By Anthony Slater – Aslater@opubco.com - @anthonyVslater
Saturday’s stunning 85-80 loss to Oklahoma State was only Bill Self’s eighth home defeat in his entire career at Kansas. That’s in 10 seasons.
So the surprising result in Lawrence can be considered a rare occasion. And it put the coach in rare form postgame.
Self had plenty of praise for Oklahoma State, followed by a hefty amount of candid bashing for his 18-2 Jayhawks.
Cover your eyes, Elijah Johnson, you’re not going to enjoy this. Here’s the full transcript:
You ever see a player like Marcus Smart, a guard, get eight offensive rebounds like that?
Well, no. You never expect it. He was terrific down the stretch. He definitely whipped our guards. I mean, he whipped them. That was a physical beatdown that he put on our guys. And also on the free throws, you got 6-8 blocking him out, he just scores right over him on a free throw block out. That was a soft team playing a very aggressive team today and he totally wore us out. Give him credit, he was a man playing amongst boys.
Did you feel like even when you were making that comeback, your offense wasn’t that smooth?
It wasn’t our freaking offense, god almighty. Offense may not have been smooth, it was terrible ballhandling, but the whole thing is you got a hold of the ball twice and you can’t even get a shot. So it came down to a competitive game and they were more competitive.
On the last play…
I though they’d foul, they didn’t foul. Elijah (Johnson) had a wide open three. All he had to do was rise and shoot it. But he tried to go past him, crossed over right in front of a guy, I had no idea where he was going. Certainly not a good play.
How tough was it with your senior guard (Elijah Johnson) and have to put him on the bench?
It’s sad. But we were definitely needing something. And we were definitely a better team when he was sitting down next to us and put somebody else in the game.
A little bit underrated guy for OSU is Markel Brown. What does he do for them?
Well he was great today. He wore us out. Our big guys didn’t hedge on ball screens and he scored behind three ball screens. He was great. You come in here and make seven threes on 10 shots? He was terrific. And then at game-point he showed how athletic he was. That was the game-point play and he showed how athletic he was with that block. He’s a good player. They’ve got great personnel. Maybe the biggest shot of the game was Le’Bryan. Loose ball, hadn’t made a shot in 20 minutes, two bounces, rises up and makes a 16-footer over our guy. They’ve got some guys who can play.
Did you sense this coming?
That’s what I told them. We haven’t played good in three weeks or whatever, or consistently well. And when you don’t play well, you have to defend and rebound. And we didn’t do either of those worth a crap today. So we got what we deserved today. The better team won today. There’s no question about that.
Is Elijah (Johnson)’s confidence shot right now?
I don’t know if it’s shot going into the game. Probably stung a little bit right now. But he’ll get that back. Heck, he’s a senior, he’s played in big games, so it’s ridiculous if it is. The thing that bothers me, it’s OK if you play bad. But as a group, getting your butt kicked and you don’t fight back. That’s what bothered me.
Does the loss get them to fight back?
You know what guys, our record is so much better than we played. And Oklahoma State, from a talent standpoint, there’s not a lot of difference in the teams. And you saw that first hand. They’re athletic in five spots and they got a guy who can run the show, guys who can make shots. We’re fortunate that Smart and Forte go 1/13 from three. Or that ballgame would have been over a long time ago. We’ll get back, but we have to realize who we are. We’re a team that’s going to have to live on winning the way we’ve been winning. Defense, rebounding, executing down the stretch. It seemed like today, we had little margin for error. We had less margin for error than any team since I’ve been here. When you’re off a little bit, and we were off today, I think it’s hard to turn it on and off. We’re not a physically strong team, not physically strong. And today it showed.
You said your team is soft. Can this loss help them toughen up?
Sure. All coaches go through phases when their team plays soft. But hey, offensive rebounds off missed free throws, that’s the sign of a soft team.
How do you cure that going forward?
You practice and emphasize and get guys to focus and all those things. But I’ve said that all along, we’re never going to be a physically tough team. We can be a mentally tough team and play more physical. But when you’re 180 at the four and 220 at the five, that’s not exactly a lot of beef. That’s not Thomas (Robinson) or the (Morris) twins out there. So we got to find some other ways to do it.
On Oklahoma State pulling away late…
“We helped them. They were better than us, they deserved to beat us. We were awful and they were good. Markel Brown was terrific. We didn’t have an answer for him and of course Marcus Smart just beasted our little guards in the second half. They deserved it. They were tougher than us, they beat us to loose balls and they just kicked our (butt) on the glass in the second half. We still had a wide open three to end it and he didn’t shoot it. It is a frustrating deal. We thought they would foul, but they backed off to give him the shot and he was going to get two. What in the world could we be thinking? It is a frustrating deal. When your head’s not in it, usually you don’t perform well and you don’t execute. I’m disappointed because I hate to lose our home court streak, but we have been living on borrowed time the last three weeks. We have been getting unbelievably poor play from some individuals and we have got to do a better job teaching them. We are better than what we played today, but today the best team did win the game.”
On second chance points…
“You have a six-three guard that is a man playing against boys. Let’s just put it how it is. That’s what it is and he kicked our butt. He is good and we knew it. We didn’t compete for loose balls and felt sorry for ourselves and acted like little babies. At least when we put Andrew (White III) in there at the end, he got us six points in a minute; nobody else on the team was doing that. We definitely need to tweak some things. When you are winning it kind of camouflages some things. I’ve known all along that we haven’t played as well as what our record indicated that we were. The game today was a primary example of a team coming out and getting comfortable. Oklahoma State hadn’t won on the road in a long time. They came out and got comfortable and they wanted to beat us so bad. We didn’t have the same desire to play them. Jeff (Withey) got off to a horrendous start and didn’t recover. We let them think that they could play with us and they did. We are up four with the ball, 66-62, twice and we can’t even get a shot because of poor play and soft play. That’s what is frustrating. Our guard play and our ball handling has been terrible all year and certainly today was no exception.”
On fixing the guard play…
“We have got to do some things. The thing about it is we play so slow. We play with no pace offensively; we don’t put any pressure on anybody defensively. I wish we could play without guards to be honest with you, but that would be kind of an ugly game if you have five big guys playing out there at all times. But we have got to do something. We are better than what we played today and we will get it back. With this league race, all we did was invite everybody right back into it. It’s a joke what we did today. Hopefully we can regroup. It’s not panic mode or anything like that, but I know our staff feels the same. We are just so frustrated with the toughness. Let’s just call it like it is: we are mentally tough in some ways, but physically this is our softest group of all time. We have never had a team like this. We get by and fake it sometimes, but we aren’t real thick and we aren’t real strong. Not to compete at game point though, is beyond belief and I’m sure this was an embarrassment, the way they kicked our (butt) in a late-game situation, to everybody that has played here because we didn’t compete when we needed to compete.”