6th-ranked Kansas basketball happy to use week between games to its advantage on the practice floor

Kansas head coach Bill Self calls out a play during the second half on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022 at Allen Fieldhouse.

After playing five games in a nine-day stretch, the Kansas men’s basketball team finally got a chance to catch its breath after the Jayhawks’ recent win over Seton Hall.

That game, a 91-65 KU victory, was the fifth game in that stretch that featured a pair of games at home the week after the Jayhawks played three games in three days after traveling to the Bahamas.

While that kind of workload is a lot by almost any standards, KU coach Bill Self said KU’s weariness was not so much from the schedule and number of games as it was the fact that playing games meant no practice and practice is what he thinks this team could use more than anything right now.

“We need to be on the practice court,” Self said. “How do you get a chance to have any confidence and improve (if you’re not practicing)?”

While the five games in nine days left four off days, Self noted that KU did not practice on two of those days because of travel and the need to keep the Jayhawks off of their feet at least a little.

The lack of practice time throughout the latter part of November was particularly troublesome for KU’s younger players, who are still trying to define their roles and figure out how they fit at this level and on this team.

Self warned his players that such a stagnant stretch could be coming, but that didn’t make it any easier to take.

“I told our guys this, and it’s really not fair, but wherever you were in the rotation or a confidence standpoint starting the season, you’re probably going to be close to the same place on December 1,” he said. “Because we hadn’t had enough time to put them in games and let them play through mistakes and not enough time to practice to generate confidence and that kind of stuff.”

Back in early to mid-November, when the sixth-ranked Jayhawks (8-1) were practicing more, sophomore big man Zach Clemence and freshman guard MJ Rice missed time because of injuries.

That missed time, Self said, was more important than missing the games because it prevented both players from getting comfortable and accustomed to the way KU plays and playing full-time with their teammates.

Although he did not miss any time, freshman center Ernest Udeh said the lack of practice time during recent weeks had an impact on him, as well.

“It’s always good to get a practice in,” he said. “especially when we have basically an entire week coming up to practice. It’s always good when you’re able to get in the gym, hook up with your brothers, get better as a whole, build that team connection. When you put in the work, you believe that you can do certain stuff. Putting in extra work is just what builds confidence for me.”

In addition to having more practice time during the down time between last Thursday’s win over Seton Hall to this Saturday’s game at border rival Missouri, the Jayhawks also had some time to completely step away.

Self said last week that the plan was to be off last Friday, practice Saturday, Sunday and Monday, be off again Tuesday and then dive in to the heavy preparation for the showdown with the Tigers at 4:15 p.m. Saturday in Columbia, Missouri.

“There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be rested before we play Mizzou,” Self said. “And there’s some things we need to definitely work on. Hopefully we’ll be more equipped to play a little bit better when we go over there.”

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