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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Keegan

Tom Keegan: KU thrives with game in balance — a good sign for March

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) gets a lob over Baylor forward Johnathan Motley (5) late in the second half, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016 at Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) gets a lob over Baylor forward Johnathan Motley (5) late in the second half, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016 at Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas.

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— When the lights brighten and the pressure intensifies, the only thing that melts away for the Kansas University basketball team is stress.

When the game enters the home stretch, no matter how sloppy it might have been during other stages of the night, the Jayhawks play like champions. They love the challenge. They finish games the way they are finishing the season.

The transformation in them for the final four minutes and change of Tuesday night’s 66-60 victory against a quick, skilled Baylor squad in Ferrell Center was every bit as amazing as the team’s makeover in the past five weeks.

Juniors Landen Lucas and Wayne Selden Jr. seemed to play much of the game in a fog, and then could do no wrong when it came to winning time. They dominated the boards and defended with such tireless toughness in leading Kansas on a 13-2 run that preceded Al Freeman’s three-pointer with two seconds remaining.

Kansas consistently plays its best at winning time and makes it look so easy as to almost appear staged. That's a great sign for March.

“I can tell you when we first started doing this it was stressful,” Selden said. “We’re at the point now where we’re a battle-tested team. We’ve been through a lot as a group and we don’t get rattled as much. I don’t think we get rattled at all, actually.”

How do they do it?

“Our composure,” Selden said. “Our poise. We have two point guards who handle pressure really well (Frank Mason III and Devonté Graham). We have one of the best scorers in the country in Perry (Ellis) and one of the best rebounders in Landen. So it’s really just playing how we play, not trying to do anything more.”

And then there is Selden, who couldn’t do much of anything right at the offensive end until the game hung in the balance. Then he was the best player on the floor.

Selden continued the terrific defense he had played all night on Taurean Prince (4 for 13) and in the final 2:25 picked up two offensive rebounds and scored four of his six points. He cut down the baseline, skied to catch Graham’s lob to give KU a three-point lead with 1:27 on the clock. And then he drove hard right to beat the shot clock and his man, stretched his arm way wide to avoid a block and scooped a shot into the hoop to put Kansas up by five points with 28 seconds left.

Lucas' night followed a similar pattern.

Baylor’s quick big men made Lucas look slow for much of the night, beating him to rebounds. The Bears dared him to shoot and when he did, he mostly missed, once with an air-ball.

Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Bill Self on Jayhawks' toughness late at Baylor

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self discusses how his team toughened up in the final minutes to win at Baylor.

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Selden had thrown up one of those early in the game and the fans chanted the word every time he touched it after that. Lucas and Selden topped their nights with whipped cream, but it took them a while. 

At the end of the first half, when Rico Gathers made his first career three-point attempt from the left corner to beat the buzzer, he was able to do so because Lucas didn’t challenge the length-of-the-court pass.

“I wasn’t very pleased with some of our personnel the first 30 minutes of the game,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “Those two (Lucas and Selden) really struggled. I got onto them hard at halftime, probably too hard. They really struggled the first half. They’re not the only ones.”

And nobody was better than that tandem at winning time, which earned them the coach's praise.

Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Wayne Selden Jr. and Landen Lucas on KU's big win at BU

Kansas basketball's Wayne Selden Jr. and Landen Lucas discuss the Jayhawks' impressive finish to win at Baylor.

Download podcast

In the final 4:52, Lucas had 5 of his 10 rebounds, a huge steal and a big put-back.

“It was tough,” Lucas said. “Coach was challenging us, Wayne and (me) the whole time. The good thing is, even if the offense isn’t coming for either one of us the one thing we can do is create extra possessions and play well defensively. I think we did that toward the end of the game and gave our team a chance to win.”

KU (24-4 overall, 12-3 in the Big 12, No. 2 in the nation) is peaking because it’s defending in games as well as it defends its Big 12 title every year, and because they play their best basketball when others feel the heat. Teams don't improve to the extent Kansas has without the players having each other's backs and without the coach having all their ears. 

— See what people were saying about KU at Baylor during KUsports.com's live coverage


More news and notes from Kansas at Baylor




By the Numbers: Kansas 66, Baylor 60

By the Numbers: Kansas 66, Baylor 60

Comments

Suzi Marshall 3 years, 8 months ago

The team is showing that True Grit they had during the summer winning gold at the WUGs. This is a special year having won the Gold in S.Korea and soon number XII. I hope we can wrap up the title this Saturday and the team can focus 100% on the NCAAs to make this an historic year for an historic program.

