Tuesday, January 13, 2015

KU wary of OSU’s 1-2 punch

Oklahoma State's Phil Forte III, left, and Le'Bryan Nash rank 1-2 in scoring in the Big 12 heading into Tuesday's meeting at Kansas University.

Oklahoma State's Phil Forte III, left, and Le'Bryan Nash rank 1-2 in scoring in the Big 12 heading into Tuesday's meeting at Kansas University.


Bill Self discusses home game vs. Oklahoma State

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self talks about the importance of defending KU's home court in the Big 12, as Oklahoma State — led by the conference's two leading scorers, Phil Forte III and Le'Bryan Nash — comes to town.

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Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Mason talks comparisons to Collins, lobs and playing with Graham

Kansas University sophomore point guard Frank Mason III meets with reporters before KU's Tuesday night home game against Oklahoma State. Mason discusses comparisons to former Kansas standout Sherron Collins, how KU utilizes lob passes and playing with freshman point Devonté Graham.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Mickelson discusses practicing to earn minutes and differences between KU and Arkansas

Kansas University junior forward Hunter Mickelson meets with media members and discusses what it's like to have to perform in practice to earn game minutes, as well as the differences between playing at KU and his former school, Arkansas.

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Marcus Smart — the villain who performed a backflip on the center-court Jayhawk after Oklahoma State’s 85-80 victory over Kansas University on Feb. 2, 2013 — is long gone from college, now averaging 21 minutes a game as a rookie for the Boston Celtics.

His departure to the NBA after two seasons, however, hasn’t exactly decimated the No. 24-ranked Cowboys, who take a 12-3 record, 2-1 in Big 12 play, into today’s 6 p.m. battle at No. 9 KU (13-2, 2-0).

“I could be off, but to me, Baylor and Oklahoma State are the two most pleasant surprises in our league,” KU coach Bill Self said Monday, noting the Cowboys have “beaten Texas and Kansas State at home and could have won in Ames (a 63-61 loss to Iowa State).

“OSU lost two pros (Smart and Markel Brown, Brooklyn Nets), one’s a lottery pick, and they’ve not taken a step back. They’re playing well together.”

His Jayhawks today face the task of slowing a Cowboy team led by junior guard Phil Forte III and senior wing Le’Bryan Nash, who rank 1-2 in the Big 12 in scoring at 17.7 and 17.6 points a game. Nash has made 47.9 percent of his shots, which ranks sixth in the league. Forte has hit 46 percent, which ranks 10th.

“Those two may be frontrunners for Big 12 Player of the Year. We’ve got to do a great job on those two,” Self said.

Forte, a 5-foot-11, 185-pounder from Flower Mound, Texas and son of former KU football standout Phil Forte, leads the Big 12 in minutes played (33.0 per game) and steals (2.6 per game), is second in three-pointers made (2.8 per game) and fourth in three-point-field-goal percentage (42-of-102, 41.2 percent).

A year ago, Forte went 7-of-10 from three and scored 23 points in the Pokes’ 80-78 loss to KU in Allen Fieldhouse. He’s averaged 13.0 points (13-of-42 from three) in five career games versus KU, his Pokes winning two of the contests.

“He has as much range as anybody in the country. We should not be surprised wherever he shoots them from because he’s capable of making them from anywhere,” Self said of Forte.

“He’s a complete player, strong as an ox. He plays so hard, moves without the ball, is in unbelievable condition. This is when you know you can shoot ... when everybody on the defensive end is designed to make sure you don’t shoot it. You get looks that have to be quick-release, where you don’t get your feet set and comfortable and shoot it. I bet on open shots he gets from three with his feet set ... I bet he’s shooing 65, 70 percent,” Self added. “Making so many moving off balance, late clock, really make his stats even that much more impressive.”

A year ago, Forte gave up several inches in guarding 6-5 Wayne Selden Jr.

“No question he’ll have to guard a taller guy. I don’t think that is something that will bother him. He’s been used to doing that his whole life,” Self said.

Of Forte, KU point guard Frank Mason III said: “You’ve got to stay locked in. It can’t be just one guy guarding him, even though it’s just one guy checking him. We have to do it as a team. We know he likes to run off a lot of screens, quick curl, things like that.

“He can shoot it from deep. He can shoot it with guys in his face, make contested shots,” added the 5-11 Mason. “You have to stay engaged and not give him the open looks.”

