Wherever a Texas A&M-Corpus Christi player went Tuesday night in Allen Fieldhouse, two Jayhawks seemed to meet him at his spot. At times, there looked like eight KU players out there on James Naismith Court defending against the Islanders' five.
And when KU coach Bill Self went to his bench, the Jayhawks continued
to play harassing and suffocating defense, forcing air balls, crazy
shots, and turnovers. Many of those "Betty Crockers" led to fast-break
points (24 overall, 18 in first half) and spectacular dunks, as the
packed crowd rose to their feet and roared as KU cruised to its record
setting 63rd straight home victory (82-41) in the Phog.
The Islanders finished the game shooting just 31 percent from the field
and 17.6 percent from three-point range. KU recorded 10 steals (seven
in first half) and scored 22 points off 16 Corpus Christi turnovers.
Self was pleased with his team's defensive effort.
"We played pretty well defensively," Self said. "That's what (Texas
A&M-CC head coach) Perry (Clark) said after the game. We guarded
them pretty well. We have improved in that area 50 percent at least
since 10 days ago. We have gotten a lot better."
Clark was overwhelmed by KU's defense, comparing it to Duke and North Carolina teams he's coached against during his career.
"I thought the key to the game was Kansas defensively," Clark said. "I
thought they did a really good job of taking us out of what we wanted
to do. They turned our plays basically into one-on-one endeavor and
we're not good enough to beat them one-on-one.
"I don't know too many teams like that. ... We got their transition
going. Once they got off and running it's like a juggernaut."
The Jayhawks were especially impressive defensively in the first half,
and they didn't suffer a significant let-up after after halftime (KU
led 42-17 at intermission), as has been the case in many games in past
years with huge leads.
After struggling early defensively in the exhibition season and the
season opener against Longwood, KU is starting to buy into Self's
"I think we are just slowly getting better defensively," junior guard
Tyshawn Taylor said. "The crowd energy always kind of hypes us up and
when we play fast and get a couple dunks like that we get thirsty for
Senior guard Brady Morningstar led the way on the defensive end with
four steals with Taylor adding two and Markieff Morris, Thomas Robinson, Elijah Johnson and Mario Little each with one.
"I think the guys are older and wiser and know how to play hard on the
floor," Morningstar said about KU's success with steals. "The
more you play in college, not the easier it gets defensively, but the
more the game slows down and you can cheat here or cheat there. We just
have to keep working every day on defense and coach is going to keep
preaching that because the schedule is picking up. We have to keep it
Despite the team's best defensive performance of the year, Self isn't
about to send the game film to the Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
He knows there were some breakdowns and that KU needs to improve
guarding the ball.
"They beat us a lot," Self said. "We still get beat too much off the
bounce. I think it's not an athletic thing as much as it is a technique
thing. Our feet are all screwed up, so we can improve in that area. But
we're doing better than we were."
Defense has been Self's staple throughout his coaching career. He
demands and preaches toughness, and his KU teams are always one of the
best defensive squads in the country.
Defense wins championships, and as KU continues to grow from its
defensive performance against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, the ‘Hawks
could be on their way to their seventh-straight Big 12 Championship and
a national title come April.
And they'll have a lot of fun along the way. Morningstar, who Self said
has the best feet on the team (along with Marcus Morris), talked about
the most enjoyable part of locking up opponents and playing defense.
"Getting a fast break because then you get your dunks, your alley-oops
and get the crowd going," Morningstar said. "That makes everything that
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