of course, does virtually all his damage 2 feet from the basket, having never attempted a trey in his collegiate career. Sophomore forward David McCormack is 0 for 1 from distance this season, and fellow starter Marcus Garrett is a career 27.9% shooter from 3-point range, averaging just 1.8 attempts per game as a junior.

Texas, meanwhile, deploys four players averaging at least three 3-point attempts per game — Jase Febres (7.1), Andrew Jones (5.0), Courtney Ramey (4.2) and Matt Coleman (3.6). Beyond the fickleness of game-to-game accuracy, the willingness to simply let it fly opens the game up for bigs like Jericho Sims — the Longhorns went just 6 of 20 from 3 on Saturday but Sims finished with a career-high 20 points on 9-for-14 shooting.

“With us, they’re not guarding all those spots, so that’s what makes it harder for us to get it inside,” Self said. “So we’ve got to do a better job of having guys step up and want to be aggressive from beyond the arc, because it’s not going to happen, continuing to win, unless you make people guard the entire court.”

Garrett went 0 of 2 from 3-point range Saturday, while Ochai Agbaji rounded out the Jayhawks' long-range ledger with an 0-for-3 showing. KU entered the weekend ranked 299th nationally with 17.9 attempted 3s per game.

“(Texas’) ball screen stuff is better because you have to guard shooters,” Self said. “Ball screen stuff doesn’t look near as good if you don’t have to guard shooters.”

 

Optimism on Agbaji

Agbaji finished Saturday’s game with four points on 1-for-6 shooting, adding two rebounds and a steal in 30 minutes. The sophomore guard is averaging just eight points in Big 12 play, with a 16-point effort in a Jan. 8 victory at Iowa State the best performance of the bunch.

Agbaji went 4 of 5 from 3-point range in that win but has made just 2 of 13 tries from distance in the other four conference contests.

“We’ve got to get Och going,” Self said in a postgame radio interview. “Och is too good a player to just be out there, and we’ve got to get him going.”

Self remains optimistic that Agbaji will come around, citing the need for improved aggressiveness.

“He’ll get it. He’ll get it,” Self said. “You know, he’s thinking too much.”