Damian Glaze 3 years, 8 months ago

I don't mean to be the naysayer, but the thing that troubles me is this team can't hold leads and it can't put teams away. Being clutch down the stretch is great; and we've had several teams over the 12 year conference run similar. However, we've also had many of these clutch teams lose to lesser opponents in the NCAAs. Happy we are likely going to get #12, but my expectations are low for getting to the sweet 16 in the tourney. You can't let the small and mid-major teams build end of game confidence because you believe in your parts and pieces; and you certainly can't wait to "turn it on" versus the Vanderbilts and the Purdues from the big 5 conferences. This team is still unpredictable in Mid-March.

Jeremy Wilhelm 3 years, 8 months ago

I think there are a good number of examples of KU putting teams away on their resume this year, so I wonder where this notion that they can't do it comes from? Certainly they don't always put teams away when they have the chance, but that's probably true of every team in the sport.

My expectations are, as always, high for them going as far as the Elite Eight this year, and frankly, there is no obvious reason why they couldn't go to the final. As always, bad match-ups or an off game could be their undoing, but again, show me a program that hasn't had similar struggles.

Cam Shef 3 years, 8 months ago

Was it just me or did it seem to anyone else that Scott Drew wanted this one more then he wanted to take his next breath?? The way he was reacting on the sidelines felt like he was playing for his job.

Pius Waldman 3 years, 8 months ago

Your compliment about Drew should be what every coach should do. Playing against KU always brings out the best efforts by coaches, players and fans.

Dale Rogers 3 years, 8 months ago

I think he's feeling some pressure from not living up to the pre-season hype about being one of the teams that could end KU's run of conference championships. He may also have a contract that pays a big bonus for 1st or 2nd place. No idea about that but...

Jim Stauffer 3 years, 8 months ago

The defense of Seldes and Lucas is something the average fan like me misses while I am watching their ineptitude on offense. Fact is in the big picture both made major contributions last night, the whole game on defense and the last 5 minutes on offense. Good team play.

Mike Taylor 3 years, 8 months ago

I agree with Damian on this one. This team has the potential to go the the final four...however i would not be surprised if they get knocked off by some mid major or lower seeded power 5 conference team in the first weekend. Playing in Korea and all these grinding out games should prepare us for March. But our problem is that we don't have the attitude of the a team who would put teams away and hold on to leads. That can be CRUCIAL come March. Cause anybody who knows anything about college basketball is this..sometimes the best team doesn't win..its whoever is the best team for 40 minutes...also it doesn't matter what seed you are in the bracket it comes down to 3 factors 1-if your playing good down the stretch going into march. 2-Where your placed at and who's in your bracket. 3-do you have that killer instinct. and of these 3 (and recent history)...only one factor plays to our benefit. My prediction is that we will go to final Four because i see the flashes of greatness....BUT i have this little doubt running through me

Jay Scott 3 years, 8 months ago

Bird Watchers. Mike and Damian are splendid specimens of the species Poultris Diminutae. A rare domesticated avian that senses impending doom constantly, they live in perpetual angst. If you're fortunate enough to hear their unique call it's a nasal whining tone that sounds like a combination of Marge Simpson, Bruce Weber and Boo Boo Bear, with a hint of Jimmy Carter . Their plumage is a dull grey.

Without any real valid justification, they constantly expect the sky to literally fall and seek to warn others of this potential calimity... Please don't use flash photography as it may panic these sad creatures.

Mike Taylor 3 years, 8 months ago

LOL even i had to laugh at that one Jay Scott lol

Mike Greer 3 years, 8 months ago

It's a shame these two don't get to watch much college basketball. If they followed other teams, even just a little, they'd quickly realize every fan of every team has the same concerns and every team has moments or games where they just don't play up to their potential. Also if they had internet access, they'd be able to look up how well their team has done in the NCAA tournament compared to other National Contenders in power conferences.

How far back do you want to go and to what level in the tournament do you consider success? In the past 5 years Eight teems have been in the final, only two of them have been there twice (UConn & UK), Kansas joins Duke, Michigan, Wisconsin, Louisville, and Butler with one appearance. No UNC, MSU, UCLA, Arizona, Florida, or Syracuse, all teams with an excellent basketball history.