Nash, 6-7, 235 from Dallas, has averaged 11.8 points and 4.3 rebounds versus KU in six games — two OSU victories.

“Staten (Juwan, West Virginia), maybe Buddy (Hield, Oklahoma) ... Le’Bryan may be frontrunner for Player of the Year, and deservedly so,” Self said. “Whether Jamari (Traylor), Perry (Ellis) or whoever it is has to do a terrific job on him.”

The Cowboys this season have welcomed back 6-8 Amarillo, Texas, senior Michael Cobbins, who suffered an Achilles tendon tear in December, 2013, and missed Big 12 play. He averages 7.2 points and 6.3 boards. Other two starters: Anthony Hickey, 5-11 senior, from Hopkinsville, Kentucky, who averages 9.3 ppg and 4.8 rpbg and 3.3 apg, and Jeff Newberry, 6-2 junior from Atlanta, who averages 5.8 ppg.

Big toe feels OK: KU freshman Devonté Graham has experienced no problems with his sprained right big toe since dishing six assists and grabbing six rebounds in a 19-minute return against Texas Tech on Saturday.

“Pain ... I don’t want to say nonexistent, but it’s not bothering him. If anything, it’s a little uncomfortable time to time,” Self said of Graham on his weekly “Hawk Talk” radio show. “He got it stepped, on and he knows now he can get it stepped on and not have it bother him much. That was one concern, ‘What if I get it stepped on?’ I think he adds a lot to our team.”

Nice parents: Self enjoyed chatting with the parents of Svi Mykhailiuk (Inna and Iurri) again Monday.

“They are so nice, so sweet, so excited about what is happening with him,” Self said. “Svi gives them nothing but positive feedback. The people here have been good to Svi. The players have, but also the campus community and the town have been good to him. His dad said something interesting today. I said, ‘Sometimes he’s a little up and down.’ Dad said, ‘Well, he is 17 years old.’ I say that all the time and thought it was interesting to hear him say it. The parents have totally realistic expectations. Not too many have realistic expectations about their own. It doesn’t happen often. It’s refreshing. I’m so excited they came by the office today.”

OSU’s perspective: Cowboys coach Travis Ford to “They (Cowboys) play as if they maybe have something to prove. And that’s not always bad. Play with a little bit of fear. That’s not a bad thing. I told them every game I ever played I feared — you’ve got to be a little scared. But you’re prepared. That’s my mentality. And they’re kind of adopting that a little bit.”

Ford to the Oklahoman: “Kansas is obviously a very talented basketball team. They have a combination of great guards and great big men. They are shooting the three extremely well, almost 40 percent (39.5). They have All-Americans in Perry Ellis and Cliff Alexander, Jamari Traylor, go down the line. They can score from every position. There’s not many teams that can have the inside/outside punch Kansas has.”

Recruiting: Terrance Ferguson, a 6-6 junior guard from Dallas, will attend today’s game on an unofficial recruiting visit, reports. He’s ranked No. 8 nationally in the Class of 2016.


Suzi Marshall 5 years, 4 months ago

Last year, I was stunned how Forte repeatedly burned Selden. This will be a big game for Selden to show he has recovered from a bun knew. Should Selden falter, all eyes will be on Graham. We can't let Forte, who should be wearing Crimson and Blue, freely bomb 7-10 for 23.

With regards to Nash, I'd love to see what KO can do guarding him. Hopefully KO and Ellis can get him into some foul troubles.

Did Self volunteer to help Mykailiuk's parents find US jobs? No speaking any English should make that task more of a challenge. However, I couldn't understand several of my teachers when I was at Kansas...especially my Indian Math professors.

Ron Franklin 5 years, 4 months ago

Don't you have to be an American Citizen to work here?

Greg Lux 5 years, 4 months ago

If that were true Ron we would have 15 million+ less Mexicans in the USA...

Cameron Cederlind 5 years, 4 months ago

Or ya know, any of the other 80+ immigrating countries . . .Murica

Arthur Ankeney 5 years, 4 months ago

An earlier article said Svi had to translate for his parents. Makes me wonder how he felt relaying that conversation back and forth between coach and parents about him being "up and down." Maybe he got a new translator for that bit.

