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Saturday, February 13, 2016

Keegan

Tom Keegan: Jayhawks’ victory at OU bad news for rest of Big 12

Kansas players from right, Brannen Greene, Carlton Bragg and Wayne Selden come to celebrate with Devonte Graham after Graham held strong late in the game with a few clutch buckets to lift the Jayhawks over the Sooners 76-72, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016 at Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla.

Kansas players from right, Brannen Greene, Carlton Bragg and Wayne Selden come to celebrate with Devonte Graham after Graham held strong late in the game with a few clutch buckets to lift the Jayhawks over the Sooners 76-72, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016 at Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla.

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— This had looked like the year Kansas finally had too many weaknesses, too much vulnerability, the year it would let go of its death grip on the Big 12 title.

Not anymore.

Just in time to make the rest of the conference think, "No, not again!" Kansas has its typical act together.

Problems filling the center spot and defending the perimeter, which fueled other conference contenders with hope, are fading to the background just in time to make the Jayhawks the team to beat again, thanks to a huge, 76-72 Saturday afternoon victory against Oklahoma in Lloyd Noble Center.

The Sooners had leading national player of the year candidate Buddy Hield and the home-court advantage going for them in the game billed as "The Rematch," a reference to last month's triple-overtime thriller in Allen Fieldhouse.

The Sooners had the best three-point shooting percentage in the nation, too many marksmen to pay too much attention to Hield.

So what happens? Kansas sophomore Devonté Graham, with the timing of a Powerball winner, shows a glimpse of what his senior season might look like on a consistent basis by having the game of his life at both ends of the floor.

The sophomore outplayed Hield, shut him out for the first 10:55, kept him without a field goal the entire first half, and out-scored him.

Graham's monster game was not the only discouraging sign for the rest of the conference.

Even against an offensive machine armed with a trio of guards who not only fire from long distance with exceptional accuracy, but blow by defenders on the way to the hoop, Kansas played a terrific defensive game, building on an upward trend of late in that department.

Kansas coach Bill Self not only chose the right player to guard Hield, he tweaked the way the Jayahwks defended him, setting a goal of never running at him, already being there at the catch.

So even though Isaiah Cousins' quickness made it difficult for Wayne Selden Jr. to stay with him and led to 21 points for Cousins, and even though Hield made 5 of 11 threes and scored 18 second-half points, Kansas made life miserable for one of the nation's most potent offenses.

Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Bill Self on Devonte' Graham: I don't know how he didn't get tired

Bill Self marvels at Devonte' Graham's ability to put up 27 points and hold down OU guard Buddy Hield, saying, "I don't know how he didn't get tired."

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Without as much low-post scoring, and therefore not as many trips to the free-throw line, this team was not going to contend without playing typically stingy Kansas defense, so naturally, that's what the Jayhawks are playing.

"I feel like we're getting a lot better at it," fifth-year senior Jamari Traylor said. "We're shrinking the floor, we're rebounding a little bit better and I feel like that West Virginia game (in Morgantown), we were really, really terrible. I feel like every game since then we made a couple of steps to get a little bit better, a little bit better, defensively. I feel like it's starting to show."

By "shrinking the floor," Traylor said he meant, "clogging the paint, not giving guys driving lanes to the basket and when they get one, guys are stepping over with help defense."

How has that improvement come about?

Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Devonte' Graham and Landen Lucas on how KU picked up a huge road win at Oklahoma

Devonte' Graham and Landen Lucas on how KU picked up a huge road win at Oklahoma

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"Just practice," Traylor said. "Coach has been on us in practice and we've been holding each other more accountable, from player to player."

Translation: Self has reached the team that in that regard had been more elusive to coaching than most of the squads during the title run.

The improved defense and rebounding is intertwined with the emerging solution to the center problem. Landen Lucas has moved to the head of the class. He came up big again Saturday, producing seven points and 10 rebounds. He and Perry Ellis (10 points, all in the first half, seven rebounds) joined efforts to limit OU's Ryan Spangler and Khadeem Lattin to a combined nine points and 12 rebounds.

The loss pushed Oklahoma out of its share of first place, now shared by Kansas and West Virginia, with 9-3 records.

No doubt, Jayhawks footsteps could be heard Saturday from Norman to Morgantown, W.V., to Ames, Iowa, to the Texas towns of Austin and Waco.

After KU's Tuesday night victory against West Virginia, Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins said: "All due respect to Kansas, I don't think anybody in this league sits around and thinks about Kansas all the time. ... I mean, do we think about Kansas? We do right before we get ready to play ‘em. Other than that, why would ya?"