If you go back the last dozen years to 2003, KU has more appearances in the NCAA final than any other team other than UConn, they are tied at 3.

I can't believe how badly these guys choke at tournament time, really?

Allin Herring 3 years, 8 months ago

Well lets see Mlke. It seems like 3 of the last 6 years we have lost in the 1st weekend. By my math that is a 50% out in the first weekend rate! And one additional year where we were out in the Regional semi final. Not a record I want to brag about. But for a Mary Poppins like you and Jay I am sure there is a great excuse for these early exits.A 50% out in the first weekend is really not good for the conference Champion for all of those years. Just stating the facts.

Suzi Marshall 3 years, 8 months ago

Clever post.

Every year, I'm one of those 'sky-falling' people. The only exception was the '11-'12 team that lost in the National Finals to UK.

The 'typical good-year' standard (Big 12 title, 0 Home defeats, 30 wins, elite 8) set by Bill Self is over the top laughable. By 'The Self', the teams from the last two years were substandard because they failed to reach 30 wins and the elite 8.

Pius Waldman 3 years, 8 months ago

Great victory against a great team on their home court. Thinking back to Korea and how they played might be a good indication for the Big Dance. Winning the 12th conference title looks like it should happen. But the lose one and your out March Madness is another story. It appears that many teams can win it all. I'm hoping our bigs can score more than they have been scoring. Lucas and his subs need to be more active. Rebounding and defense is important but easy buckets inside are important.

Tom Pritchard 3 years, 8 months ago

Love your post Jay Scott.:-)

Love your post Jay Scott.:-)

Michael Morgan 3 years, 8 months ago

I think Tom Keegan is correct in his assessment but misses a glaring(to me anyway) point: This KU team shouldn't even be in crunch time late in most of these games. And that's mostly attributable to lack of intensity, focus, and effort. Don't get me wrong. It was a great win that we really needed and I'm proud of their season so far. BUT.......

If they give 100 percent effort: 1. They win by much wider margins. 1.5 Cold shooting nights are mitigated by hustle plays that result in extra/extended possessions and dunks. 1.75. We get to see KU in multiple ESPN top ten plays after every game.(See 6) 2. They get frequent rests. 3. Bench players get more minutes and experience. 4. We get to cheer on Tyler, Evan and others at the end of every game. 5. We win another national championship. 6. Draft stocks rise and All American honors are EARNED.

"Expecting to win" is not the mentality we need right now. Having to EARN each win with the focus on giving maximum effort to EARN a win on each possession should be. If they do that, they will not be defeated by any team in the field. Give me 40 min like the last 4 min of this one for the remaining 11(?) games and we EARN another 3 banners. All of it is there for this team. If they EARN it. One possession at a time. Rock Chalk!!

Steve Macy 3 years, 8 months ago

You can't measure effort, only your interpretation of their effort. I have trouble believing that a team is not trying, the fact that they are not pulling away enough to satisfy fans such as yourself, might be more of a reflection of you and your expectations, not reality.

Al Martin 3 years, 8 months ago

(I was attempting to reply to Michael Morgan, but ended up in a separate post by accident.) At some point, you have to give a little credit to the other team. Big 12 teams in their own arena will make runs at you. Upper tier Big 12 teams will make runs at you in your arena. Baylor, even coached by Drew, is a good team. I'll take that ugly win any day of the week.

Bville Hawk 3 years, 8 months ago

Tom writes that Selden "skied to catch Graham’s lob." Now that's a neat trick, definitely worthy of the X-Games!

Harlan Hobbs 3 years, 8 months ago

Damian and Mike are not "doom and gloom". They are simply stating reasonable opinions given KU's recent performance in the big dance. With the exception of 2008 and 2012, we have typically underachieved in the NCAA under Coach Self, and I say that as an ardent fan and supporter of the coaching staff. I wouldn't trade them for any other staff in the country.

Let's face it. The NCAA tournament simply has many upsets every year. Baylor and Iowa State lost in the round of 64 last year. Duke and North Carolina have been upset frequently, and Kentucky under Calipari even lost in the first round of the NIT a few years ago.

This year will likely set a record for perceived upsets given the parity. Most brackets will be busted the first week, and I would bet that there won't be many who can accurately predict this year's Final Four. I wouldn't be surprised if all of the #1 seeds are eliminated before the Final Four. Makes for an extremely exciting, though disappointing to most teams, tournament.

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