Wednesday's 64-61 Kansas University basketball victory over TCU in Fort Worth, Texas, was such a dud from a pure basketball standpoint, that it's not really worth spending too much time recapping it.
That's especially true with Allen Fieldhouse games against Kansas State (Saturday) at Iowa State (Monday) on the immediate horizon.
So let's get to the good and the bad of it and get out of here.
The Jayhawks won. And they won ugly. But a win is a win, as the saying goes, especially on the road in a deep and talented Big 12 Conference.
First off, TCU clearly is a better team than it has been in the past couple of years, but this one had as much to do with KU's inability to get locked in for extended periods of time as anything else. That's probably not that big of a surprise. Personally, I thought KU had turned the corner of having to worry about what kind of energy it brought to the floor from night to night, but it probably would have been easier to predict a letdown after a nearly flawless game against Texas last weekend. If you're looking for good news from this game, it lies in the final score. Most programs lose when they play poorly and are a little sloppy and sluggish while struggling offensively for large chunks of time. KU didn't. Give credit to some of the lesser-used role players, who, by definition constantly bring fire and energy, for helping the Jayhawks survive the Horned Frogs.
1 – For starters, KU won. Again. And improved to 17-3 overall and 6-1 in Big 12 play. We're deep enough into Big 12 play now that, a record like that is reason enough to feel good about where a team stands.
2 – Wednesday's game was a not-so-subtle reminder of how sophomore guard Frank Mason can bail this team out almost whenever he wants to. On a night when KU shot 46 percent, Mason was 8-of-12 from the floor in 35 minutes. Curiously, Mason missed all three free throws he attempted, and even though he's still a .783 free throw shooter for the season, he's down to just .700 in Big 12 play.
3 – Landen Lucas will never be one of those guys who this team counts on, but credit him for preparing like he is. Lucas played big minutes for the Jayhawks on Wednesday night, finishing with 8 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks in 24 minutes. The things Lucas lacks still showed up, so you didn't leave the game feeling like Lucas could be a difference maker in the future. But it takes efforts like this from unexpected places for a program to win 10 — or 11 — straight Big 12 titles, and Lucas delivered one Wednesday night.
1 – KU's energy was lacking big time. Maybe it was the gym or the opponent or the fact that K-State and Iowa State at home are the next two games on the schedule. But those are just excuses. The Jayhawks should not be able to use youth as an excuse any more. These guys know better by now and have seen what it takes to compete and play at a high level. It's simply a matter of going out and doing it, which, over the course of a grind like Big 12 Conference play, is occasionally easier said than done. It's worth pointing out that the re-aggravation of Devonte' Graham's right foot is also a reason to sigh. Even though Graham re-entered and looked fine, seeing the freshman guard who has proven to be a bit of a difference maker doubled over in pain is definitely not something the Jayhawks want to see.
2 – KU's big men were outworked on the board throughout the game. Forget the final numbers, which showed TCU holding a 50-40 rebounding advantage, including a 26-9 edge on the offensive glass. What was more concerning was the way the Horned Frogs were attacking missed shots and the way the Jayhawks weren't. Early foul trouble on several KU players may have been a factor and caused KU to pull back its aggression, but that's a bad excuse. Guys can still play hard without fouling.
3 – Despite the off night offensively, foul trouble up and down the lineup and next to no energy, the Jayhawks looked to be in total control... until the end. That's when the wheels nearly fell off, which should be cause for real concern. KU's showing vs. TCU's pressure in final couple of minutes was nothing short of atrocious and it makes you wonder how Kansas will match-up with West Virginia, which plays like that almost the entire game, and even K-State, who showed flashes of that style in this week's loss to West Virginia.
KU's three-point win over TCU:
• Made Kansas 17-3 overall and 6-1 in Big 12 play for the 10th time under head coach Bill Self.
• Pushed KU’s all-time lead in the series to 8-1, including a 5-1 mark in Big 12 games and a 3-1 record in Fort Worth.
• Marked KU's fourth straight win against TCU.
• Improved Self to 342-72 while at Kansas, 12-4 against TCU (6-1 at Kansas) and 549-177 overall.
• Made KU 2,143-825 all-time.
The Jayhawks return home Saturday for a 1 p.m. match-up with Sunflower State rival Kansas State on ESPN. The meeting will be the first between the two Kansas programs this season, and, two days later, the Jayhawks will welcome Iowa State to town for a Big Monday rematch with the Cyclones.
Construction crews and Bobcats have taken over Memorial Stadium. But, no, it's not the start of any major stadium renovations that KU fans are dying to see.