That's the only way for a coach to look at it, but in the mind of every Big 12 fan outside of Lawrence, and even in the heads of many Big 12 players, the same words surely are bouncing around: "No, not again!"

— Tom Keegan appears on The Drive, Sunday nights on WIBW-TV

— See what people were saying about the KU-OU rematch during KUsports.com’s live coverage


More news and notes from KU’s win at Oklahoma




By the Numbers: Kansas 76, Oklahoma 72

By the Numbers: Kansas 76, Oklahoma 72

Comments

Tom Longhofer 3 years, 9 months ago

There's been a lot of ink...err 1's and 0's, that seems to imply that the rest of the Big XII does not want KU to win the title. If that were true, West Virginia would have an easy time of it the rest of the way.

Ida Blankenship 3 years, 9 months ago

I get your point. But since KU and WVU basically have the same remaining schedule (except one game I think?) that would only make sense for the teams who beat KU and play WVU second... So that doesn't really jibe. But make no mistake--NO ONE wants KU to win another title. As Self mentioned today it misleads the public about the difficulty of the conference, not to mention all the attention goes to KU. Everyone has been banking on Hield and OU's strength. But we're gonna do it again.

Aaron Paisley 3 years, 9 months ago

KU just went 3-1 against the other top 3 teams in the Big 12. I'll take that every year.

Steve Corder 3 years, 9 months ago

Big win, of course; but cool your jets! Long way to go.

Interesting that the Vegas line changed one hour before tip off from OU favored by 5 to favored by 3. Smart money trending to Kansas.

Bryce Landon 3 years, 9 months ago

Well done, Jayhawks! This was a must-win to keep #12 a realistic possibility. Oklahoma might have the nation's best player, but Kansas has a better team than the Sooners!

Joe Ross 3 years, 9 months ago

Are you still wanting Self fired? Be consistent man.

Bryce Landon 3 years, 9 months ago

If he can't make it to the Sweet 16 and/or stumbles to another 10-loss season with a talented team, then yes, he should be fired.

Michael Lorraine 3 years, 9 months ago

By that standard there is justification to fire most of the coaches in college. I say let's keep him because he offers the best hope for this program year in and year out. Even with the criteria you've set forth there are only 4 maybe 5 current coaches with a better tournament performance than Bill during his tenure at KU. But then my argument is a moot point because no one in the position of authority is even considering it. Zenger does not want to be the AD whose legacy includes the hiring of Charlie Weis and the firing of Bill Self.

Joe Ross 3 years, 9 months ago

So before you were certain he should be fired, and now you're saying "it depends?"

Barry Weiss 3 years, 9 months ago

I can't think of one coach in the country I would take over Bill Self when you compare both his record and all the intangibles.

Jerry Walker 3 years, 9 months ago

Nah -- he's just riffing for a spot on Comedy Central.

Joe Ross 3 years, 9 months ago

Let's take stock of where we are at the moment. Much to my surprise given the way Kansas had been playing after KU-OU 1, Kansas must now be considered to be the favorite to win the Big 12 Conference title this year, and probably outright.

Consider these facts. OU, WV, and Kansas sit atop the Conference standings. Here is the remaining schedules for each against conference teams who are ranked in the top 25 at the time of this article:

Oklahoma: @WV @TX Baylor

WV: @ Texas Oklahoma ISU @Baylor

Kansas: @Baylor @Texas ISU

All possess exactly two road games against ranked conference teams, but the teams on WV's and OUs schedule are more highly ranked than the ones for Kansas. WV is currently tied with Kansas for the league lead, but WV has four games against ranked conference opponents while Kansas only has three.

With respect to the Sooners, on the other hand, KU and OU have the same number of games against ranked conference opponents, but Kansas holds a one game lead in the league standings and, again, OU faces more highly ranked teams to close out the Big 12 slate. Even so, an OU win in Morgantown helps the Jayhawks greatly, so the game between the Mountaineers and the Sooners this coming Saturday is one that many of us will watch with great interest.

The question now is whether Kansas is hitting its stride (and consistency is a hallmark of their play), or whether they just rise and fall to the level of competition. I wouldn't necessarily say we are in the "driver's seat", but control as to the outcome of a possible 12th title currently lies in our own hands and no one else's.

Joe Ross 3 years, 9 months ago

The second tier teams--ISU, Texas, and Baylor--all stand at 7-5 and have to gain 2 games on the conference leaders with 6 games remaining. Chances are long for all of them, and Baylor in particular who faces all the tier 1 and tier 2 teams. Texas draws all three tier one teams, but at least gets those games at home. Still, they are probably likely to drop 2 of the 3. ISUs remaining schedule against ranked conference teams is similar to OUs, only ISU draws Kansas in Lawrence, whereas OU gets Texas in Austin. In essence, ISU has it harder than OU, who has it harder than Kansas.

