Lutz Blog

Bob Lutz: Perry Ellis doesn’t deserve his latest wave of criticism

West Virginia forward Devin Williams celebrates during the first half of Monday’s 62-61 win over Kansas.
West Virginia forward Devin Williams celebrates during the first half of Monday’s 62-61 win over Kansas.

Mind if I come to the defense of Perry Ellis?

I know a lot of you KU fans are up in arms about how Ellis missed a close-in shot Monday night that allowed West Virginia to escape with a 62-61 win over the Jayhawks in Morgantown.

Yes, the 6-foot-8 Ellis easily could have made the shot after catching a near full-length court pass from Jamari Traylor with 3.9 seconds left. But that’s a long way from saying the shot was easy. Because it wasn’t.

I’ve seen it called a “bunny,” and referred to as such by Kansas coach Bill Self on his post-game radio interview. I’ve seen it referred to as a lay-up, which implies that it was a simple shot and that Ellis choked, blew it – use the terminology that suits you.

Ellis blamed himself after the game, saying he should have made the shot. He’s a stand-up guy.

Now for the shot so many people think was so easy.

Ellis caught a great pass from Traylor, who was standing out of bounds underneath the West Virginia basket, in full stride, on the run. He was just a few feet from the basket when he caught the ball, so he had difficulty getting his feet set the way he would have preferred. He was directly in front of the basket after making the catch with a couple of West Virginia defenders trailing him and flanking him on each side. One defender cut in front of him as Ellis jumped to the basket, the other closed from the right.

Ellis had no time to dribble. He had barely enough time to catch the ball, turn his head and try to locate the basket. He couldn’t use the backboard because of a bad angle, so he had to attempt to lay the ball in the basket. He couldn’t dunk the ball because his feet weren’t set.

Could Ellis have taken a little more time, as he suggested after the game? Perhaps, but doing so would have allowed West Virginia’s defenders to adapt, too. Perhaps Ellis would have drawn a foul, perhaps he could have tried to stop and gather himself – quickly – before making a move to the basket.

But there was a rush, obviously, to make something happen. And there was a frenzy that made it difficult to think. It was catch and react.

Let’s not forget Ellis had a team-high 19 points and five rebounds for the Jayhawks. He was a big difference-maker offensively in the second half, but also a part of KU’s terrible rebounding effort that allowed the Mountaineers 22 offensive rebounds that led to 64 shots compared to only 49 for Kansas.

If you must criticize Ellis for something, criticize him for that. But don’t forget to include the rest of the Jayhawks or to credit West Virginia for attacking the boards with such ferocity. Four Mountaineers had three or more offensive rebounds and forward Jonathan Holton had six.

Criticize, if you must, the KU defense that allowed West Virginia guard Juwan Staten to get to the basket uncontested for the go-ahead layup that preceded Ellis’ miss.

Criticize the KU depth on a night when three players – Ellis and guards Frank Mason and Kelly Oubre – accounted for 51 of the Jayhawks’ 61 points. Starter Cliff Alexander played only six minutes because he couldn’t handle against West Virginia’s full-court pressure and sophomore Wayne Selden continued his disappointing disappear-reappear act by producing four points.

Blaming Ellis for his late miss is taking the easy way out. Anyone who believes Ellis blew a chip shot hasn’t been around much basketball.

Could he have made that shot? Of course, and he probably does six or seven times out of 10. But to say it was a “bunny” or that it was easy is too simplistic. There was nothing easy about it.

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