Trouble Spots

Phog.net's Kristi Setaro chimes in on the difficulties – both external and internal – the Jayhawks faced during Monday night's disappointing loss in Manhattan.

Kansas Head Coach Bill Self has a knack for spinning any negative into a positive. But even he was left at a loss for the right words after his team's inexplicable 84-68 loss to rival Kansas State.

"I'm not going to put a positive spin on this," said Self. "We played our in-state rival in their building in a great atmosphere, and we didn't respond."

It was a shocking non-response by KU just hours after being named the number one team in the nation and less than three weeks removed from an absolute dismantling of K-State.

Whether they deserved it or not junior Marcus Morris proclaimed the Jayhawks welcomed the lofty ranking and were looking forward to fending off all comers. But the Hawks failed to counter the spirited attack of Jacob Pullen (38 points) and his Kansas State Wildcats, making Morris's comments the lead in for every conversation involving this matchup.

Marcus and twin brother Markieff haven't shied away from trying to be the leaders KU was lacking after Sherron Collins' departure. But right now in crucial times on the court, the spirit is willing while the flesh is weak. They can talk about being leaders but it isn't always happening.

No one would cast a shadow of doubt on their basketball ability and the twins have helped KU win quite a few games this season, but its all been overshadowed by moments of immaturity. Silly fouls have caused both to spend an inordinate amount of time on the bench not to mention the ejections and intentional fouls at inopportune times.

The Morris brothers are talented and terrific teammates, but unfortunately this act has done nothing but hurt the teammates they are so close to. Great teammates don't do things to detract from the goal. You'll never hear how Self deals with it. He handles issues like these internally keeping them close to the vest, but trust me, it's been talked about ad nauseam and it doesn't seem to resonate with the twins.

Both were again in early foul trouble Monday. Markieff at one point had zero points while sitting on the bench with two fouls. His second foul was another intentional one where he hit Jacob Pullen in the jaw on a screen. Amazingly the conference's leading rebounder also failed to grab a single rebound. Marcus ended up with 13 points in just 24 minutes but earned two offensive fouls and looked timid the rest of the night.

It can't all be pinned on the twins though.

"Let's just call it like it is: a beatdown. That was a beatdown," Self repeated.

In other words this one was a complete role reversal from the contest in Lawrence.

"They just basically kicked our butts," said senior Mario Little.

KU was successful less than three weeks ago because of the point guard leadership provided by Tyshawn Taylor. As good as he was versus the Wildcats on both ends of the floor Jan. 29, he was equally as bad in this one. Jacob Pullen torched him, scoring a career-high 38 points. When he wasn't nailing threes the preseason All-American found little resistance heading to the rim and ended up shooting 19 free throws.

"You look at it, from a positive standpoint, we held them to 46 points if Jacob didn't play," Self said wryly. "I guess that's a good thing."

"We couldn't stop him," senior guard Tyrel Reed admitted. "He got to the line 19 times and did a great job with the ball and made shots so give a lot of credit to him."

You can't win without good point guard play and on the offensive end Taylor wasn't engaged in this one. The junior point guard mustered just one assist and 6 turnovers, many of them unforced, to go along with 8 points.

"The whole team played poorly," Self said. "But our three junior starters all had rough nights without question."

Taylor's struggles likely forced Self's hand even though he wasn't planning on playing freshman Josh Selby. Selby saw his first action in three games and went 1-6 from the floor and was also ineffective.

Maybe even more alarming than sheer numbers was the lack of team discipline and poise across the board. At the half Self told ESPN's Holly Rowe there was a lack of both and it only got worse in the second 20 minutes.

A glaring example was Elijah Johnson's highlight reel oop with less than six minutes to play in the second half of a double-digit deficit game. Johnson decided to hoot and holler about his outrageous alley oop enough to earn a technical - a head scratcher considering the time and the situation.

The lack of control had to be embarrassing for Self and his staff. As humiliated and defeated as Frank Martin was leaving Phog Allen Fieldhouse a few weeks ago, Self had to have the same dejected feeling walking to the bus after this one.

"The number one ranking? After watching that tonight?" Self asked rhetorically. "Geez we may fall out of the polls next week."

Hall of Fame head coach Bob Knight guessed that KU was full of itself heading into this contest after becoming the default number one. Brent Musburger pointed out the body language. Rowe mentioned Markieff yelling back at Self after he was reprimanded for an ill-advised three. It all came apart for KU and it's a rarity for a Self-coached team.

"We've got guys that have been here for three and four years," said Reed said. "Some of the things we've done aren't the mark of a mature team. We just have to keep our composure better, and keep our heads, just go out there and play basketball and not worry about the other things."

"I'm leaving here not really recognizing the team that played tonight," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "We've got to get some things straight."

The goal in February is to start peaking for a March run. That can still happen for Kansas but barring a monumental Texas collapse there won't be a seventh straight Big 12 regular season title banner hung in Lawrence this season.


Phog.net Top Stories