Tuesday, January 5, 2021
Despite their disappointment in being blown out at home, last Saturday’s loss to Texas strangely sparked a fond memory for the Kansas men’s basketball team in the locker room after the game.
Almost one year ago exactly, it was Baylor that came into Allen Fieldhouse on a Saturday morning in early January and handed the Jayhawks a tough loss on their home court.
KU responded to that setback by winning the next game by double digits on the road and then went on to win every other game the rest of the way.
This team may have a ways to go to get to that point, and reaching it is anything but a certainty, but after Tuesday’s 93-64 victory over TCU, the Jayhawks are off to a good start.
“That was brought up in the locker room,” KU senior Mitch Lightfoot said Monday, noting that senior walk-on Chris Teahan was the first player to mention it. “Same thing happened. It was a Saturday, 11 o'clock game, so we thought about that and (realized) ‘Hey, last year's team did it and they bounced back well.’ So I think if this team takes that same attitude and (has) a chip on our shoulder now, I think we'll be OK.”
Lightfoot said Teahan’s message was simple and that it’s not uncommon for him or fellow walk-on Michael Jankovich to speak up when they have something to say.
“He made sure we understood that this isn't the end of the world,” Lightfoot said. “Yes, it sucks. And, yes, we need to improve on some things. But if we can all walk in and play our best basketball and play as a team, as a cohesive unit, then I think we have the best chance to succeed.”
The Jayhawks will look to take the next step in their bounce-back journey at 3:30 p.m. Saturday against Oklahoma at Allen Fieldhouse.
‘It’s one game’
Kansas basketball coach Bill Self said Monday afternoon that he was proud of the way his team responded to their sloppy performance and ugly loss to Texas over the weekend.
“It’s one game out of 26,” Self said. “And we’ve got to look at it that way.”
Through three conference games, all against top-15 teams, the Jayhawks emerged with a 2-1 record and with what most analysts consider to be two quality wins.
Self said he liked where that put his team heading into the rest of Big 12 play.
“I’d much rather win two close games and lose one big one, than the reverse,” he said. “So (the UT loss is) one game. It's, it's a big deal. But it's not anything that is earth shattering or we can't recover from if we take care of business.”
From Lightfoot’s perspective, the loss to the Longhorns provided Kansas with an opportunity to recalibrate its priorities a little bit.
“We’ve got to understand that our scouting report needs to be followed to a tee in order for us to win,” the veteran forward who has appeared in 107 games during his five seasons at Kansas. “You have to be more hard working. You have to be greedy. You have to find ways to make (your opponent) play bad.”
Those principles are all staples of Kansas basketball under Self. But with so many young guys on the roster who are still learning on the fly, Lightfoot said being reminded of their importance can only help.
“You have to understand what went into that loss,” he said. “And you’ve got to understand what it's going to take for us to win.”
No Gethro just yet
Asked this week whether freshman big man Gethro Muscadin had progressed enough during the first couple of months of the season to play a bigger role for the Jayhawks, Self said simply, “probably not.”
In practice, he is. In games, you know, he’s still kind of like a baby colt,” Self said of the 6-foot-10, 220-pound athletic freshman.
Self said Muscadin and freshman guard Latrell Jossell had done as well as could be expected to this point, but added that both were slowed by injuries during their senior seasons of high school and the strange offseason.
“They’re just a little bit behind,” Self said.
That’s not to say either player could not make up for lost time in the weeks and months ahead.
“I think Gethro is going to be a nice player for us some time,” Self said. “But I can’t believe, at this stage, playing him at the 5 would be better than having another guard in the game, whether it be Tristan (Enaruna) or Tyon (Grant-Foster) or whoever it is. But I hope he keeps improving. I hope that changes.”
This and that...
Tuesday’s victory moved Kansas to 9-2 or better for the seventh consecutive season... The Jayhawks are now 4-1 this season in games played away from Allen Fieldhouse, including 2-0 in true road games... KU’s latest win pushed its lead in the all-time series with TCU to 21-2. The Jayhawks have won seven in a row over the Horned Frogs and 17 of the last 18 meetings... Kansas coach Bill Self is now 510-111 during his 18 seasons at Kansas and 717-216 as a head coach. Self is 25-5 all-time against TCU, including an 18-2 mark while at KU. As a program, the Jayhawks are now 2,311-864 all-time and sit just 10 victories behind Kentucky for the most in NCAA history.