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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Red-hot Sooners welcome Jayhawks to Big 12 play

Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger talks to his team during a timeout in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the BB&T Classic against George Mason, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013, in Washington. Oklahoma won 81-66. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger talks to his team during a timeout in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the BB&T Classic against George Mason, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013, in Washington. Oklahoma won 81-66. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

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— Silver Lake native Lon Kruger, who both played and coached at Kansas State, has kept a close eye on Kansas University most of his 61 years on the planet.

“They look very good, just like always,” Kruger, third-year head coach of the Oklahoma Sooners (12-2) said of the Jayhawks (9-4), who travel to Noble Center tonight for a 6 p.m. Big 12 Conference battle versus OU.

It’s the league opener for KU, while OU is already off to a 1-0 start, having won at Texas, 88-85 on Saturday. “They are big, athletic, do very well on both ends of the floor,” Kruger added, noting KU also has an intangible on its side today.

“Coming off an unusual, disappointing loss, I’m sure, at home to San Diego State, they’ll be ... they are always focused and play good basketball.”

He didn’t complete his thought, but the implication is the Jayhawks, who have won four of their last eight games — OU has won eight of nine — will be steaming mad and ready to take the court just three days after suffering a rare home defeat.

Oklahoma, which defeated the Jayhawks, 72-66, last season in Norman after falling to the Jayhawks, 67-54, in Allen, has been a pleasant surprise, bouncing back nicely from the loss of standout players Romero Osby, Steven Pledger, Amath M’Baye and Andrew Fitzgerald.

OU, in fact, is off to its best start in five years and second-best start since the 2004-05 season when the Sooners shared the Big 12 regular season title with KU. The Sooners rank fourth nationally and first in the Big 12 in scoring at 87.3 points per game.

The last time they averaged more points for an entire season was in 1993-94 (87.4), which was the last season under coach Billy Tubbs.

“OU is a scary team. They can stretch it from all spots,” KU coach Bill Self said. “They can shoot, score, are playing with a free mind offensively.

“They score easy,” Self added. “They have five guys that have all made as many or more threes than our starting 2-guard, Wayne (Selden, who is 12-for-32).”

Cameron Clark, a 6-7 senior who scored 10 points versus KU last year in Norman, averages a team-leading 17.7 points and 6.2 rebounds a game. He’s 18 of 38 from three for 47.4 percent. Buddy Hield, a 6-4 sophomore native of the Bahamas who played at Wichita’s Sunrise Christian Academy, averages 16.3 ppg with 27 threes in 74 tries (.365). Jordan Woodard, a 6-foot freshman, averages 12.2 points and has hit 10 threes in 28 attempts (.357). Ryan Spangler, a 6-8 sophomore transfer from Gonzaga, averages 11.0 points and 9.2 rebounds. Isaiah Cousins, a 6-4 soph, averages 10.9 ppg with 15 threes in 33 tries (.455).

As a team, OU has made 109 of 284 threes for 38.4 percent. KU has made 65 of 198 for 32.8 percent.

“They are clipping off shots. Everybody is shooting threes on the team. Cameron Clark always has been a slasher. The dude is shooting 47 percent from three. He’s playing the 4 now. He’ll be a hard matchup for Perry or Jamari (Traylor) or whoever is guarding him,” Self said.

The Sooners also give up a lot of points — 78.3 a game compared to KU’s 68.2.

“There’s parts of the defense we have to shore up,” said Kruger, who has a 6-13 record as a coach versus KU, 1-3 while at OU. Self is 11-4 versus OU, 11-2 while at KU. “We do not cover people as you have to. We are not doing equally a good job on the other end of the floor. Once you get into conference play, scoring goes down quite a bit. It probably won’t be any different this year.”

The Sooners have grabbed 562 rebounds to opponents’ 510. KU outrebounds foes, 500 to 418.

“Not being very tall, our guys have understood all year our perimeter guys have to go back there and get some loose balls, get some long rebounds,” said Kruger, whose tallest starter is Spangler at 6-8. “Ryan Spangler has done a really good job at the core of giving us a good rebounding effort and numbers every night. After that, guys on the perimeter and outside get in there and get you some balls, too.”