Dirk Medema 5 years, 4 months ago

Suzi - I was wondering if KO would get to guard Forte some? Those slinky, gumbie arms could take away a few of those 3's, and he would seem to have a bit more energy to chase through all the screens. Selden is still several inches bigger than their SF, so he should be completely capable, and not nearly the O threat. Put your best defender on their best O player.


Dirk Medema 5 years, 4 months ago

It would also be nice to see Perry take his man outside with a few more 3's, and let Selden take Forte, or which ever smaller defender they assign, down low. That probably isn't a std H/L O, but hopefully is a twist we can employ to exploit one of their weaknesses.

Bryce Landon 5 years, 4 months ago

I'm going to be a disloyal Jayhawk fan and skip tonight's game. I'm staying with friends in Louisville, KY this week, and they are taking me to tonight's Louisville-Virginia Tech game. But they are going to DVR the KU-OSU game; so if KU wins, I'll go back and watch it in my free time later this week.

It seems to me that OSU has better chemistry this year than they did last y

JD Roth 5 years, 4 months ago

If KU wins????? Are you kidding me?????

Aaron Paisley 5 years, 4 months ago

The core of this OSU team does have a win in Allen Fieldhouse. I do expect KU to win, but I also expected KU to win 2 years ago as well.

Bryce Landon 5 years, 4 months ago

I'm going to be a disloyal Jayhawk fan and skip tonight's game. I'm staying with friends in Louisville, KY this week, and they are taking me to tonight's Louisville-Virginia Tech game. But they are going to DVR the KU-OSU game; so if KU wins, I'll go back and watch it in my free time later this week.

It seems to me that OSU has better chemistry this year than they did last year with Marcus Stupid in their lineup. Nonetheless I still hate Oklahoma State and will continue to hate them as long as Travis Ford is allowed to run the show and let his players act like punks and thugs.

Rob Bedford III 5 years, 4 months ago

You wanted to post this so bad you did it 1 1/2 times?

Bryce Landon 5 years, 4 months ago

Sorry, hit the post button before I was finished.

Joe Ross 5 years, 4 months ago

KU needs to be very wary. It just so happens that two of our major weaknesses--poor interior defense against aggressive post players and poor perimeter defense--are two of OSUs major strengths. Forte, like Brady Heslip of previous years' Baylor teams, doesn't need much space to shoot and he runs through screens very effectively to get a ton of floor space on his shots. I've seen Kansas give up 10 feet of cushion even without shooters running through screens. Nash is a solid-bodied post player whose years in college basketball have lead to a maturation of skills (even though his maturity otherwise lags). He takes the ball bullishly to the basket and we have been burned against those kinds of players all season long. We can win it, but somehow we need several players to step up with answers to their offense.

Mike Riches 5 years, 4 months ago

From Keiton Page to Heslip to Forte, we tend to have problems with small guards that can burn us from long range. It's a little surprising how much we've struggled to defend that over the last few years (even in years when our defense was better than it is now.) Of course, we're not the only ones have have been burned by those guys...

Joe Joseph 5 years, 4 months ago

KU contained Heslip pretty well until his senior year. Good shooters are always going to find a way to get loose occasionally. I'd say KU defenders shut those guys down more often than they actually burned KU. It's just that we tend to remember the times they burned us much, much more vividly!

Mick Allen 5 years, 4 months ago

Forte and Hickey are both 5'11" and both are extremely quick and can cause our starting line up some match up problems, primarily with Selden on Forte. I would anticipate seeing Mason and Graham on the floor together often tonight if Graham's conditioning will allow it. This would seem to allow us to match up better defensively on the OSU back court and our ability to keep them out of the lane and the gaps off the bounce and to lessen our need for help defense to stop dribble penetration. As was earlier posted, Selden had some trouble staying with Forte last year who is a master at coming off screens . As HCBS stated the ball seems to move better with both Mason and Graham on the court and having Graham run the point will hopefully give Mason more looks off Graham's penetration. I like the idea of Oubre covering Nash, as Perry lacks quickness laterally on defense and I'm concerned he will get Jamari in early foul trouble. OSU is the smallest team will face so we need to win the battle on the boards. Forte and Hickey both pressure the ball well and we will need to take care of the ball to prevent run outs and easy baskets. Should be a very competitive ball game. Seven Big 12 teams in the top 25 with OSU's arrival at #24.

