Bill Self says he’d like to see improved first-shot defense and rebounding from his Kansas basketball team during the second half of Big 12 Conference regular-season play.
There’s one other thing on his wish list as well.
“Play better at home,” said Self, KU’s 15th-year coach, who has directed the Jayhawks to a 230-12 record at Allen Fieldhouse — with two of the losses coming in 2017-18 — entering Saturday’s game against Oklahoma State. Tipoff for the contest between the No. 7-ranked Jayhawks (18-4, 7-2) and Cowboys (13-9, 3-6) is 11 a.m., with a live telecast on CBS.
“I don’t think it’s any secret,” Self said. “We probably played better away from home than we have at home this year.
“Even the one (road) game we lost (85-80, Jan. 23 at Oklahoma), we were right there to win that one against a really good team. Hopefully we’ll continue to play well on the road, but we need to play equally as well at home.”
The Jayhawks are 4-1 on the road and 3-1 at home in conference play heading into a two-game homestand that opens the final half of league play — Saturday’s game against Oklahoma State then Tuesday’s 8 p.m. contest against TCU.
“I’d like to see us generate and play with a little bit more energy at home,” Self said. “It seems like our energy level, maybe because we have a tighter huddle, maybe because we have a mind-set it’s us against everyone, I don’t know what it is. It seems like our energy level has been better away from home than it has been at home. That certainly has to improve.
“I thought this past Saturday against Texas A&M (79-68 victory at Allen Fieldhouse), that’s probably as good a half as we played (45-27 first half). Hopefully we can stretch that out and play well against Oklahoma State. They do a lot of different things that can give us some problems. We better be pretty alert.”
The Jayhawks have won 10 of 12 games at Allen Fieldhouse overall this season. The last time KU lost three games at Allen Fieldhouse in a season was 1998-99 (10-3).
“When we are at home, the fans kind of spoil us a little bit,” said KU sophomore guard Malik Newman. “We tend to get a little bit comfortable. I mean we know whatever arena we are going to, it’s not Allen Fieldhouse. We know it’s us against however many fans it holds and the players and the referees.
“We have a set of guys that like being on the road. We always prefer to win (but) I think a road win is always better than a home win,” Newman added.
The Jayhawks, despite home losses to Texas Tech and Arizona State this season, do credit their fans for a big homecourt advantage. Saturday’s crowd of 16,300 will include about 200 former KU players, coaches, managers and staff members to be honored during KU’s 120 years of basketball reunion celebration.
“We’ve been pretty good on the road … the fact we are tight in the huddle, knowing it’s just us out there,” said forward Mitch Lightfoot. “We need to bring that intensity back home, play with that energy here. That’s on us. We’ve got to bring that energy. We’ve got to give the fans what they deserve at home.”
The Cowboys enter having lost three straight games and four of their last five. The only win in that five-game span was a 83-81 overtime victory over Oklahoma in Stillwater. Oklahoma State fell 66-65 in a Big 12/SEC Challenge game at Arkansas last Saturday and followed that with Tuesday’s 79-66 home loss to TCU.
“They play fast,” Self said of the Cowboys. “They run the same stuff they ran with Brad (Underwood). Kind of Johnny Orr’s 2-1-2 high-motion set. They’re doing some other things out of it, as well,” Self said.
First-year coach Mike Boynton was an assistant on Underwood’s staff last season at Oklahoma State. Underwood is now the head coach at Illinois.
“Defensively they play ridiculously high on the floor, daring you to make plays backdoor, daring you to play behind them,” Self said. “In football, it would be like putting eight guys in the box and daring you to throw it. Pretty good terminology for Super Bowl week. That’s how I would kind of see that. They want to make you play behind that. It’s much easier said than done. I think they’ve got a really good team. I think they do some stuff that’s different than anybody else in our league.
KU’s 120 year celebration weekend
Larry Brown and Ted Owens are two former KU coaches who will be among those in town for this weekend’s 120 years of KU basketball celebration. All ex-players have been invited back to be recognized during Saturday’s game. The weekend’s festivities also will celebrate the 30-year anniversary of KU’s 1988 national title team, coached by Brown. And a banquet will be held Saturday night.
“I think we have just under 200 former players coming back plus managers, secretaries, people who have given a lot to this place,” Self said. “I know the ex-players will enjoy it. I’ll enjoy getting a chance to see some folks I haven’t seen in a while.”
White service on Saturday
KU associate athletic director Jim Marchiony will represent KU at the memorial service for Jo Jo White, set for Saturday afternoon at Eagle Heights Cathedral in Revere, Mass. White died on Jan. 16 at the age of 71. White was a star with the Jayhawks from 1965-69 and then in the NBA with the Boston Celtics.