“I think it can be summed up in one word, and that’s that our big guys play soft,” a clearly frustrated Bill Self said, curtly.
Colorado outrebounded Kansas overall, 36-30, 14-9 on the offensive boards. Julian Wright was bad enough that he sat the last eight minutes of the first half after missing an attempted tomahawk dunk on a breakaway and losing the ball out of bounds. Wright and frontcourt mate Sasha Kaun combined for eight rebounds – the same number collected by guard Brandon Rush.
“I’m disappointed in our big guys collectively and in how tough they play, and I’ll say it collectively because it’s evident that all our big guys don’t play near as tough and strong as what they should,” he explained.
Self hesitated to lump reserve big man Darnell Jackson in with the group of suspects, however, due to injury and because he’s shown a nose for the ball in limited action.
“He’s playing with a really bad back. But I think Darnell’s been by far the best big guy we have as far as going after balls, without question,” the coach said.
However, Self didn’t stop there: “But [being soft] is Sasha’s (Kaun) biggest weakness, that’s certainly Shady’s (Darrell Arthur’s) biggest weakness and it’s obviously Julian’s (Wright) biggest weakness, too.”
While he seemed somewhat at a loss, Self said he knows his bigs are capable of more than they showed.
“We can play tougher. We’ve played tougher. But the last two weeks, we haven’t played tough at all. We get rebounds and they tie us up on rebounds and everyone’s thinking, ‘That’s a good hustle play.’ It’s not a good hustle play: it’s a pitiful play. We’ve got inside position and they get a jump ball. I think we are tougher than what we played, but we’ve got too many finesse guys out there right now.
Self, who places a premium on toughness, both physical and mental, says that tapping into the toughness it takes to succeed on the glass can be developed but it’s usually innate. And if you don’t have it all the time, it isn’t a quick fix.
“You don’t correct that overnight. It’s not a technique thing. It just guys that want the ball,” he said. “Brandon has become a pretty good rebounder; he’s averaging over seven rebounds a game in league, and that’s a pretty good rebounder. But it’s sad when Brandon is your best rebounder because we’ve got good, big guys,”