Bill Self preaches hustle, rebounding and toughness. He says you can't play well if you lack confidence. He addressed all these qualities in some detail. Rather than talking about how his team showed them, unfortunately, he talked about how they lacked them.
"I know we don't play smart," he said, curtly.
One example Self pointed to was Brandon Rush's 36 minutes played. More precisely, it was how and why Rush played 36 minutes.
"We were going to play Brandon 20 minutes. Medical staff said he was feeling good, he looked good, he wasn't fatigued, so play him more. But if Tyrell (Reed) hadn't gotten hurt, if Russell (Robinson) doesn't commit those two…silly fouls to end the half and give (Arizona) three (points), and then Rod (Stewart) get called for the touch foul at the end of the half to give them three. If those things hadn't have happened, he would've played 20."
KU got off to a quick 20-9 lead, thanks to a 15-3 run sparked by Brandon Rush off the bench. Over the next seven minutes, though, the Wildcats shot their way back to make it a one-point game. Self saw this as a missed opportunity.
"We had a chance to crack the game open, then we had about six terrible offensive and defensive possessions. We played stubborn, which is very frustrating. Instead of playing to our strengths, we play stubborn."
He explained that by stubborn, he meant his team doesn't play to their strengths. They know what to do, but as individuals, they try to play beyond that and it hurts the team. He had an example for this one, too: the smalls couldn't – or wouldn't – pass the ball to the bigs. The bigs, Self said, were open all night long.
"Oh, they were wide open. You guys (the media) could see it. We have to see it, and if we see it, it's a confidence thing to get the ball to them.
"To me, it looked like our post guys were wide open and our guards didn't deliver the ball at all. We've got to learn, we've got to play through Darrell (Arthur). The sooner we learn that, the better off we'll be. We still haven't quite figured that out yet. Hopefully, we'll get better at that."
Speaking of confidence, there was KU's shooting. They finished the game at 50 percent but shot just 34.8 percent (8-of-23) in the second half. KU was also just 2-of-6 from behind the arc and didn't attempt a three in the second period. Self attributed KU's shooting woes to lack of confidence.
"Forty-six of our 76 points were in the paint, we had 16 free throws, so that's 62 points. There were 14 points that we scored that were outside of three feet. Not very good. We've got to get better shooting the ball and playing with more confidence."
Perhaps most infuriating for the coach was how the substantially smaller Arizona club managed to stay in the game: by simply outhustling and outrebounding Kansas.
Arizona pulled down 38 boards – 12 of them on the offensive glass – to 29 rebounds for Kansas. The Wildcats had 16 second-chance points, KU had six.
Rebounding, another result of toughness and hustle, has been a problem all season for the Jayhawks. Self sounded as if he was finally at the end of his rope with his bigs.
"We don't rebound. Our big guys don't rebound," Self lamented. "We don't go after the ball. I mean, Sasha – we've got to go after the ball – to be that big and not collect boards is ridiculous. And Shady should be a better rebounder and Darnell should be a better rebounder. Sasha should certainly be a better rebounder. When Brandon is your leading rebounder on one leg, that's not good. We've got a lot of things to improve in that area."