How has the world changed since KU started its Big 12 title streak
Bill Self, the man who orchestrated an NCAA-record 14 straight Big 12 Conference men’s basketball titles, late Tuesday night finally was forced to discuss the end of one of the most impressive feats in college sports history.
“I’ve not talked about the streak to the team very much,” said Self, Kansas’ 16th-year coach, after an 81-68 loss to Oklahoma at Lloyd Noble Center officially eliminated the Jayhawks (22-8, 11-6) from Big 12 title contention.
“It’s pretty cool at least from our perspective (that) we’ve hung in there a pretty substantial amount of time. We’ve taken most people’s best shots most every night. We’ve had teams that were tough enough to be able to combat that, and talented enough too, because you can’t do it without talent.”
His Jayhawks, who currently are starting four freshmen, have lost Udoka Azubuike to injury, Silvio De Sousa to an NCAA eligibility case and Lagerald Vick to an indefinite leave of absence, thus weakening the rotation. Marcus Garrett, who had eight points and five rebounds Tuesday, also missed five games because of a sprained ankle.
“We certainly have had our fair share of talent and we have talent now. It’s just young talent,” Self said. “It’s great,” he added, commenting on the 14-year run of titles. “I don’t like the fact this team will feel they are the ones that let it down. There will be a lot of players from the last 14 years that will look at this team as the team that broke what they started or whatnot. I don’t think that’s fair either.
“I think a coach better than anybody knows the potential and the ceiling for each and every team. For us to be 22-8 right now even though we’ve had some pretty bad losses on the road, I don’t think is anything for this team to hang their (head) on considering some of the stuff they went through.”
Self certainly did not dwell on the fact KU was eliminated from the conference race after Tuesday’s blowout loss to the Sooners (19-11, 7-10), noting, “it’s pretty quiet (in locker room). It’s natural for them to be down now.”
Junior forward Dedric Lawson and freshman forward David McCormack, who each scored 18 points Tuesday, spoke quietly in the interview room.
“I don’t even think about it,” Lawson said of the streak ending after hitting 3 of 7 threes. His teammates cashed 4 of 24 from beyond the arc on a night OU hit 9 of 23. The Sooners canned 7 of 13 threes the first half in rolling to a 41-28 halftime advantage.
“He (Self) talked (in locker room) about getting better, finishing the season strong against Baylor, having some confidence playing in Kansas City (at the Big 12 Tournament).”
Noted McCormack, who hit 8 of 11 shots en route to his career-high scoring output: “Same for me. (It’s in) the back of my mind. I’m not paying any attention to it.”
Freshman guard Ochai Agbaji — he missed six of seven threes and finished with nine points on 4 of 12 shooting — said Tuesday’s end of the streak was “kind of devastating. We are trying to keep our heads up.”
The Jayhawks entered Tuesday’s game at Oklahoma’s Lloyd Noble Center needing to sweep Oklahoma and Baylor, at 1 p.m. Saturday in Allen Fieldhouse, to remain in contention for at least a share of their 15th straight league crown.
Kristian Doolittle scored 24 points, Brady Manek 21 and Rashard Odomes 12 as OU won for the fourth time in five games and left No. 13-ranked KU two games behind Kansas State (23-7, 13-4) and Texas Tech (25-5, 13-4) in the league race with just one game left to play.
The turnover-prone Jayhawks (15 bobbles to OU’s nine) fell to 3-6 in Big 12 road games and 3-8 overall on the road this season. KU’s 3-6 road mark is the team’s worst in league play in the Self era. KU went 4-5 on the road in 2014-15. KU last lost six conference games in 1988-89.
The Jayhawks, whose 14 consecutive Big 12 titles rank as the most consecutive league crowns of any team (UCLA won 13 league titles from 1967-79), had remained in contention for a possible 15th straight crown thanks to a perfect home record.
They fell short this season as evidenced by the OU student section chanting “Streak Is Over,” with a minute left in Tuesday’s game.
“I don’t think winning the Big 12 championship has anything to do with our inexperience on the road,” Self said. “If they had won it before, would it be different? We are putting too much emphasis on winning the league. What we need to be putting emphasis on is what is the ceiling of this team and what does this team need to do to play better?
“You can blame it on freshmen. I am not going to blame it on anything else. We won the league when we started three freshmen and two sophomores in a league when Texas had LaMarcus Aldridge and those cats. I’m not buying any of that stuff.”
Self is buying into the fact OU is an NCAA Tournament team. The Sooners led by as many as 24 points on Tuesday.
“Well, gosh I hope they are or … (bleep),” Self said, uttering an expletive, drawing laughter from those in the interview room.