DALLAS – With the clock running down Friday night, junior guard Jason Conley attempted a 3-pointer from the right wing.
Similar to many of his other shots, the high-arching shot sailed long and bounced off the back of the rim. Conley, though, wasn’t the only Tiger to unable to get in a rhythm in the Tigers’ 94-69 loss to Kansas in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament in Dallas.
The Tigers shot a meager 34 percent a day after they made a Big 12 Tournament-record 60 percent of their shots in Thursday’s win against Texas A&M.
“This was probably the worst game for this to happen, but it did,” Conley said. “We were shooting it, and it just wasn’t going in.”
The Tigers finished the first half with 33 percent shooting, and their shooting did not improve much in the second half when they made 35 percent.
“We did the things we wanted to do, we got the shots we wanted to shoot,” sophomore guard Jimmy McKinney said. “The shots just weren’t falling. It was just that night. We came out great; we were making shots at the beginning of the game.”
After a quick start which allowed the Tigers a 26-14 lead with 9:03 left, the Jayhawks got their offense started, and the Tigers played against a set defense for the rest of the game. Against that set defense, they did not fair well.
The game plan called for senior center Arthur Johnson to get the bulk of the touches, similar to the most recent game against the Jayhawks. After Johnson exploded for a career-high 37 points on March 7, the Jayhawks elected to aggressively double and triple team Johnson whenever he touched the ball to counter him.
That response worked, for although Johnson again excelled against the Jayhawks diminutive interior, he needed 16 shots for 26 points.
In contrast, Jayhawks forward Wayne Simien scored a game-high 31 points on 12-of-14 shooting. Simien’s 85.7 percent set a record for highest individual field goal percentage. He also tied the record for single-game scoring and field goals made.
As a result of the inferior shooting, the Tigers had several debilitating droughts that allowed the Jayhawks to control the game.
The first came with the Tigers leading 31-27. After Johnson scored with 5:47, the Tigers would not score for 4:30 until another Johnson basket. In that time, the Jayhawks erased their deficit.
In the second half, the Tigers had stretches of 2:17, 2:29 and 4:42 in which they did not make a field goal. During the longest spell, the score went from 53-46 in favor of the Jayhawks to 70-51. The 17-5 run all but ended the Tigers chances for a comeback.
Conley, senior guard Rickey Paulding and senior forward Travon Bryant struggled the most to find the range. Conley, who led the nation in scoring as a freshman at Virginia Military Institute, missed 9-of-11 shots. Paulding, who averages 15.5 points, missed 8-of-11. Bryant, who made 6-of-9 against the Aggies, also missed 8-of-11.
Coming into the game, Conley averaged 43 percent, Paulding made 40 percent and Bryant made 54 percent. Conley, who finished with five points, said he has had worse shooting games and can’t let this troublesome evening hurt the Tigers’ confidence.
“The only thing I can do now is keep working at it,” Conley said.
Although the Tigers have struggled from the field in other games this season, their performance against the Jayhawks couldn’t have come at worse time.
“Yeah, I think for me especially,” Paulding said. “You feel like you want to step up in big games. Kind of having two off games in a row is kind of disappointing for me. I didn’t play the way I wanted to play. This being my last Big 12 Tournament, this was not the way I wanted to go out.”
Paulding had nine points in the Tigers first-round win against Texas A&M.