Instead, the Kansas University athletic department is replacing the turf at Memorial Stadium in preparation for the upcoming spring football season.
The old turf, which already has been completely ripped out, was installed in the spring and summer of 2009 and the new turf, which went down last summer in place of the old track that was torn out following the completion of Rock Chalk Park, will remain in place. When the project is finished, which KU officials said would be in time for spring practices, the two shades of green will match better than the turf did last season.
Work on the project began last weekend and the construction crews are currently in the process of re-leveling the entire field.
Once the new turf is installed, it will look nearly identical to what you saw last season in terms of logos and end zone markings, with the only exception being a six-foot white border surrounding the playing field instead of the 18-20-inch border that had been there. The thicker boundary is more in line with what the rest of the Big 12 Conference stadiums have in place.
According to a KU official with knowledge of the project, the new turf is expected to hold up for around eight years.
KU associate athletic director Jim Marchiony said the cost of the current project is around $200,000, less than half of last summer's $500,000 price tag to remove the track and put turf down in its place. That project was paid for by an anonymous donor.
With the calendar turning to February in just a few days, and March being the month that follows February, it doesn't seem all that ridiculous to start looking ahead at the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
While ESPN.com's Joe Lunardi and others do this year round, even in the offseason when no games are being played and coaches are still putting together their recruiting classes, several other college basketball analysts start to fire up their serious thoughts right around now.
Toss ESPN's Jay Bilas into that mix. I realize that Bilas probably was asked for and gave his Final Four picks during some kind of season preview a few months ago. No harm in doing that. But the input he can provide today, now that he's seen a ton of games and a ton of teams is much more valuable.
On Wednesday, Bilas, with a little help from John Gasaway, posted his Top 68 teams in college basketball rankings on ESPN.com's Insider page, and, not-so-surprisingingly, the former Duke player and current face of college basketball broadcasting had eight of the Big 12's 10 teams ranked in his Top 68. Whether they'll all stay there or get into the tournament remains to be seen. (For what it's worth, Lunardi currently has the same eight IN the tournament in his latest Bracketology projections).
Anyway, as is the case in the Big 12 standings, the Jayhawks are the top Big 12 team listed on Bilas' rankings, with KU coming in at No. 13.
Here's what Bilas has to say about KU:
Bill Self and his staff have done a marvelous job winning with this team and, while there is a long way to go, KU seems on the way to its 11th straight Big 12 title. Self has had to push a lot of different buttons, and call a lot of different players into action to piece together wins. The Jayhawks have lost only three games, and have won against a very solid schedule. While rated No. 1 in the RPI (which tells you all you need to know about the RPI), Kansas is rated 18th in offensive efficiency and 39th in defensive efficiency. The key has been the play and steadying influence of Frank Mason solidifying the point guard slot. The development of Kelly Oubre and Cliff Alexander will be the difference going forward. -- Jay Bilas
As for the rest of the conference, Bilas & Gasaway break the Big 12 down like this, at least today…
16 - Iowa State
18 - Oklahoma
20 - Texas
22 - Baylor
23 - West Virginia
49 - Oklahoma State
55 - Kansas State
For those of you who are "ESPN Insiders" and would like to look at Bilas' entire Top 68, the complete list can be found here.
Late Tuesday night, Kansas University football commitment Josh Moore took to Twitter to announce that he no longer was headed to KU.
Moore, a 6-foot-5, 250-pound tight end who many believed could easily develop into a defensive end or offensive tackle, played for new KU on-campus recruiting coordinator Gene Wier at Olathe North and committed to the Jayhawks in late October.
The three-star prospect who had offers from a bunch of impressive schools, including Auburn, Florida State, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and TCU, among others, picked Kansas largely because of his fondness for then-interim head coach Clint Bowen.
Even though Bowen remained on staff when KU hired David Beaty, something inspired a change of heart for Moore, who initially was committed to Ohio State before picking Kansas. It's possible that the change in leadership was enough to change his mind, but, according to a few people I've talked to about his recruitment, it's more likely that Moore may not wind up qualifying academically and may have to go the junior-college route.
It's still too early to know exactly what happened or even what will happen, but we'll definitely know a lot more next Wednesday, when the members of KU's Class of 2015 sign their national letters of intent. At this point, it looks unlikely that Moore will be one of them.
If Moore winds up elsewhere, he will have been the third significant prospect to fall off of KU's recruiting list in the past few days, as three-star wide receiver Kevin Thomas de-committed from KU and chose SMU and three-star Dallas athlete Arico Evans backed out of his pledge to Kansas to commit to TCU.