The Jayhawks, who today begin their quest for a 10th straight league title, return home to play Kansas State on Saturday, then travel to Iowa State Monday before playing home games against Oklahoma State and Baylor.

“The first 12 days of our league schedule is probably as tough as you can play with OU, Kansas State, Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Baylor,” Self said. “There’s other good teams in there, too. That will be a pretty tough start.

“We can get off to a great start or we can play catch-up. It’s important we play as well as we have all year early in our conference season.”

The Jayhawks have had an extremely difficult nonconference schedule, losing to Villanova, Florida, Colorado and San Diego State.

“It’s been a good schedule,” Self said. “We have learned in certain ways how we’ve been exposed in certain games. We’ve learned we will not always play great. When we are not playing great, we’ve got to make sure we make other teams play bad. We have to do the things tough teams do in order to win last-minute type games or last-couple-possession type games. Certainly this has been an eye-opener to what can happen when you are off just a little bit.”

Tharpe OK: Junior point guard Naadir Tharpe, who has been slowed by a left ankle sprain, will definitely play tonight, coach Bill Self said Tuesday.

Notes: KU senior Tarik Black enters today’s game with 998 career points, just two shy of 1,000. He scored 949 points in three years at Memphis. ... KU leads the all-time series against OU, 139-65. KU has won 10 of the last 11 meetings. ... KU is 49-41 against OU in games played in Norman, and holds a 17-16 edge in contests in Noble Center. ... KU has won four of the last five meetings against OU in Noble dating back to the 2007 season. Since the inception of the Big 12 Conference, KU is 18-5 against Oklahoma; 16-3 in regular-season play and 2-2 in the Big 12 Championship. ... KU signees Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre have been nominated for the McDonald’s All-America game. Selections will be announced in coming weeks.

Comments

Jack Wilson 3 months, 1 week ago

The sky is not falling.

Benz' post above regarding the comparison of stats to the 2011-12 team should cause us all to reflect a bit.

Remember, this team does not require a seismic change to get better. When has this team been blown out? Hasn't this team shown character when behind?

This is truly a young, inexperienced team. It's like a Rubik's cube. It seems like a mess ... until it isn't. Just have to know which colors to rotate, and which way.

Coach Self is figuring out how much coaching this team needs, and in what areas. And he's figuring out how best to fit the pieces.

The players are adapting, surviving, and learning how they need to fit in this puzzle. And many are adjusting to playing at this level. The talent is there.

When it comes together, it has the potential to be quite amazing. Of course, it may not come together.

But ask yourself this, when has coach Self failed in getting the pieces to come together? History tells us to be optimistic.

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Tony Bandle 3 months, 1 week ago

OUCH!!!!

I think a piece of the sky just fell and hit me!!

KU will not lose a home conference game and will certainly beat TCU, TT & WV on the road. Let's say you split the rest on the road, [win at the Octagon of Dumb, OU, Baylor-remember who coaches them, lose at OSU, ISU and TX. That's 15-3 and even if they blow another one, that's 14-4.

REMEMBER..all these great teams have to play each other besides playing us and someone has to lose each time!!

What I do think is a strong possibility is this season will lend itself to multiple conference champions, maybe as many as four!!!

Relax, the most important season is the third one..and that doesn't start till March!!

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Ludwig Supraphonic 3 months, 1 week ago

Many folks believed our early exits in the NC tournament at the hands of mid-majors were the result of a weak non-conference schedule and a weak conference. Folks thought Self was too focused on winning every game, and winning the conference, and that we were unprepared for the dogfights, physicality, and tempos of Mid-majors, Big East, and Big Ten teams. Now we have played awkward games with a variety of styles and tempos with a young team and lost a few. We have a conference with teams that can light it up and be very physical. Now the complaint is we're not ready?

