As happy he was with Kansas University’s offense in Monday’s 103-86 victory over Missouri, Bill Self was troubled by the defense.
So much so that KU’s eighth-year coach devoted the majority of an hourlong Wednesday team meeting to KU’s effort on the less glamorous end of the court.
“Anybody scores 86 in your house, you should have one of those meetings. I think he’s 100 percent right. We have not been guarding,” KU junior Marcus Morris said before practice Thursday in Allen Fieldhouse.
“Myself personally, Kieff (brother Markieff) and everybody on the team haven’t been guarding. I think it was a much-needed meeting. We need to get better on defense ... soon.”
The subject of the team meeting shouldn’t surprise anybody who knows how much Self values defense.
Missouri’s 86 points tied for third-most scored against a Self-coached team in Allen. Baylor scored 90 in a 100-90 loss to KU on Feb. 9, 2008; Iowa State scored 89 in KU’s 90-89 overtime victory on Feb. 21, 2004. Texas hit for 86 in the Jayhawks’ 90-86 victory on March 3, 2007.
“Defense is always the first thing he always talks about, so it was definitely defense,” Markieff Morris said of the primary subject of the meeting.
“He said we need to work on getting multiple stops in a row. When we’re down five with three minutes left, we need to know how to just buckle down and get stops.”
Self said he felt the Jayhawks, who take a 23-1, 8-1 record into Saturday’s 3 p.m. home game against Iowa State (14-10, 1-8), act as if they simply believe they can outscore foes.
“I think there’s way too much of that. We talked about that for an hour yesterday,” Self said. “That was definitely one of the topics. In a game where you’re not making shots, or a game where you’re playing out of foul trouble, can you get four or five stops in a row in the really clutch part of the game? I don’t think that this team does that near consistently enough.”
He repeated one of his main coaching philosophies.
“This is cliché talk, and I know it’s coach speak, but defense does win championships,” Self said. “If you look across the board, there will be a time in every competitive sporting contest, if you have great defense going against great offense, the majority of the time, great defense wins.
“Great pitching against great hitting. It doesn’t make any difference. When great is going against great, defense usually wins, so we need to get better at that,” Self added.
It’s all about a proper mind-set, Self said.
“As a defensive team, we have to assume we are going to shut them out because we don’t know what we’re going to get on the other end,” Self said. “That puts a lot of pressure on your team that way defensively.
“Our next step is we have got to play defense like we’re not making shots. We’ve got to keep moving the ball and sharing the ball offensively.”
Self has been pleased with KU’s bench of late. Non-starters Mario Little, Travis Releford and Thomas Robinson combined for 36 points and 10 rebounds against Missouri.
“It’s amazing to me when you make shots, there’s an automatic confidence/adrenaline rush that you get. And certainly those guys are experiencing that right now,” Self said. “The one guy off the bench, to me, that isn’t experiencing that is Elijah (Johnson, no points, two turnovers, four minutes vs. Mizzou). He’s the one guy that I feel like can give us more from an aggressive standpoint than he’s giving us right now. The other guys are aggressive, in large part, because they’re confident. It helps when you see the ball go in the hole.”
KU freshman Josh Selby, who has missed the last two games because of a stress reaction in his right foot, practiced Thursday. Self said he was unsure of Selby’s status for Saturday’s Iowa State game.
“It (foot) is not 100 percent totally comfortable, but it’s to the point, with the new orthotic that he’s received, that we’re going to let him go,” Self said of practicing.
As to how Selby was playing before the injury, Self said: “He was certainly doing more with the ball. Since the Texas game, I thought he had been really aggressive and driving to force help and doing some things that were really positive for us. I thought he was really playing the best he’s played since he’s been here, the way that we’d like to play, in the three games prior to him sitting out.”