Arthur Ankeney 5 years, 4 months ago

There is a problem with putting Oubre on Nash.

You either are choosing to conform to their size and play their game by playing Oubre down at the 4. Oubre has done great on the glass but matched up against a bigger, stronger guy I do not know that we can ask him to play on the post throughout a full game.

If you don't conform to their size, you then have one of your two big men trying to guard a 6'2" guard which is not reasonable. There's no fathomable way Ellis would have the foot speed to keep up with Newberry. Even if he is the least productive member of the starting 5, I do not see this being a reasonable option.

So really, while, I think Oubre could match up with Nash, but I do not see that being something we will do during this game much. Even if we run a lot of Mason/Graham combo.

Aaron Paisley 5 years, 4 months ago

Oubre and Graham need to handle Forte and Traylor needs to guard Nash.

Joe Ross 5 years, 4 months ago

I agree with Traylor guarding Nash. Oubre is a great defender, yes. But Nash is far too physical and experienced to be contained by Oubre in the paint area.

Arthur Ankeney 5 years, 4 months ago

This is a big game in my eyes. We are coming off a great win against TTU where I think we saw a lot of the potential in this team. It would be amazing to carry that momentum through this game and continue to gain confidence before an unbelievably tough 3 game stretch @ISU, OU, @TX.

I agree with what people have said here so far. I would love to see KO on Forte. He's got the size and long arms to really bother his shot. He's also so keen on the defensive end, always stays close to his guy, and can really see how a play is going to unfold. Having that on Forte throughout the game would be a great asset. I think Seldon can handle Forte for a while as well he just doesn't seem as defensively consistent as KO so far this season. Graham could apply great pressure. Svi worries me--as great as he's been on the ball defensively, he occasionally gets caught looking the wrong way when playing off the ball and Forte is so great at running off screens. Greene, well let's hope Self is smarter than that...

I would also prefer to see Traylor/Alexander on Nash. Let's meet his strength and aggression with strength, athleticism, and aggression. Cobbins isn't overly tall or strong so Ellis should be able to meet him off the ball. That would allow Ellis to keep his focus on the offensive end. Oubre would be able to compete with him but I'm not sure he's got the physical maturity and strength to bang with Nash down low.

I would love to see us keep the pressure on and push the speed like we did against TTU. Yes, OSU is smaller than most teams we will face, but our depth seems to be one of our biggest assets and pushing the speed is the best way to utilize that depth.

Robert Brock 5 years, 4 months ago

Tonight's game will be a Bill Self clinic for attacking screens. If we do a poor job we lose.

Eliott Reeder 5 years, 4 months ago

Travis Ford coaching gem: "Play scared. Always play scared."

Rodney Crain 5 years, 4 months ago

Take care of business at home, win half or more on the road. Respect their experience and coaching.

Mick has it spelled out above on matchups. Nash, and Forte are 49% of their points, starters are 80%.

Match up on thier guards, make runs when they sit, their two 7 footers barely have any blocks, they just do not play much. That leaves Cobbins at 28 mins. a game 6'8 230 in the post.

Its quickness. guarding the shooters and driving lanes. We have to play screens well, Cliff and Greene struggle with this. Rebound the ball to limit their possessions.

Prediction is a 3 point win with KO and Mason leading the way.

Tyson Ailshie 5 years, 4 months ago

I've gotta say, I'm not worried about this game. We match up good against OSU. I'm going to look for big games out of Mason, Selden, and Jamari. Leadership will contribute to a win. With Graham and Cliff contributing some very important minutes.

Mick Allen 5 years, 4 months ago

Rodney, I agree with your post about both Alexander and Greene's struggles with screens, especially when we switch on the ball screen.

Asad Zoberi 5 years, 4 months ago

I believe the game to be close but KU will pull away in the end.

We have too many weapons, we can throw lot of ammunition at OSU. They have a short rotation and will have a tough time guarding our deep bench - Cliff, Greene, Svi, Devonte.

And the biggest X factor is AFH.

Steve Grimm 5 years, 4 months ago

it is gonna come down to heart: Who will simply refuse to be outplayed? We've seen our Jayhawks on both the positive and negative side of that question. If we play passionately and win some floor-burns, we should win. Anything less than that and it is a toss-up or loss.

