|Off Reb Rate||41.2||43.5|
There's only one thing to say about those numbers, and that is "gross." Thanks in large part to Jeff Withey's efforts at the defensive end, State hit just 13-46 (28.3%) inside the arc; Leslie and Howell were a combined 9-26 inside. Unfortunately the team didn't shoot very well outside either--Lorenzo Brown and C.J. Williams stepped up, but Scott Wood was cold.
Kansas wasn't much better, but its frontcourt superiority proved decisive. Tyshawn Taylor was awful and the Jayhawks hit just one three, which were some incredibly ideal circumstances for State. But in addition to Withey's defensive efforts, Thomas Robinson grabbed seven offensive boards by himself--KU had 20 in total--and the Jayhawks finished +10 in the second chance points category. With both teams rebounding well at their own offensive ends, Kansas did a better job of converting those extra chances. They hit 46% of their twos, which isn't a great number in general, but within the context of this game, it was huge.
And still State had several chances to claim the victory in the final minute. But that's too painful to dwell on. I always end up building these alternate realities in my mind--so-and-so hits the shot instead of misses, State wins, I picture the celebration on the court... it's like involuntary self-torture.
I'm really proud of this group. Kansas came out and appeared to take control in the second half with a 12-2 run; the Jayhawks led by as many as 10 points in the half, and they were up eight with less than four minutes left on the clock. Our guys hung around and put together a clutch 7-0 run to give themselves a chance to win in the final minute despite the circumstances, the crowd, and the adversity they'd faced that half. It was a gutsy effort and they nearly pulled it off.
This was supposed to be a year in which laying the foundation of the Mark Gottfried era meant convincing some decent recruits about joining a rebuilding job, and maybe making the NIT along the way. We got three McDonald's All-Americans to sign and got a trip to the freaking Sweet Sixteen. And now the sell is just that much easier--this isn't a reclamation project, kids, you're here to win right away. The proof is in the results. What an amazing and crucial turn of events that is for this program. It's like Gottfried skipped a couple steps and quite literally went straight to profit.
I'm so bummed this year is over. Even though we didn't get that truly cathartic big-time win despite many opportunities, there was a lot to enjoy this year, and I will never forget watching the selection show and seeing our name pop up last. That moment right there made the whole season for me.
To the players, coaches, and everyone involved with the program: thanks for making that moment possible.