Regardless of what happened here, you can bet the KU coaches are working around the clock and will continue to do so up until signing day. And it's likely they already had a couple back-up plans in place to help offset these losses.
Here's a quick look at the Twitter messages Moore fired off on Tuesday night. The strong words against Wier should be taken with a grain of salt given that we don't yet know exactly what's going on with Moore or where he will wind up. I should also point out that I've heard nothing but good things about Wier's hiring and the job he's done since joining the KU football program.
A lot of people don't get it, and it's not always fun, but this kind of thing is not all that uncommon in the recruiting world. And the whole thing only seems to be getting crazier and crazier by the class.
If you didn't know already, I will not be going to Ku.— Josh Moore (@JoshMoore_08) January 28, 2015
It was a deal where my high school coach tried to force me to go to his favorite school.— Josh Moore (@JoshMoore_08) January 28, 2015
But I have nothing against Ku. It's a great place love the staff, it's just not meant for me! They're going to do great things in the future— Josh Moore (@JoshMoore_08) January 28, 2015
By several accounts, Saturday's 75-62 victory over Texas in Austin was the Jayhawks' best game of the 2014-15 season.
It's hard to argue that. So many positive things went in KU's direction, with a convincing victory over a solid team being the result. The game was on the road and against a Top 20 team. Kansas turned it over just three times all game and did not cough it up once in the second half. The scoring was balanced. Newcomers and veterans contributed equally and Bill Self's crew showed toughness, confidence and even a little swagger.
The Jayhawks made 15 of 19 free throw attempts, recorded more assists and steals than the Longhorns and limited UT to 40 percent shooting, including a 3-of-18 mark from three-point range.
I'll be honest. I thought this would be another Iowa State game, where the home crowd and talent on the opposing bench proved to be too much for the young Jayhawks to overcome. But maybe it was just the opposite. Maybe it was exactly the kind of game this team needed to allow it to believe that what happened in Ames, Iowa, one week earlier was closer to being a fluke than the norm. If that's true and these guys just turned up the belief they have in themselves, the Big 12 race might be over.
So much has been made lately about Cliff Alexander's motor and how important his play is to this team. But would anyone argue that Brannen Greene's motor — or maybe just his head — might be equally as important. The sophomore guard has been sensational in KU's past two games, both tough victories over Top 20 teams. And those efforts came less than a week after it looked as if Greene might be out of the rotation for good. I guess the lesson here is that it's dangerous to write off a guy too early when he has this kind of talent. Bill Self certainly did not do that with Greene and KU is reaping the rewards because of it. If the past two games — and the lessons that were learned leading up to them — are any indication of where this team is headed, Greene and Alexander, all of a sudden, seem to have vaulted to the top of the list — right behind Frank Mason — as KU's most important players. Oh, and while KU was doing its thing in Austin, TCU was taking West Virginia to the wire in Morgantown and Texas Tech was getting ready to knock off Iowa State in Lubbock. Just one week after a loss at Iowa State seemed to blow the Big 12 race wide open, the Jayhawks have jumped right back into the driver's seat in a big way.
1 – Cliff Alexander held his own personal dunk party in Austin. Yes, Alexander's motor was revving high for the second game in a row. And, yes, that was by far the most important part of his game. But the fact that the big fella looked ferocious while playing again is nothing but good news for the Jayhawks. Alexander looked eager to try to dunk everything he could in this one. Maybe it was the challenge of playing against the bigger front line the Longhorns possessed. But if the KU freshman can find a way to channel that same attitude against teams that aren't as big as Texas up front, he could be in for some monster games in the very near future. Props also to Alexander's teammates for so often putting him in good positions to finish strong.
2 – Jamari Traylor's effort alone on that wild play toward the end of the first half was worth a high grade for the entire game. Yes, Traylor hustled to get a block shot on one end, crashed the boards on the other and dove out of bounds after both stretches. And, yes, Traylor's all-out dive at halfcourt was the kind of play Self will be telling young players about for years. But the most impressive part about the whole thing to me was that it started with Traylor getting his shot blocked. When that happened in the past — and even in the not-too-distant past — Traylor had a tendency to show bad body language and let the bad play momentarily take him out of the game. It looks as if Traylor is growing and maturing.