Mick Allen 5 years, 4 months ago

Oubre is a fine defender but not quick enough to guard Forte. I would rather have Graham on Forte. I think our best defensive match ups have Mason and Graham in together guarding their 5'11" guards.

Chad Smith 5 years, 4 months ago

The BIG XII is insane this year. 7 Top-25 Teams? Whoever wins this league will have definitely earned it. As far as tonight goes, Okie State is better as a team this year and Forte and Nash are both really good players. Still, all pay heed who enter the phog, I expect a pretty raucous crowd and a close KU win. Selden needs to post up Forte if he is indeed matched up with him at any point in the game. The biggest thing for a shooter like Forte is rhythm. If he gets into any sort of rhythm, KU will be in trouble. I'm not as concerned about Nash, cuz I think Oubre and Traylor can athletically match up well with him. ROCK CHALK!

Kristen Downing 5 years, 4 months ago

Are the students back yet? We definitely need their crowd noise. Interior shot blocking will present a problem for our "big" men, I think.

Joe Joseph 5 years, 4 months ago

I doubt Oubre ends up guarding Forte much unless Forte really gets loose with Mason or Selden guarding him. A lot of people are concerned about Forte's quickness, but you have to remember that Forte doesn't exactly get to the basket. He's a shooter and you don't really have to worry about him beating you off the dribble. For that reason, length, and the ability to battle through screens, is much more important in guarding Forte. I'd be willing to bet Mason, Selden, and Oubre all spend time guarding Forte over the course of the game, unless one of the three is particularly effective at shutting him down.

Michael Bennett 5 years, 4 months ago

I bet Graham will guard Forte more than Oubre will.

Sam Burns 5 years, 4 months ago

I'm really surprised at all the comments. We have the best home court in basketball and a better team than OSU. KU wins this one by at a dozen. Forte gets his points, but Nash has a tough night! Home court in this conference is worth at least 10 points. How can you people say a 3 point game? They will have a tough time matching up with our size for a change. Take KU and give the points!

Robert Brock 5 years, 4 months ago

We only won by 2 at Allen last year. This will be a nail-biter, too.

Benz Junque 5 years, 4 months ago

Sorry, but it's not worth ten points. As pointed out, KU only clipped them by 2 points last year after they choked away a huge lead and this year's OSU team looks better than last years. OSU gave Iowa State all they could handle at Hilton (also an excellent home court) and notched a win against Texas. They are a good team and like it or not but this KU team has had games where they struggled for stretches. They are not automatic at home like previous teams have been.

Aaron Paisley 5 years, 4 months ago

Don't forget in addition to the 2 point home win last season, OSU won in Allen Fieldhouse 2 years ago and Marcus Smart did a back flip on the court after the game.

Rodney Crain 5 years, 4 months ago

So you are saying KU by 6.5 to 8 Sam? Just want to be clear.

Keep in mind Ok State has quick experienced guards that will not be intimated by AFH. Coaching is wash, big men too.

Mick Allen 5 years, 4 months ago

Joe, if you have watched Forte recently all the commentators say he has become more than just a perimeter shooter because of his ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the rim. He scored on 2 drives against KSU and 3 against Texas. Your characterization of Forte was correct in his freshman and sophomore years, but he has become a much more complete offensive player since then. Ask Feliz of Texas or Thomas of KSU.

Rodney Crain 5 years, 4 months ago

Agree Mick, Forte is the MVP of the Big 12 so far. Mason is right behind him, but we should show Forte a lot of respect tonight.

Adam Bengtson 5 years, 4 months ago

I watched a study on sports gambling, and as of last year, Allen Fieldhouse was worth 6 points vs. normal spread. Kansas is spotted 6 points in that building anytime when determining the spread. All in all Kansas has an extreme advantage in regards to playing at home, let alone anywhere else. This is why it's the greatest home court advantage in sports.

Rodney Crain 5 years, 4 months ago

It is 5 or 5.5 when the students are not on break - Jay Kornegay LVH 23 years in Las Vegas.

Sam Burns 5 years, 4 months ago

So, what is the line tonight? Yes Rodney, I'm saying give the points. They lost too much from last year. I'm just not sold on OSU.

Walter Bridges 5 years, 4 months ago

I know the stats say otherwise but if you look at both the trend and his on-the-court performance, Ellis is the the weakest link in our starting team...

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