It appears, now, to be a three-horse race and Kansas is positioned well at this point. The win against OU was absolutely huge to Kansas' chances of repeating, and therefore Devonte's game should be one that you remember in seasons to come if Kansas actually pulls it out.

Barry Weiss 3 years, 9 months ago

totally agree Joe. That game was hugh beyond belief. But we all know any bottom to mid tier team in this conference can take any of the top 3 down. Going to be an exciting finish.

Joe Ross 3 years, 9 months ago

If Im not mistaken, KSU has beaten Kansas in Manhattan the last two years running. I dont think Kansas will take this game lightly because of that. We all witnessed what KSU did to OU, so we know theyre capable of pulling off an upset against Kansas. And yes...they get jacked to play us. Thing is, I just dont see it happening. Kansas' play has been on an uptick lately, and Ive been impressed with the focus they displayed in surviving Hell Week (WV and OU) with consecutive victories. One big concern has been the play of Kansas on the road. The win against OU tells us, as Coach Self says, that we are capable of being really competitive. Im not drinking the kool aid that all of Kansas' problems are fixed. But no one can argue that we're making progress.

Steve Macy 3 years, 9 months ago

The memory of the court rush, might spur them on.
Still amazed that Traylor did not cold cock that student. KSU is a potent foe at the octagon of dweebs, I do hope that KU plays like yesterday.

Aaron Paisley 3 years, 9 months ago

OSU had beaten KU the previous two years as well and KU still didn't both showing up for that one and made it 3 in a row with the worst loss KU has had since the TCU loss.

Humpy Helsel 3 years, 9 months ago

Let's enjoy this one more day. Unbelievable win. Like it has been said, if we win the 12th straight, everyone will point to today's game. But realistically, it is a long way to go. But, I want some orange blood all over the Fieldhouse court Monday night. Those court-stormers from Stillwater have got to pay. They beat KSU, so they are feeling mighty good right now. For some reason, we just can't seem to take the Cowpunks serious. Let's change that Monday.

JD Roth 3 years, 9 months ago

Still work to get done. Like Joe Ross said, be consistent. Landen Lucas and Devonte and the boys played scrappy defense and never let OU get comfortable in their own house. Huge win. Great coaching job by the entire KU staff. Proud to be a Jayhawk through thick and thin.

Jerry Walker 3 years, 9 months ago

Two huge wins and the Hawks in 1st place.

All is right with the world again.

Bryce Landon 3 years, 9 months ago

All will be right if Kansas can advance to at least the Sweet 16 of the NCAA's.

Kent Richardson 3 years, 9 months ago

We could be that team,thanks to this weird year and the flashes we have shown. We are not that team yet!

Allin Herring 3 years, 9 months ago

Great Ku win against OU. Graham played the best game of his life and the whole defense played its best game this year!.Big game Monday night against OSU. Are we the team that beat OU in 2 great games or are we the team that stunk it up in a double digit loss to OSU? If we play defense like we did yesterday we can run the table.

Gerry Butler 3 years, 9 months ago

One thing we need to remember Joe is- - - We have these games against the upper ranked BUT we have to remember as a team and stay focused on ALL games, let's not forget next Saturday against KSU, they could be a real pain if we don't maintain focus. Their style of play slow boring ball, missed shot here, missed shot there, turnover here, turnover there, got to focus remember they just got through beating Oklahoma there, I feel that is gonna be a big test also we are in good shape but just have to play that 1 game at a time

Joe Ross 3 years, 9 months ago

Youll get no argument from me. I agree 100%. Kansas has had problems with focus this year. Im keeping my fingers crossed hoping theyve learned from their mistakes earlier in the season. Your point is taken: all games are important.

Barry Weiss 3 years, 9 months ago

The uptick in Landon's game has really been hugh the past 3 games. I was down on him and really wanted Diallo in there. I think Mickelson is still semi-injured, so the rotation of Lucas and then Diallo off the bench has been great lately.

Reggie Flenory 3 years, 9 months ago

I've said it before and I'll say it again I am not nearly as much concerned with winning the big 12 as I'm concerned about winning the national championship I still feel like we put way too much energy and stock and winning this conference when the real energy should be put into collecting national championships

Joe Joseph 3 years, 9 months ago

People keep saying this. What do you suggest? How should Self prep his players?

"Okay guys. Big game today, but, but, but, ya know, we've got bigger games ahead of us. And, and, and I don't expect you to play your hardest today because of that. So, so, just an okay effort today, fellas."