3 – So much was made about UT's length heading into this game, but how about KU's length coming through for the Jayhawks. Not only did Kansas pick up some blocks and steals because of its ability to stretch out defensively, but the Jayhawks also really benefited from their length on the offensive end, as well, whether that was Cliff Alexander flushing shot after shot or Kelly Oubre finishing at the rim. The Longhorns did finish with nine blocks, but it's a real credit to the growth and maturity of this Kansas team
*** Disclaimer: We were really forced to reach for negatives after this game.
1 – Because the rest of the game turned out so well, people probably won't remember KU's 11-2 deficit to open the game. And why should they? As soon as Brannen Greene got going from the outside and Alexander and Perry Ellis picked things up inside, KU dominated. Slow starts like that are usually a recipe for disaster on the road, so they still fit in the category of reasons to sigh. But if KU can overcome any future slow starts the way it did in Austin, even an early double-digit deficit won't make its way onto this list.
2 – KU was out-rebounded, 36-34, and gave up 13 offensive boards to the Longhorns. Like I said, we're nit-picking here. If anything, hanging in there with the Longhorns on the glass shows just how well KU played up front. The Jayhawks matched UT on the offensive glass and had five different players record at least three rebounds.
3 – Wayne Selden's shot is still not quite right. Remember early in the season when Selden was in a big-time shooting slump that got a ton of talk? He snapped out of that one and then that was that, but, as much as things have gotten a little better since then, he's still not completely there with his shot. Selden's shooting percentage in the first six conference games of the season is just 34.6 percent (18 for 52) and that includes Saturday's 2-for-6 performance against Texas. Credit Selden for doing enough “little things” to remain an important part of this team even without clicking on offense, the most notable of which is probably his defensive toughness.
The Jayhawks' 75-62 victory over Texas:
• Made Kansas 16-3 overall and 5-1 in Big 12 play for the 10th time under head coach Bill Self.
• Added to KU’s all-time series advantage as Kansas now leads 24-8, including a 7-6 mark in Austin (all games in the Erwin Center).
• Kept KU a perfect 2-0 on CBS this season (vs. UNLV; at Texas) and 42-16 all-time when playing on CBS.
• Marked KU’s 250th victory in Big 12 play (250-50), the most among all league foes. Texas is second at 197-103.
• Improved Self to 341-72 while at Kansas, 14-8 against Texas (13-6 at Kansas) and 548-177 overall.
• Made KU 2,142-825 all-time.
KU (16-3 overall, 5-1 in Big 12 play) will head back out on the road Wednesday night for an 8 p.m. tip-off at TCU. The game will be shown on ESPNU.
When the best of the best in the NFL hit the field for Sunday's Pro Bowl in Arizona, the rosters will include three former Jayhawks for the first time in more than 50 years.
Chris Harris (2007-10), Darrell Stuckey (2006-09) and Aqib Talib (2005-07), who shared the same KU secondary during the 12-1, 2007 season and 2008 Orange Bowl victory, will be the first trio of Jayhawks to play in the Pro Bowl since Galen Fiss (1950-52), Mike McCormack (1948-50) and Curtis McClinton (1959-61) represented their pro teams in the 1963 Pro Bowl.
It will mark the first appearance in the postseason all-star showcase for all three players. Talib was selected to the AFC Pro Bowl squad last season but did not play because of injury and Harris and Stuckey were named to the team for the first time in their careers.
Harris and Talib, both starting cornerbacks for the Denver Broncos, were two of the top defensive backs in the league during the 2014 season. Talib led the Broncos with four interceptions and finished fourth on the team with 64 tackles. He also added a sack. Harris, who was ranked as the NFL's top cornerback by Pro Football Focus — which took into account overall performance including percentage of receptions and yards given up — was right behind him with three interceptions, 53 tackles and a sack.
Stuckey, a back-up safety in his fifth season with the San Diego Chargers, again was a star on special teams, which earned him the trip to the Pro Bowl. He led the Chargers with 15 special teams tackles and made 27 more tackles in 155 defensive snaps.
Stuckey's addition to the Pro Bowl roster was made official earlier this week, as he finished as an alternate in the voting but took the place of New England's Matthew Slater, who is preparing for the Super Bowl.
This trio is largely responsible for the more favorable light that KU football has enjoyed in pro football. Not only have all three performed well enough to be respected for their stats and play on the field, but each has been part of some of the top teams in football during the past few seasons.
This weekend will mark just the second time in history that three former Jayhawks will play in the Pro Bowl together. KU has enjoyed seven different seasons with two former Jayhawks playing in the Pro Bowl at the same time and the program has had a representative in the game 29 different times, with the first coming in 1939, when Pete Mehringer, a former KU offensive lineman and 1932 Olympic wrestling gold medalist, represented the Los Angeles Bulldogs and the most recent until this season being former San Francisco 49ers stud Dana Stubblefield in 1998.
