Kansas coach Bill Self talks to reporters following KU's 77-76 victory over UCLA on Dec. 2, 2010.
UCLA coach Ben Howland questions the last-second call against his team following KU's 77-76 victory over UCLA on Dec. 2, 2010.
Mario Little hit a free throw with 0.7 seconds, giving the Kansas men's basketball team a 77-76 victory over UCLA on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse.
The “L” in the standings comes after the “W,” not before it. There is no “LW” to track lucky wins. Otherwise, Thursday night’s could have gone under that column for a Kansas University basketball team that stayed undefeated by the slimmest of margins, 77-76, against UCLA.
Kansas survived atypical bone-headed shot selection and a porous interior defense and was carried to the finish line by a whistle nobody would have pleaded for had it never sounded.
Asked if his team had just scored a lucky win, KU coach Bill Self said, “Oh yeah, they outplayed us. We were fortunate. I haven’t seen the play yet. Mario (Little) said he did get fouled at the end, but that was fortunate.”
Luck had nothing to do with Tyshawn Taylor playing a brilliant game, particularly late when he repeatedly took his man to the hoop to bring his team back from a deficit. But despite wild support from the Allen Fieldhouse crowd, this was a night the Jayhawks seemed off kilter, even from the free-throw line, where they made just 16 of 30.
UCLA came in with a wise game plan, pounding it in to behemoth freshman center Joshua Smith, who got both Morris twins into foul trouble and contributed his first double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds, eight on the offensive glass.
After multiple blowout victories, Self bemoaned his post players’ failure to play defense before their men caught the ball. He knew that wasn’t going to cut it against more talented big men. The 305-pound Smith, who has lost 30 pounds and still could stand to drop that many more, knows how to throw his weight around and has soft hands but a strong will.
“I don’t know if there are a lot of guys like Josh, but if I was coaching against us, I would attack our bigs every possession,” Self said. “Everybody can see it. It doesn’t take a guy who studies a ton of tape to know after watching one game to just throw it to your big guys because our big guys don’t guard very well. We’ve got to get a lot better at that.”
Thomas Robinson remains raw defensively, and Marcus and Markieff Morris tend to foul too frequently after failing to deny entry passes. Josh Selby will help this team in a lot of areas, but he can’t make Robinson and the twins defend the post better.
Self’s voice will be heard loudly and clearly in practice because the three players whose defense the coach called out after the game are extremely eager to please, and they hate to lose.
Self was perplexed with his team’s play, particularly so when addressing the shot selection of Little, who came off the bench firing away early in the shot clock. The coach said he even was told by his assistant coaches that pregame warumps were lousy.
The homecourt advantage Kansas has playing in the Fieldhouse means the team doesn’t always have to be sharp to come out on top. Self didn’t struggle to identify the MVP for the Jayhawks in this attractively flawed game that pushed their homecourt winning streak to 64 games.
“The crowd won the game for us,” the coach said. “We certainly appreciate that.”
The crowd and a quick-trigger whistle with seven-tenths of a second remaining.