Kansas University’s basketball team has been too busy to dwell on Tuesday night’s 67-64 loss to Michigan State at the Champions Classic in Atlanta.
The Jayhawks (1-1), who arrived back in Lawrence at 1 a.m. Wednesday, held a cram session Wednesday afternoon for Chattanooga (1-0) — today’s opponent in a 7 p.m. CBE Classic game in Allen Fieldhouse.
“I’m just happy we can get back on the court, to be honest with you,” KU coach Bill Self said on Wednesday’s weekly “Hawk Talk” radio show. “There’s nothing awful with losing a game as long as we learn from it. A lot is execution. A lot is the mind-set you have to play with on a daily basis and have it become a habit of who we are. That’s something we have to improve on.”
Self said the Jayhawks, who were unable effectively to finish a game in which they led by five with five minutes left, need to “learn to win games by being junkyard dogs, by being tough, by making sure the other team never gets rhythm, by making sure the other team plays poorly, making sure we steal five to six extra possessions off the glass or (from) defense, things like that so there are 10 more points or scoring opportunities the other team didn’t get. Then you end up stealing games.”
Self said he’s “concerned ... do we have the ‘it factor’ when it comes to toughness-type plays, not because we’re not tough, just because it’s not our personality. We don’t have guys that wake up thinking, ‘I’m going to take something,’ but guys that wake up saying, ‘I want to be part of something.’ We need a couple of take-charge type guys.”
Self said it takes time for freshmen to learn what it takes to win big games.
“I thought our young guys were affected,” Self said. “I thought Ben (McLemore, 14 points, three rebounds, three assists, three turnovers, 35 minutes) did some good things. I didn’t think he really put himself in the game like he will a month from now. Perry (Ellis, four points, three rebounds, 17 minutes) was never in the game, but he will be a month from now.
“(As a newcomer) you think you’ve got it. Now when the lights come on, you’ve got (Dick) Vitale, and (Bob) Knight and (Jay) Bilas, all the celebrities walking around. You’ve got Michigan State guys that not only look at you, they make you think they are going to whip you by looking at you, which is the way we used to be,” Self said. “They (Spartans) let you know they were there from the beginning. Our guys ... we don’t have that personality yet.
“We do not have a tough-guy presence you’ve got to have that is contagious,” Self added, noting Thomas Robinson, the Morris twins and Cole Aldrich had the tough-guy mentality.
“Jamari (Traylor, six points, four boards, 25 minutes) is the only one with that personality. My biggest concern ... we don’t screen. We don’t pass. We’ve not shot well yet. We are not a great execution team. There’s a lot of things we don’t do, but the biggest thing is we don’t have a presence from a toughness standpoint.”
Self said for 35 minutes, the Jayhawks played better against Michigan State than they did in the Classic a year earlier in a 75-65 loss to Kentucky.
“But when it really got tight, and you’ve got to be a man to make some plays, and you’ve got to figure it out and do it ... we didn’t get it done because those guys have never been in that situation before,” Self said.
Chattanooga of the Southland Conference opened with an 88-53 win against Tennessee Temple on Monday.
KU leads the all-time series, 2-0. Last meeting was Self’s first game as KU coach. The Jayhawks won, 90-76, on Nov. 21, 2003 in Allen.
“We were down by 16 in the first half (24-14 early),” Self said. “I’m sure every Kansas fan was going, ‘Oh my gosh, what have we done (in hiring Self)?’ We came back and played pretty well. They’ll press, which will be good for us.”
They’ll play some halfcourt trap defense, do some different things we haven’t seen.”
The Jayhawks should be mighty motivated in coming off a loss.
“I’m definitely ready to go out and have another game, get the bad taste of this one out of our mouths,” Traylor said after the MSU game.
About Young: Senior Kevin Young had one point and one rebound in just three minutes Tuesday in his season debut, delayed because of injury (broken bone, right hand). “He’s not as good offensively yet because his hand is still messed up,” Self said. “Michigan State was so big, I thought we were better off playing a couple stronger times a majority of the time. He’s so excited to play. A week from now when things calm down and slow down for him, he’ll be playing a lot of minutes.”
Hanging jerseys: Self addressed the issue of jersey retirement ceremonies at KU on Hawk Talk. He said nobody will get a banner hung in the fieldhouse until five years after the player’s career is over. “We have a guy or two actually eligible for a retirement party coming up here real soon,” he said. “We could have some people off that ’08 team, particularly one, who have a shot to get inducted here hopefully real soon.” He did not name names, but one might infer Mario Chalmers, who hit the shot to force overtime in the NCAA title game vs. Memphis, could be first in line.