John Hadl and Mike McCormack are the Jayhawks who made the most Pro Bowl appearances, with six apiece, and KU packed its biggest punch in 1966 and 1970, when both Hadl and Gale Sayers played in the Pro Bowl.
Here's a quick look at KU's all-time Pro Bowl representatives:
• Frank Bausch — Chicago — 1940
• Larry Brown — Pittsburgh — 1983
• Nolan Cromwell — Los Angeles — 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984
• Galen Fiss — Cleveland — 1963, 1964
• John Hadl — San Diego & Los Angeles — 1965, 1966, 1969, 1970, 1973, 1974
• Chris Harris — Denver — 2014
• LeRoy Irvin — Los Angeles — 1986, 1987
• Ron Jessie — Los Angeles — 1977
• Curtis McClinton — Dallas Texans & Kansas City — 1963, 1967, 1968
• Mike McCormack — New York & Cleveland — 1952, 1957, 1958, 1961, 1962, 1963
• Peter Mehringer — Los Angeles Bulldogs — 1939
• John Riggins — New York Jets — 1976
• Gale Sayers — Chicago — 1966, 1967, 1968, 1970
• Dana Stubblefield — San Francisco — 1995, 1996, 1998
• Darrell Stuckey — San Diego — 2014
• Aqib Talib — New England & Denver — 2013, 2014
• Delvin Williams — San Francisco & Miami — 1977, 1979
• John Zook — Atlanta — 1974
President Barack Obama visited Kansas University this morning to visit with KU students and several Lawrence residents on the heels of this week's State of the Union address.
Obama, a huge and well-known college basketball fan, opened his speech at Anschutz Sports Pavilion by talking a little KU basketball.
He said he met with KU coach Bill Self and the men's basketball team just before taking the stage and added that he figured he might as well talk to some basketball players since he was in Lawrence already and everything.
Several Jayhawks instantly took to Twitter to share their thoughts about meeting the president and Obama, himself, kicked off his speech with talk about KU being back on top of the Big 12 Conference race and praised Self's streak of 10 straight Big 12 titles.
Known by many as a gifted and charismatic speaker, Obama then made a correlation between one of his streaks and KU's streak of Big 12 titles.
“Coach Self has won 10 straight, I lost two straight (in Kansas),” he said, referring to losing the state of Kansas in the general election during both of his presidential campaigns. “I might have won some sections of Lawrence. That might have happened.”
Obama's love for KU hoops came as no surprise and it made sense for him to kick off the day's festivities talking about the one thing that unites this town better than anything else.
Our own Gary Bedore talked with Self briefly after the speech and the KU coach told him that the team met with Obama in Hadl Auditorium and presented him with a personalized jersey and KU basketball.
It was one of the wildest games in Allen Fieldhouse in quite some time and featured two teams fighting from start to finish that played at an incredibly high level.
In short, it was everything we love about college basketball.
Journal-World Sports Editor Tom Keegan remarked after KU's 85-78 victory over Oklahoma on Monday night that it was really like watching three games in one, with KU dominating the first game, OU dominating the second and the Jayhawks out-slugging the Sooners down the stretch in the third act.
Given the way Kansas played in its loss in Ames, Iowa, just two nights earlier, it was not entirely unexpected to see the Jayhawks come out with great energy and a something-to-prove attitude. And, for a while, it looked as if that energy, which led to eight straight made three-pointers during the first 20 minutes, was enough to knock out the Sooners before they ever got started.
But OU regrouped at halftime and kept coming, which led to a fantastic finish and a big moment of growth for KU's young guys and the team as a whole.
Although we're all still trying to figure out so many things about this version of Kansas basketball, I think it might be time to put one thing down in pen instead of pencil — the Jayhawks are a much different team at home than they are on the road. I know that sounds obvious and is probably true with most teams, but it's as true with this team as any I can remember. KU was great in a lot of ways against Oklahoma, but the Jayhawks were at their absolute best when the crowd was fueling them and they were fueling the crowd. Had Oklahoma, which confirmed all of the things I already liked about them (mental and physical toughness, great guard play, well coached) had been able to erase that 19-point halftime deficit and walk out of there with a victory, it would've been one of the better wins in school history. Instead, KU rose a level above and the home crowd took the Jayhawks the rest of the way to a huge conference victory that may very well have re-established KU as the team to beat in the Big 12.