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John Fitzgerald 3 months, 1 week ago

The expectations for this team were completely unrealistic at the beginning of the season. We have to understand Self has never has a team this young and is probably not used to coaching as much as he has. Aside from Calipari's national title team not many young teams come in and dominate right away. What I'm not worried about is the margin of our losses. All of those games we played horrible but still stayed in the games with the other teams playing extremely well. It's a good sign that we can be on the road playing sloppy and still be in the game. I think eventually we will be on the right side of those close games. What does worry me is Self doesn't seem to know how to get these guys to communicate and play with passion. Selfs game plans are remarkable and his defensive strategy is ideal with the type of players we have, but they just aren't committing themselves. I can't blame Self because I would have no idea what to do. I honestly think first and foremost they should stop focusing on the conference title business and just go one game at a time. If we do that and focus on winning every game then the title will come. We have to keep these guys focused and make sure they understand glory doesn't come without hardwork. Anyways, this team will come together, and when it finally does we will be left satisfied and possibly even impressed. When faced with adversity big stars always step up, and we're loaded with stars. RCJH baby and here's to a strong conference season!

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Ethan Berger 3 months, 1 week ago

I watched the BU vs Iowa st game last night. For all you who think we have no chance because of our 4 top 15 loses, might want to watch other team a in our conf. They are good but very beatable. Quick shots, average defense and poor rebounding were issues I saw last night. Calm down before we act like we played a equally tough SOS as everyone else (hint: we were far away at the top and that's sportswriters opinion).

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Suzi Marshall 3 months, 1 week ago

It will be interesting to see what Self comes up with tonight. I have a feeling he's going to try some drastic changes to get shooting in the line-up.

First - Selden is "Seldom." Our "Shooting Guard" spot has been a black hole. Seldom is the best defender for that spot but he is nowhere near what he should and can be. Since Self needs offense , perhaps we might see CF with enough PT to get off 6 or 7 threes. From what I have seen CF's D is only marginally below Seldom and appreciably better than Mason or Tharpe when they are playing the 2.
Second - Wiggins is killing the team in our set O from the 3 spot. He doe not have the shot to pull the D out of the lane. Wiggins is much better off at the 4 but we have Ellis down there. I expect we might see Wiggins, instead of Traylor, as the sub for Ellis. That would open the 3 spot for AWIII to sub. Self has given Greene enough of a look to know AWIII should be the man for the sub 3 role. MJ was a great 3 with a poor J, especially his first few years up, but made up for it with relentless drives ending in monsterous dunks and a ton of FTs. Wiggins does not have that kind of personality as demonstrated by his reluctance to drive and "dipsy doodle" finishes. Self will need to keep Wiggins on the floor for +35 minutes to guard Cameron Clark. Wiggins needs to stay out of foul trouble be nobody else on our team can guard Clark. This would mean Self will go small when subing the 5 spot with Ellis or Traylor. Since OU is small in the post, we should be ok with that.

Third - With the need for shooting, Mason's role might be solely to back up the point, i.e. 10 minutes PT. OU's Woodard likes to drive the ball to draw fouls. If Tharpe needs to sit brining in Mason for exteded PT, OU will zone.

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Kit Duncan 3 months, 1 week ago

I was a freshman at KU when Lon Kruger was a senior at K-State. He was a great ball player then and is a great coach now! I wish him well except when his Sooners play KU.

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Gerry Butler 3 months, 1 week ago

OMG, I think its time for some of the closet, bandwagon fans to jump off, the world is coming to an end. I surpose these people would of rather seen the hawks play one of these cupcake schedule where we never had a road game, played a lot of directional schools huh is that what you all are sayin? give me a fricken break. you get to be the best by playin the best. was it a very ruff non-conf? hell ya, did we under achieve? possibly, probably, but to say we are goin 9 and 9 in conference play? REALLY, SERIOUSLY? then maybe you just need to find another bandwagon to jump on there is NO WAY NONE WHAT SOEVER is this team goin 9 and 9 in conference play. I think I've heard it all now OMG unbelievable people who ACTUALLY do know a little about basketball still see ku as a very very good basketball team a very dangerous team exp jay bilas don't surpose you happen to see what he had to say did ya? agreed true there a lot of spots that we ned to get better, but I promise you the non conf schedule will pay off for us in the conference season if you remember we had the nu 1 schedule in for toughness self will never back away from competition. if you wanting a lofty record go cheer for Syracuse or someone like that. I know your the ones who think we should never get beat right? do you remember we have like the 297th youngest team in college basketball? bottom line take a chill pill don't get you britches in such a tight bunch things will be all right. if not then maybe if you think you can do better, MAYBE JUST MAYBE YOU OUGHT TO SE IF YOU CAN TAKE OVER FOR COACH SLEF I'M SURE YOU CAN DO BETTER RIGHT? go hawks 9 AND 9? DAMM UNBELIEVABLE

1

Yolanda Gay 3 months, 1 week ago

I keep hearing 'be patient, they will get better'. When. We are starting league play today. I would have thought they would have gotten better each and every game. I don't see that occurring. If we're patient any longer, the season will be over.

