The last two weeks have done wonders for confidence and morale within the Kansas University football program.
Interim head coach Clint Bowen detailed some of the team’s progress of late at his weekly press conference Tuesday, as the Jayhawks (3-7 overall, 1-6 Big 12) prepare for a weekend trip down to No. 23 Oklahoma (7-3, 4-3).
Here are some of the highlights:
• Bowen commended KU’s players for a tough preparation week leading up to TCU. Their perseverance showed on game day, as they came out of the locker room ready to play.
• It doesn’t get any easier this week, at OU. Bowen has a tremendous amount of respect for Bob Stoops’ body of work, first as a D-coordinator and now as the Sooners’ head coach.
• The OU defense will get after you and make you have a bad day… This will be a tremendous challenge for the Jayhawks.
• The bottom line is KU lost to TCU. A loss is “never acceptable.” Their expectations are they have Big 12 football players and they take the field to win. The improvement and preparation continues each week and players are seeing positive results on the field. Losing is never easy, though.
• You would like to know what your opponent is going to do. OU announced QB Trevor Knight won’t play this week. Last week against Texas Tech they came out in the second half and ran the ball a ton. It shows the diversity of OU’s offense. They were losing that game and changed the game plan to build a comfortable lead.
• Now Oklahoma has a QB run game, with replacement Cody Thomas. The Sooners brought in a guy who can do similar things to Knight, as well.
• KU’s offensive line did a nice job against TCU’s front. They’re all starting to play better as a group, communicate better as a group. They didn’t have any TCU guys running free to the quarterback. That allowed Kansas QB Michael Cummings to look down the field.
• The Jayhawks have confidence after the past couple of weeks. They know now if they show up in the week and prepare, the system brings results. There also is confidence from hanging around with a good TCU team that many outside of the program expected to steamroll Kansas.
• Bowen has said KU has to match opponents’ physical play. Big 12 teams will “big boy” you if they can. Players are starting to grasp they need to fight back and win the physical part of games.
• WR Nigel King has had more success of late, and some of that is a plan to get him the ball more. Also, King has gone out and made some special plays.
• Cummings’ toughness is underrated. If you’re playing at this point in the season your body doesn’t feel good. Cummings can be counted on to battle through the game’s discomfort.
• TE Jimmay Mundine has had a “tremendous” year. It’s been fun to watch him have the kind of games the staff knew he was capable of. A lot of his runs after catches show his athleticism. Guys who can do more than one thing have a chance to play at the next level, and Bowen hopes Mundine gets that opportunity… They knew the senior TE had talent and now he is a bigger part of the game plan.
• Senior offensive lineman Ngalu Fusimalohi will be out for the remainder of the season.
• O-lineman Junior Visinia went in and handled the game well, mentally and physically, as a true freshman. He hasn’t let the game get too big for him.
• When other coaches praise Bowen, that means something to him. For someone of Gary Patterson’s stature to talk him up, it meant a lot to Bowen.
— Listen to the entire press conference: Clint Bowen: 'A loss is never acceptable'
It feels like about a year ago that Kansas University's men's basketball team last faced Oklahoma.
Actually, it was only close to a full Big 12 schedule ago.
OU has played 12 times since the Jayhawks beat the Sooners, 90-83, back on Jan. 8, in Norman, Okla., and KU has competed in 13 games in the six-plus weeks that have passed since their first meeting.
This rematch doesn't have the same anticipation surrounding it as KU's revenge sequel with Texas on Saturday, but Oklahoma (20-7 overall, 9-5 Big 12) is one of three teams currently tied for second in the conference (Iowa State and UT are the others) and quickly running out of time in its pursuit of Kansas (21-6, 12-2).
Tonight's Big Monday game at Allen Fieldhouse is one of KU's biggest to date, because a victory guarantees the Jayhawks at least a share of their 10th straight Big 12 championship.
Kansas coach Bill Self said Saturday night it has been long enough since KU faced Oklahoma that players from both teams have long forgotten the intricacies of the scouting reports they received for that game.
So, what have Lon Kruger's Sooners been up to? For one, they spent most of Saturday afternoon blasting Kansas State. The final score was OU 86, K-State 73, but Oklahoma led by as many as 27 points in the second half on its home floor.
That was Oklahoma at its best, but the Sooners have been inconsistent over the past few weeks. In fact, three of OU's five conference losses have come in the last six games. The Sooners really needed their win over K-State on Saturday, as well as their victory at Oklahoma State (without Marcus Smart) a week earlier, because prior to that they had dropped three of their previous four:
• L 81-75 at Iowa State on Feb. 1
• L 91-86 (OT) at West Virginia on Feb. 5
• W 88-72 vs. Baylor on Feb. 8
• L 68-60 vs. Texas Tech on Feb. 12
Despite its recent road setbacks, Oklahoma is 8-4 away from Norman this season — 4-3 in true road games and 4-1 at neutral sites.