1 – Kelly Oubre was clutch down the stretch. Forget the numbers or the way the points came or how much he was on the floor. The freshman was sensational down the stretch and showed glimpses of being able to become this team's go-to guy. He might not be the first option to handle the ball on the perimeter and create a jumper for himself. But if you're looking for someone to attack the rim with poise and either finish in close or get to the free throw line, Oubre looks like your guy.
2 – KU's energy, intensity and urgency as a whole much better from the start. That did not really surprise anyone, given that they were playing at home against a ranked team two days after a loss, but it looked natural and effective. It did not seem like a group of athletes trying to play hard to please their coach. It looked like a group of athletes playing hard because it meant something to them. That could be a good sign for the second half of the season.
3 – A lot was made about KU's ability to find a way to win close games during the non-conference season, but this took it to a completely different level. I'm not sure people can understand just how tough it is to push past a collapse like the one the Jayhawks experienced on Monday night. From up 20 and rolling to down 4 out of nowhere. Lesser teams would've folded. Teams without any mental toughness would've fallen apart. But, as Perry Ellis told me after the game, “You just have to block all that out. You can't worry about what the score was, you just worry about what the score is and keep playing.” Great attitude that paid off big time.
1 – During the 9-0 and 27-7 runs that Oklahoma ripped off to start the second half, KU appeared to be in total retreat mode, especially when the Sooners pushed the tempo early in the second half. It wasn't quite as bad as what Iowa State did by beating the Jayhawks down the floor over the top, but it was clear that KU's transition defense needs some work. OU got several easy buckets and a couple of and-ones simply by pushing the ball and attacking the rim. A lot of coaches have talked about employing that strategy against Kansas because they don't want to try to attack KU in the halfcourt.
2 – It doesn't sound like anything major, but you never want to hear about guys being injured and Self revealed after Monday's victory that Jamari Traylor has been dealing with a hip injury for about a week. Self said the extent of Traylor's injury was not really known at the start of Monday's game but it quickly became clear that it was bothering him. KU's front-court depth is pretty thin and Traylor having even a nagging injury would not be good news for the Jayhawks.
3 – Kansas made more free throws (13) in the second half than field goals (10) and missed seven foul shots in the second half. Combine that with KU's 37 percent shooting from the floor and it's no wonder that OU stormed all the way back. Of course, when it mattered most, KU delivered, which is all that anyone will remember. As Self said, it wasn't so much a case of KU playing poorly in the second half as it was OU playing great.
The Jayhawks' 85-78 victory over Oklahoma on Monday:
• Made Kansas 15-3 overall and 4-1 in Big 12 play.
• Improved the Jayhawks to 53-17 all-time on ESPN’s Big Monday, including 30-1 inside Allen Fieldhouse. The win was also KU’s 23rd-straight Big Monday win in Lawrence.
• Extended KU’s win streak to 14 games against Oklahoma in Allen Fieldhouse (dating back to the Big Eight Era, 1/10/94) and made the all-time series 142-65 in favor of the Jayhawks, including 72-16 in Lawrence and 45-7 in Allen Fieldhouse.
• Pushed Kansas’ win streak in Allen Fieldhouse to 18-straight games, which includes a 10-0 home record this season (9-0 in the Fieldhouse).
• Made KU 722-109 all-time in Allen Fieldhouse and 184-9 at the Jayhawks' home gym in the Bill Self era.
• Marked the first time the Jayhawks have won a game this season when trailing with less than five minutes to play in regulation.
• Improved Self to 340-72 while at Kansas, 14-4 against Oklahoma (14-2 at Kansas), 18-0 in ESPN Big Monday matchups in Lawrence and 547-177 overall.
• Made KU 2,141-825 all-time.
The Jayhawks will head back out on the road for a tough test at Texas at 1 p.m. on Saturday. The game will be shown on CBS.
With College Gameday in the building and hype around the game growing throughout the week, Iowa State answered the challenge of welcoming the Kansas men's basketball team to town in a big way and in convincing fashion.
The game, although no doubt a thrill for the home fans, did not quite live up to its billing as a clash of Top 15 teams — two of the best in the Big 12 — particularly because neither team played all that well. Iowa State was solid in the second half and had plenty of moments where it looked like a force to be reckoned with. But the Cyclones also had plenty of moments where they looked less than stellar like the Jayhawks, most notably with a few late turnovers and several missed free throws.
Iowa State and its fans waited all day and night for a chance to show the nation that it was capable of beating mighty Kansas. And then the Cyclones went out and did it.