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Terry N Tom Denner 3 months, 1 week ago

I think that after his first year Mr. I'm jumping into the NBA is the Biggest let down and he is the throne in the teams butt that will continue to fester and cause the team to rot until he leaves. He should of chose Kentucky to play his one and out BS !!

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Rob Bedford III 3 months, 1 week ago

I hope I am wrong but I see KU losing 4 out of the next 5 games.

1

Theodore Thadogweadore 3 months, 1 week ago

Leaving for Norman in a few hours. Rock Chalk!!!

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Robert Brown 3 months, 1 week ago

This is hardly a must win since it is a road game at contender's home court. It looks like there are six contenders between KU, KSU, ISU, BU, and the Oklahoma schools. In my opinion, the team that wins the conference goes undefeated at home and wins road games at two of the five contenders.

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Mark Lindrud 3 months, 1 week ago

With adversity comes true character. It's conference time, and time to take the next step of improving. The Big 12 is gunning to end our streak and it's stronger than it has been in years. To be the man you've got to beat the man.

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Bryce Landon 3 months, 1 week ago

In my mind, OU will always be the Evil Empire. I hate OU.

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Ken Sedgwick 3 months, 1 week ago

Pretty simple, if OU defends with some form of zone we will struggle. If they are stubborn enough to try man to man, we win.

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Yonatan Negash 3 months, 1 week ago

Crucial game tonight, in my mind it’s a must win.

I’ll give you couple reasons why:

  1. First game sets the tone for the remaining conference play.
  2. Confidence builder for these youngsters (much needed)
  3. This games is one of their easiest game (KSU, Oklahoma State, Iowa State and Baylor all ranked are coming up next)

If we lose tonight’s game, there is no doubt in my mind we’ll end up with at least 10 loses for the year.

I’d have to say this is a defining game for several of these so called OAD players we’ve got.

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Mike Riches 3 months, 1 week ago

I'll be at the game tonight, I hope our fans show up strong! As of yesterday, there were still a handful of open seats...

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Steve Zimmerman 3 months, 1 week ago

“We have learned in certain ways how we’ve been exposed in certain games." - It's not that hard to figure out HCBS style and how to suppress the offense. Nothing new (progress) that I could observe against zone-d. - Against more athletic teams, they tend to double team our bigs, and get away with steals because of the football passes, etc. etc. - The other teams move a lot, screen a lot; drives a lot; pass a lot; shoot jumpers, box out... Our team? side-to-side passing, stand around and wait till the bigs either pass or shoot, PGs drive but get jammed instead of throw lobs or pass to the bigs, afraid to get yanked if making mistakes.

"When we are not playing great, we’ve got to make sure we make other teams play bad. " - We should be making those shots to be called playing great, not just good defensively. I can't recall if we played great in more than 2 quality games, btw. Besides, those teams play bad - they still win eventually.

"Certainly this has been an eye-opener to what can happen when you are off just a little bit.” - True. Our losses have been single digit deltas, but they become regulars.

Maybe it's time for HCBS to think about how to attack the baskets from all direction instead of relying so much on hi/low post-plays; side-to-side passing. It's time to do like '07 team with the hi-flying lobs, dunks, confidence in shooting jumpshots, 3s. Perhaps our team needs to watch '07-08 plays instead of the Miracles. I love KU basketball, but it's been frustrating watching this year's team. I hope I am not the only one.

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Priest Fontaine 3 months, 1 week ago

We got this! Keep your heads up!

I'm sending some copies of 'Floor Burns' to the youngsters: http://www.amazon.com/Floor-Burns-Inside-Kansas-Jayhawk/dp/0965839214

We should be better in no time.

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