The Sports Illustrated jinx has struck again.
"I believe in it now. That doesn't happen. As soon as the cover comes out, we lose," Kansas University sophomore guard Brandon Rush said after the No. 3-rated Jayhawks' 78-71 loss to Oral Roberts of the Mid-Continent Conference on Wednesday night in Allen Fieldhouse.
The shocking home loss, which was the result of poor three-point shooting (2 of 10), lousy free throwing (11 of 21), inability to take care of the ball (14 first-half turnovers), as well as shaky defense (ORU hit 11 of 19 threes), came on the same day Sports Illustrated's preview issue hit the newsstands.
It's an issue in which Julian Wright (six turnovers, 28 minutes) and Mario Chalmers (13 points, 32 minutes) appeared on one of S.I.'s regional covers, the Jayhawks adorned as the publication's top-ranked team in the land.
"Coach was upset (after the game). He said we needed this right now because we were taking everything for granted, from the No. 1 spot in Sports Illustrated, all that stuff," Rush said after missing nine of 14 shots and finishing with 14 points. "Thinking we'd come in and beat everybody at home, not giving effort just because we're Kansas."
Curse or not, the Jayhawks did become yet another in a long line of sports teams and/or players to flop immediately after appearing on an S.I. cover.
"Sports Illustrated didn't have anything to do with us losing tonight. ORU had a lot to do with us losing tonight," said Self, a former head coach at the Tulsa school.
"I knew that was going to happen two months ago. We didn't deserve that (ranking). What have we done to deserve that? Everybody keeps saying all this about our team, but what have we done? All we did last year was play pretty well for the last part of the season and then we got beat in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
"I do think there is the general mind-set that no matter what, everything is going to be OK, and that is not the way competitors and great teams are."
If KU keeps this up, S.I. won't be back in town anytime soon, that is for sure.
"We've been bad since before the Northern Arizona game," Self said, "but then the switch came on that day (Saturday's rout over the Lumberjacks). When the switch comes on, everything looks good."
Wednesday, the switch never turned on against an ORU team that dropped its opener Saturday at Loyola Marymount, 68-65.
In fact, it was lights out thanks to the inside/outside punch of guard Marchello Vealy and power forward Caleb Green, who scored 22 and 20 respectively.
A wide-open Vealy, who made one of 13 threes all last season, hit his first seven threes and finished with 22 points off 7-of-8 trey shooting.
He made five threes in a crucial 18-7 run that opened a 35-25 ORU lead and gave the Golden Eagles the confidence they could stay in the game.
"We knew he was a good three-point shooter. We didn't know he was a deadly three-point shooter. He surprised us," Rush said.
"If you told us before the game he would go 7-for-8, we probably would have laughed ... and he did," KU guard Russell Robinson added.
Several of the threes came off passes from Green, who had eight assists kicking outside to go with his 11 boards in 39 minutes.
"You make two, it seems you maybe should go guard him," Self said of shaky defense on Vealy.
Green, who had a big smile on his face most of the game even ever taking a whack to the nose from Darnell Jackson (10 points, 10 boards) early, was a terror on the blocks, making seven of 16 shots and four of five free throws.
11-for-19 ORU's three-point shooting against KU 2-for-10 KU's three-point shooting against ORU 7-for-8 Three-point shooting by ORU's Marchello Vealy 52.4 KU's free-throw percentage 10 Free throws clanged by the Jayhawks 18:41 Time remaining, in the first half, of KU's biggest lead (3)
The Jayhawks, who were down 39-34 at halftime, looked as if they might escape a shocking loss when Chalmers' steal and slam cut the gap to 48-46 with 13:49 left. But Green scored over Matt Kleinmann, who was in the game in place of an ineffective Wright. After a Rush bucket, Vealy iced another three over Jackson.
Rush then made just one of three free throws at 11:13, which was immediately followed by an 9-2 Golden Eagle run, giving ORU a 62-51 lead with nine minutes to play.
"Sometimes you don't make all your free throws and go 2-of-11 from three. We probably made five shots outside of three feet," Self lamented.
KU did slice a 71-64 deficit to 71-68 on two straight Jackson buckets with just over a minute left. Adam Liberty and Robinson traded free throws, then Ken Tutt, who made just three of 15 shots, stuck in the dagger with a perfect three with 35 ticks left.
After a KU miss, Tutt made two more free throws, and ORU had an eight-point lead, and the shocking upset assured.
"We missed dunks, uncontested layups, lost it between the legs and couldn't get rebounds," Self said.
KU will play host to Towson in an opening Las Vegas Invitational game Sunday. Tipoff is 7 p.m. at Allen Fieldhouse.
"It's disappointing. Hopefully we'll all learn from it," Rush said. "It's still early. We're hoping it'll be good for us in the long run."