After a back-and-forth first half that ended with ISU leading by three, the Cyclones (13-3 overall, 3-1 Big 12) jumped out to a nine-point lead early in the second half and never looked back.
Iowa State built second-half leads of 12, 14 and 12 again and watched Kansas (14-3, 3-1) scratch and claw its way back into striking distance each time. But the home team, backed by its rockin' and rowdy arena, answered every KU run right down to the wire and sent KU home with plenty of questions to answer.
Saturday's loss by Kansas makes the Big 12 Conference race interesting again and it should have come as no surprise. Iowa State was angry and is always hungry to knock off the Jayhawks no matter where they play. It wasn't so much the loss that should be a concern for KU as it was the way it came. Kansas got very little production and passion from anyone not named Perry Ellis and Frank Mason and again struggled defensively and with a lack of quality depth. It's just one loss and it came on the road in an environment that hardly any team has success in, so the key for Kansas now is to move forward and respond to Saturday's setback with an inspired effort against a tough Oklahoma team tomorrow night. If they don't, the Jayhawks could be entering a stretch — at Iowa State, OU Monday, at Texas on Saturday — that could put their quest for Big 12 title No. 11 in a row in danger.
1 – You have to give KU credit for fighting to the end. The Jayhawks hit a couple of late three-pointers, forced a couple of turnovers inside the final minute and actually got what once was a late, 14-point ISU lead down to three in the final seconds. At no point did it seem like Iowa State had lost control of the game, but it was good to see KU not mail it in, especially given the fact that you know the Jayhawks were disappointed with how they played and the outcome.
2 – Forget what you might have read or seen on Twitter, Perry Ellis played a very solid game. He put up numbers — 19 points, 11 rebounds on 7-of-14 shooting, including 2-of-3 from three-point range — and he played hard. About the only down part of Ellis' game was the fact that he had to sit for most of the first half after picking up two fouls seven minutes into the game. Self said the fouls weren't really Ellis' fault and Ellis said having to sit really took him out of the flow. By the time he was back on the floor, it took him a couple of minutes to get going again, but once he did, he scored and competed on just about every trip, even if the outcomes of each possession didn't always show it. In Ellis' last three games against Iowa State, dating back to last season, the KU junior is 26-of-38 from the field (68 percent), and is averaging 23 points and 8 rebounds per game. For his career, Ellis owns a 15.7-point average in seven games against Iowa State.
3 – Kansas did well on the glass — particularly the offensive boards where they grabbed 15 to 5 for the Cyclones — and kept the Cyclones from getting too many second chances, particularly on the 11 free throws ISU missed. But a big reason Iowa State did not get more offensive boards was that the home team shot 59 percent in the second half and rarely needed to crash the glass with passion because of their hot shooting and big leads. Still, give KU credit for owning a 44-33 advantage on the boards. Had the Jayhawks not, this one easily could have been another double-digit loss.
1 – The first and most obvious shortcoming in this one for KU was transition defense. The Cyclones often looked like a high school track team competing against track athletes from the local middle school and took full advantage of the edge that gave them. The stat sheet said ISU poured in 21 transition points but Self said the KU bench had it at 27. Most of those were easy layups or dunks right at the rim and came when KU either failed to get back on defense or simply did not have a presence at the rim when it did. The Cyclones became just the second team this season — and just the 12th team in the past 273 games — to shoot better than 50 percent (50.8) against a KU defense.
2 – KU did not shoot its first free throw until the 10:35 mark of the second half. Part of that was because of the way Iowa State played and the fact that the refs really let things flow, but given the fact that KU made 8 of 10 free throws by game's end, you can't help but wonder what would've happened if KU forced the action inside a little more and got to the line earlier. The Jayhawks went to the post on the first two possessions of the game but came up empty both times. The Jayhawks, at times, are really missing that guy like Andrew Wiggins (obviously) who could drive to the rim on just about any possession and wind up standing at the free throw line.
3 – You can't help but be concerned about what's going on with Cliff Alexander right now. All that talent, all that energy, all that potential and yet he played 14 minutes in this game while Landen Lucas labored for 19. Self said he was not pleased with Alexander's motor, particularly defensively, and, to Self's credit, he does not appear to be willing to give in to sub-par effort just to get his best players on the floor. That could wind up hurting this team, but it won't be Self's fault if it does. Nothing has changed during his time at Kansas and he's never made the recipe to playing time a secret: If you want to get on the court, play hard and play D. This is where the Jayhawks are lacking leadership from someone on the floor. Self can only send so many messages and call Alexander out so many times. At some point, it's up to the players on the roster to get the big guy to understand and buy in.