It's complete lunacy.

Joe Ross 3 years, 9 months ago

I dont think it's lunacy at all. Most of the goals are the same in preparing a team for the conference and tournament. But there are small things that sometimes go differently between the two. Most notably with Kansas, playing time for the freshmen. You can keep your veterans in during the conference season, and they will probably be better come tournament time for it. After all, even seniors gain experience in their senior years. But come tournament time you probably have a shorter rotation to deal with. If this was Self's focus, we would almost certainly not be positioned as we are now with our standing in the conference. But Diallo and Bragg have not really been given the change to improve either, and those two players may have been very useful come March. Diallo is basically a guy you try to steal minutes with to give your other bigs a rest and nothing more. Bragg's shot makes him a better offensive weapon in mid-range areas on the floor, but I dont think his post-game has improved significantly from where he was in the beginning of the season. I dont think there is a rational person alive who would say that more experience (read "playing time") would not have benefited these guys. For the purpose of this particular response, Im not saying playing the freshmen is right or giving veterans' minutes proportional to their experience is either (though I do have an opinion about it). All Im saying is that your focus as a coach has the potential of being different depending on how you prioritize the conference and the tournament.

Rae Bricil 3 years, 9 months ago

I completely agree with your response and it got me wondering about Izzo's success -7 FF' since 1999. Obviously he is a great coach but I also used to attribute a decent portion of his success with his scheduling. That is, he always seems to play tough teams and with different styles in the non-con. He takes some lumps early and therefore his record reflects this fact but come tournament time MSU almost always has a shot at the FF. But given your point i wonder if he relies on some of inexperienced players earlier in the season, even during the B10, therefore giving the team a higher ceiling (if you will) later in the season. I haven't watched enough MSU to say for certain--any insight?

Joe Ross 3 years, 9 months ago

Izzo's success in the tournament is not based upon a generous use of underclassmen. This is not to say that other coaches dont employ them effectively in March (they do, of course), but this hasnt been the modus operandi of the Spartans' coach in particular. Tom Izzo relies on a bevy of upperclass talent, most generally.

Here is an article that supports this view: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1974877-michigan-state-basketball-why-has-tom-izzo-struggled-to-develop-young-players

Arthur Ankeney 3 years, 9 months ago

I agree with a lot that's being said here with a big difference. I do not think Self looks at lack of playing time for the freshmen as not allowing them to develop. In Self's eyes and in his coaching mantra, players develop in PRACTICE. We hear him say it all the time--when players practice well they will play. Whereas Izzo puts more value on game time, Self believes in the fundamentals of practice and improving from the base up. Hell, toward this point of the season we've heard him keep saying Landen has been practicing better than the other bigs and we've seen big improvements in him game time. Also let's not forget that not getting Diallo playing time in the early season was not on Self, that was on the NCAA.

Aaron Paisley 3 years, 9 months ago

Self's philosophy is to win every game now, sometimes at the expense of developing younger players like Bragg and Diallo. The grind of trying to win every game and playing starters more minutes instead of distributing the minutes more evenly to keep players fresher for March has been an issue with Self teams.

KU had big leads late against KSU and WVU and yet Self kept the regular rotation guys in for those games. There was no reason for the rotation players to be in the KSU game with under 2 minutes left when KU had about a 15 point lead. Get the youngsters out there to get them some minutes. The BG situation also never happens if the end of bench kids are in at that point like they should've been. There was also no reason for the starters to be out on the floor at the end of the WVU game and Mason did turn an ankle late in that one that KU was lucky wasn't more serious.

There are coaches out there who will sacrifice a win or two along the way to get their players some rest and to develop their bench guys. Winning conference titles is great, but that should never be the end goal. The end goal should always be towards winning a national title and personnel and playing time decisions should be made with that in mind and Self doesn't always have that in mind in the heat of the moment and it's come back to bite him in the tournament when his team has tired shooting legs and can't play through a bad game.

Rae Bricil 3 years, 9 months ago

I must admit I can’t remember a more complete game by a Jayhawk in a long time. Amazing on both sides of the ball. Graham’s offense performance reminded me a bit me of TT’s back in 09 against the then no. 3 sooners—though Graham’s defense really stole the show. I must admit I didn’t think he had that kind of performance in him.