The Sooners create most of their success on the offensive end of the court. In Big 12 games, Oklahoma is:
1st in free throw percentage (76.4%)
1st in made 3-pointers (124, or 8.9 a game)
3rd in scoring (78.6 points)
3rd in 3-point FG percentage (37.3%)
tied for 3rd in steals (6.29)
Kruger has embraced the power of the 3-pointer, so OU isn't shy from behind the arc. The Sooners average 21.8 attempts from deep per game, and they are the only team in the Big 12 with six players to have made at least 20 3-pointers.
Let's get reacquainted with the six OU gunslingers (and one of their teammates).
Buddy Hield, No. 24
6-4, 208, so. guard
— Jan. 8 vs. KU: 18 points, 6/14 FGs, 3/8 3s, 3/4 FTs, 8 rebounds (3 offensive), 1 steal, 1 turnover, 5 fouls in 38 minutes.
Fact: Hield is going to hoist some 3-pointers. He averages 6.7 attempts from deep a game and has made 70 of his 182 tries (38.5%).
He averages 17.5 points and 3.4 successful 3-pointers a game in Big 12 play, and scored a career-high 30 points at ISU on Feb. 1.
In three of his last six games, he has made five from downtown.
Defensively, the sophomore guard is second in the Big 12 in steals (1.44 a game, behind only Marcus Smart's 2.46).
Cameron Clark, No. 21
6-7, 211, sr. forward
— Jan. 8 vs. KU: 32 points, 10/18 FGs, 0/4 3s, 12/16 FTs, 3 rebounds, 1 steal, 4 personal fouls in 29 minutes.
Percentage-wise, the versatile forward is OU's most effective 3-point shooter. Clark, who torched Kansas for 32 points back in January without even making a 3, has converted 28 of his 60 tries from downtown (46.7%).
During OU's last four games, he has hit 20 of his 33 shots (60.6%). He scored 11 points and grabbed eight rebounds Saturday vs. K-State.
Clark averages 15.2 points and 5.7 rebounds, and when he draws contact, he hits 78.4% of his free throws.
Jordan Woodard, No. 10
6-0, 185, fr. guard
— Jan. 8 vs. KU: 10 points, 0/5 FGs, 0/1 3s, 10/10 FTs, 1 rebound, 2 assists, 1 steal, 2 turnovers.
This freshman isn't only a threat from long range (22 for 58, 37.9%), he attacks the opposing defense.
Woodard's 173 free throw attempts lead OU, he shoots 77.5% at the foul line and that's where he has scored 45% of his 11.0 points a game this season.
He tends to wear down defenders in the second half — that's when 128 of his free-throw attempts have come.
Sixth in the Big 12 with 4.7 assists a game, the first-year point guard can set up his teammates almost as easily as he can create his own offense.
Isaiah Cousins, No. 11
6-4, 186, so. guard
— Jan. 8 vs. KU: 4 points, 1/5 FGs, 0/1 3s, 2/2 FTs, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 2 turnovers.
The sophomore is coming off a 6-for-11, 17-point outing against K-State and has made 43.4% of his field goals this season. His career high of 21 came four games ago against Baylor.
Cousins averages 10.5 points and 4.1 rebounds. From the land of 3, he has made 26 of his 72 shots (36.1%).
Ryan Spangler, No. 00
6-8, 232, so. forward
— Jan. 8 vs. KU: 4 points, 2/3 FGs, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 1 turnover, 4 fouls in 23 minutes.
Hey, it's a Sooner who isn't going to shoot a 3-pointer … Well, actually he might, too. Even OU's bruiser has hit 3 of 11 from distance.
But most of the time, you'll find Spangler attacking the glass — and not just on defense. The sophomore power forward averages 9.6 boards a game and about a third of those come on offense (3.3 a game).
The hard-working big man has 10 double-doubles to his name and leads the league in boards. He has been successful on 60.2% of his shots this season and made at least half of his attempts in 23 of OU's 27 games.
His board production fell off against K-State, when he only had two, but in other Big 12 games he has hauled in double-digit totals seven times, with a season-high 17 coming against Oklahoma State late last month.
Tyler Neal, No. 15
6-7, 234, sr. forward
— Jan.. 8 vs. KU: 11 points, 4/5 FGs, 2/2 3s, 1/2 FTs, 2 rebounds, 1 turnover in 23 minutes.
In just 15.9 minutes a game, the substitute forward scores 6.8 points and pulls down 3.4 rebounds.
And, of course, he can knock down 3-pointers. Neal has nailed 27 this season and makes 42.2% of his bombs.
Frank Booker, No. 1
6-4, 198, fr. guard
— Jan.. 8 vs. KU: 4 points, 1/2 FGs, 1/2 3s, 1/2 FTs, 0 turnovers in 10 minutes.
A relative non-factor against Kansas the first time around, the backup guard has done damage against other Big 12 opponents and averages 5.3 points on the year.
The freshman went 4 for 6 on 3-pointers at OSU and scored 15 points. At K-State on Jan. 14 he made 3 of 7 treys for nine points.
On the season, Booker has hit 34 of 93 3-pointers (36.6%). The guy loves hanging out beyond the arc. He has only made seven two-point field goals this season.