Self: ‘We’ve got to get back to guarding’ after loss to OSU

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self has always demanded that his teams play great defense.

But after watching Oklahoma State carve up KU’s D and hit KU for 37 points in transition during Tuesday night’s loss in Stillwater, Okla., Self said he wanted his current team to get a better understanding of what playing great defense actually means.

“They ran by us like we were standing still,” Self said during Thursday night’s episode of the “Hawk Talk” radio show with Brian Hanni. He also reiterated something he said right after the loss — that the Jayhawks don’t make other teams play poorly, they hope other teams play poorly.

Most years, Self said he and his coaching staff would not even have to point out a breakdown like that. For the past two decades, most of Self’s teams have featured several players who made defense a priority — and who noticed what was working and what wasn’t.

“It has been for years that (when guys) look at a stat sheet from the game, the players don’t turn to see who scored — they turn to see how many the guy they guarded got,” Self said on the radio show. “I mean, that’s kind of been the mindset.”

Things are different today, Self said, primarily because defenses are designed to switch so often and run different schemes based on that. But Self said he still would like to see his players take some more pride in getting stops.

“(Oklahoma State) had 25 points with 12 minutes left in the first half,” he said. “And I said, ‘Guys, they’re on pace for 125.’ And there wasn’t that pride of saying, ‘All right, OK, enough’s enough.’ We’ve got to get better at that.”

Self said he believes this team has enough weapons on offense to get what it needs, even on off nights, but that the Jayhawks also do not have enough margin for error that they can perform poorly on the defensive end.

“We didn’t guard Texas (on Jan. 2), but they played at an athletic level that was superior to us that day — that even if we would have guarded them a little bit better, it may not have been enough. That wasn’t the case the other night,” Self said. “You can’t play nine minutes hoping the other team doesn’t score.”

Self gave some examples of players from the past who had done a good job of studying the postgame stat sheets. Among them were Brandon Rush, Travis Releford, Tyshawn Taylor, Udoka Azubuike and Frank Mason III.

“Every team that we’ve had that’s been good had a guy that was a stopper,” Self said. “But it’s also a team thing. The guys have to buy in if you want to be a great team. The great teams all buy into being able to identify who they are and the roles and the strengths and the weaknesses of the individual players and the team.”

Like always, Self wants this team’s identity to be tied to its play on defense. And he seems poised to emphasize that to his players even more in the coming days and weeks.

“You keep yourself in games and you win close games because you guard,” Self said. “That wasn’t the case the other night. We didn’t guard.”

He said that point was hammered home to him during a phone conversation Thursday with a longtime coach at a major Division I program.

“She said, ‘Bill, I watched you guys play early in the season, and you weren’t very good offensively, but you guarded. Now, you’re not guarding,'” Self said. “Coming from another coach, that’s actually kind of tough to hear. But that’s the fact. We’ve got to get back to guarding.”


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