Good overall play from the team. But still some areas of concern. Ellis was a non-factor on the offense end in the second half and he shot 4-12 for the game. Selden, besides his timely three, appears to have gotten on the UK plane back to Lexington—shooting 2-9. Somewhere on here on a different page someone (apologies for the vagueness) brought up the idea of using the 4 guard set and posting him up—that seems like an interesting idea and could help him get going when he struggles. That 4 guard set really paid off for that stretch—thanks for stopping by Mayor and providing the inspiration to shake things up a little. Lucas came back down to earth nothing horrible and nice offensive rebounding. I thought Diallo’s time was interesting—had a strange TO but credited with 1 blk 1 stl and 4 rebounds in 7 mins. Someone posted OU was 1/12 during his time on the court—mostly a coincidence—maybe?

A concerning fact, in a sense, is that it is taking “career games” for this team to win and I do not see that as a sustainable winning solution. Point being is that I still don’t think they are playing like the team basketball that they displayed earlier in the season. This teams seems to be built, like a lot of Self’s teams, on the idea that everyone will contribute up on a given night and that doesn’t seem to be happening recently. In the end I think it makes them more susceptible to being knocked off if they get into a groove of relying on “career nights” for wins instead of more balanced attacks. Would like to see the “big 4” score a somewhat balanced 55-60 pts night in night out.

Harlan Hobbs 3 years, 9 months ago

We are now the only team in the conference that hasn't lost a home game. Hopefully, we will keep that streak for the rest of the season. Doing so will give us an advantage, plus probably the tie breaker in the various scenarios given our sweep of OU.

Tony Bandle 3 years, 9 months ago

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY, EVERYONE. My list of wishes for each player.

1] Perry - force yourself to be aggressive as you possibly can. I know it's not in your nature to play mad, but at least play irritated.

2] Frank - at least consider a dish off before you're in the defender's chest in the paint. Also, a little spot up jumper once in awhile might save you some fouls and score you some points.

3] Brannen - try not to handle the ball like it's a hand grenade. Also, on those wide open three, take a moment to set yourself to avoid being short.

4] Landen - when you grab the ball, protect it like it's youir first born and gypsies are trying to kidnap it. Also, from 3'-0" in, DUNK THE DAMN THING!!

5] Wayne - hustle your ass off!! Everything else will follow including the ESPN Highlights Dunk and the trifectas.

6] Devonte - mentally put Buddy's face on every opponent you draw and pretend they're all wearing OU uniforms!

7] Jamari - make sure that at least two of your fouls are real teeth rattlers. You are the enforcer.

8] Chieck - slow it down just a tad, keep learning and stay another year.

9] Carlton - The headband is cool but go with the red...it looks meaner. Also, whenever you pop up to the high post, take that shot. Even Jay Bilas likes it!!

10] Hunter - Thanks for holding the fort till the other big guys got with the program. I hope we get to see you some more, although I have my doubts.

11] Svi - Next to e=MC2, the second most important formula at KU is PT = Defense. Learn it.

12] The rest of the bench - Now it's time to copy Monmouth! Some suggested poses could be Mario's Miracle Shot, Manning's in your face layup on OU in '88, KU's 12th man Orange Bowl Defense, etc.

Michael Lorraine 3 years, 9 months ago

All good advice but I don't think we can top Monmouth. Their sideline antics are the best.

Michael Lorraine 3 years, 9 months ago

Hope Hunter has a career in Europe. Not a bad way to make a living.

Joe Joseph 3 years, 9 months ago

It took Bill Self a while to get here, but he's finally allowing this team to play to its strengths.

He's completely bailed on playing through the post, with the exception of some high-low lobs to Perry on occasion. This outside-in first mindset has allowed Traylor and Lucas to become much more effective role players now that they aren't expected to score. Ever.

I've also been very happy to see that he didn't give up on BG. In the two most important games of the season (to date) Self has played BG 16 and 25 minutes respectively. BG is the type of player you have to let play through mistakes. He's going to blow an occasional defensive assignment and dribble it off his foot once a game, but he more than makes up for these mistakes with his shooting competency.

This team seems to be playing with more of a 'free' mentality than just about any recent HCBS team I can remember.

Barry Weiss 3 years, 9 months ago

so we have 3 home games and 3 road games left. Does OU and WV have the same split?

Kit Duncan 3 years, 9 months ago

3 Home, 3 Away

Home OU, ISU, TTU

Away UT, OSU, BU

1st up @ Texas Tue. night.

Tony Bandle 3 years, 9 months ago

Kit, you're a little ahead of the game. We play OSU tomorrow and at Texas in two weeks. At Baylor and Kittyland and home against TTech in between with ISU at home to finish the regular season.

Joe Ross 3 years, 9 months ago

Evidently Kit was giving West Virginia's remaining schedule, not ours. He probably gave WVs and not OUs because the former is currently tied with Kansas for the conference lead. I think Kit was answering "yes" to Barry's question. That there IS, in fact, an even split in home and away games...for West Virginia.

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