No. 9 KU's loss to No. 11 Iowa State...
• Made the Jayhawks 14-3 overall and 3-1 in Big 12 play.
• Dropped KU's record to 2-2 in true road games this season and 6-3 in games played away from Allen Fieldhouse.
• Made Kansas’ record in the all-time series against Iowa State 175-61, including 68-38 in games played in Ames and 29-20 inside Hilton Coliseum.
• Gave Iowa State consecutive wins against the Jayhawks for the first time since ISU won five-straight from Feb. 28, 1999 to Feb. 17, 2001.
• Knocked head coach Bill Self's record to 339-72 while at Kansas, 21-5 against Iowa State (20-5 at Kansas) and 546-177 overall.
• Made KU 2,140-825 all-time.
The Jayhawks return home for yet another huge Big 12 Conference match-up when the Oklahoma Sooners come to Allen Fieldhouse on Monday night for an 8 p.m. Big Monday match-up.
Today marked the third time since 2010 that I've found myself in the position of having to walk into a room full of football coaches whom I did not know and explain to them that I planned to spend the next however many years covering and caring about just about everything they think, say and do when it comes to Kansas football.
Because I've done this so often, I kind of have it down. First impressions are important, so you want to be professional and respectful. But you also want to be confident. Above everything else, though, you want to make sure you don't assume familiarity. Few things outrage me as much as that and I try very hard to make sure I'm never the one doing the assuming.
So there I was, with my hand extended, my business card ready to pass out, and my questions ready for the new members of David Beaty's KU football staff ready to go.
There were eight of them who met with the local media for the first time on Wednesday and although I didn't quite make my way around the room to say to all of them, I saw enough of them to know that what I thought was an impressive staff on paper is even more impressive in person.
It's not their resumes or track records or accomplishments that make Beaty's boys impressive. It's the type of people they are. Like their head coach, they're energetic, engaging, friendly dudes who are here to coach football and have a little fun doing it. When I say fun, I'm not talking about the kind of get-togethers you see at the country club. These guys are serious about the business and even more serious about the challenge they've agreed to take on by joining the football program at KU. But they're not so stuffy that they're going to be relentless jerks in their pursuit of that, nor are they so naïve to think that it's going to be easy.
Each one of these guys — Rob Likens (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks), Zach Yenser (offensive line), Calvin Thibodeaux (defensive line), Klint Kubiak (wide receivers), Gary Hyman (special teams/tight ends), Kevin Kane (linebackers), Je'Ney Jackson (director of strength and conditioning) and Gene Wier (director of high school relations) — seems well aware of the monumental rebuilding task that's ahead, and rather than being intimidated or turned off by that, these guys seem to be gearing up for a fight.
The two common themes that bounced around throughout the room were toughness and teamwork. Nearly every coach I spoke with mentioned something about playing tough and coaching tough kids. The most notable such soundbite came from Kubiak, the 27-year-old wide receivers coach who told me that he wanted KU's wide receivers to be the toughest unit on the team and added, “And if they're not, they won't play.”
Then there was offensive line coach Zach Yenser, whose position group is tougher than most by nature, who said he was not at all intimidated about jumping into the wild and wide-open Big 12 Conference after dealing with all kinds of styles of offenses in the Pac-12. Again, though, Yenser was not cocky when talking about why he thought what he, Beaty, offensive coordinator Rob Likens and the rest of the offensive staff would bring to the KU offense, more confident in his belief that, with hard work and, of course, toughness, it would work.
Speaking of Likens, he listed the three things that he wants to see from the offensive players he puts on the field and toughness was included in the trio of traits: We want them to be fast, we want them to be tough and we want them to have great character, he said. And he added that the staff was not really willing to compromise or sacrifice in any of those areas.
All the words and talk in the world won't mean a thing for the results on the field. And, by now, it's quite clear that KU fans are not interested in hearing about how things will be better or different or new. They just want to see better football.
I get the sense that this staff, like Beaty and like Clint Bowen before him, gets that and is made up of a bunch of regular guys who are much more interested in working and finding ways to fix problems and create advantages than talking about how they'll do it or what needs to happen.
Time will tell if my read on these guys is right or wrong or if it'll make a difference. But given what I learned today about the personalities and make-up of the coaches in charge of bringing change to KU football, it seems like the program is starting over in a pretty good spot — for the long haul — and is backed a bunch of coaches who understand the challenges, are willing to embrace them and should be pretty easy to like.