Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self added some new wrinkles to the Jayhawks’ offensive and defensive repertoire over the monthlong semester break.
“We put in a couple new sets and worked on some things — one of them ‘behind’ defense late when you actually press, so you guys will be happy about that,” Self said Friday.
He was lightheartedly referring to media members interrogating him about why he doesn’t use the fullcourt press more in games.
The Jayhawks (15-1, 1-0), who play host to Texas Tech (12-4, 0-2) at 12:45 p.m. today in Allen Fieldhouse, have experienced some success pressing the past two games.
“I feel like I’m defending probably the best defensive team in the country over the last seven years,” said seventh-year KU coach Self.
His Jayhawks have led the Big 12 Conference in field-goal-percentage defense five times and finished second once, while ranking first, third, fourth, fifth (twice) and eighth nationally in that category in that same six-year span.
KU ranks second in field-goal-percentage defense nationally this season at 35.3 percent behind Baylor’s 34.9-percent mark.
“Our deal is to pressure and not give up easy baskets. There’s certainly ways you can do both,” Self said. “You can trap in the halfcourt. You can trap the post. You can trap ball screens. We need to be more turned up to do what I want to do.”
He said the plan, “every game on deadball situations taking it out is (to apply) fullcourt pressure. There’s a difference between pressure and pressing. We gambled two possessions against Nebraska and got one steal, and everybody is giddy about our press.
“We are not a pressing team. We are a pressure team. In order for us to win consistently at the highest level, we have to become an outstanding pressure team and sprinkle in a few things where you trap and things like that.”
The Jayhawks enjoy those frantic moments in which they harass the opposition.
“We play it in practice a lot,” senior guard Sherron Collins said of the press. “We try to get after the Red (scout) Team. They get to foul us, so we get to do it a little bit to them. We are picking it up, trying to pressure more. That’s a good thing for us.”
Noted freshman Thomas Robinson: “I love that we pressure. We’re an athletic team. If we don’t pressure, we’re not going to show that. There’s no point in being athletic if we are not going to pressure. It’s a good thing for us.”
Robinson said Self has been stressing the team needs to “make an identity for ourselves. That’s our motivation. We want to go out and play hard. It’s what we want to do.”
KU’s “identity” will likely have a lot to do with defensive pressure.
“The identity we hope to have would be to make other teams play bad,” Self said. “If we are able to do that, we don’t have to worry about making shots. I don’t think we’ve made other teams play bad as consistently as what some of our teams in the past have.”
Motivation: Texas Tech clobbered KU, 84-65, last March 4 in Lubbock. Collins hit three of 19 shots (1-of-10 from three) and scored 11 points on a day Tech senior Alan Voskuil scored 35 points.
“I’m glad Voskuil is gone,” Collins said. “We didn’t come ready to play. We looked at it as a game we should win.”
Despite the defeat, KU earned a share of the league title that day.
“They were hitting threes at the end of the game. That doesn’t sit too well with me,” said Collins, remembering Tech canning 15 of 27 threes. “That’s motivation.”
This, that: Self said he had not decided whether Marcus Morris would come off the bench for a second straight game. Thomas Robinson started in place of Morris on Wednesday at Nebraska. “Coach did what was best, I guess. I started. It helped Marcus, who came off the bench and played a great game,” Robinson said. .... Several representatives from KU’s 1952 national title team and 1974 Final Four team will attend today’s game. From the ’52 squad: Charlie Hoag, Bill Hougland, Al Kelley, Bob Kenney, Bill Lienhard and manager Wayne Louderback. From the ’74 team: Coaches Ted Owens, Duncan Reid and Bob Flickner, plus manager Chuck Purdy and players Cris Barnthouse, Tom Kivisto, Donnie Von Moore, Roger Morningstar and Tommie Smith.
Haiti help: KU’s athletic department is working with the Douglas County Chapter of the American Red Cross to raise money for the people of earthquake-stricken Haiti. Donations will be accepted at Allen Fieldhouse at this weekend’s men’s and women’s basketball games and can be made at kuathletics.com until noon Wednesday. KU athletics, Bill and Cindy Self, and Bonnie Henrickson will each match a portion of the funds raised.