Kansas head coach Bill Self’s practice plan put a heavy emphasis on one area this week– defense.
Yes, his team is second best in the nation in field goal percentage
defense (38 percent) and tops in the Big 12. So how could Self possibly
have anything to complain about?
Self has made his opinions known after the last three games for KU, and
the fifth year coach does not like what he’s been seeing. The
perimeter defense has been more porous than normal and lately his
guards have lacked the defensive discipline necessary to keep guards
out of the lane.
At Kansas State, the Wildcats guards appeared quicker than KU.
Colorado, which plays a four-out offense, succeeded attacking off the
dribble, and Monday, Missouri’s guards seemed to get to the
rim with ease.
Keon Lawrence and T.J. Tiller combined for 38 points Monday. A trio of
Buffalo guards (Cory Higgins, Marcus Hall, Richard Roby) combined for
46 points. Clent Stewart and Jacob Pullen, role players for K-State,
ended up with 31 points between them.
As the games get bigger and the competition gets stiffer, Self knows
the recent performances from his guards will not cut it.
“Coach is refocusing us,” Russell Robinson told
reporters. “Coach always talks about getting a false sense of
who you are when you don't play teams as strong as teams in the Big 12.
He does a great job of grounding us and working us hard in practice to
get us ready."
"When you get into the teeth of your schedule, the other team has
comparable athletes to what you have. I feel like that we may have not
played to the defensive level that it appeared because we we're going
against players that couldn't beat us off the bounce. Now we are going
against guys that can beat us and we have to get better,”
according to Self.
The normal thievery we’ve been accustomed to specifically
from Mario Chalmers and Robinson has been nonexistent the last three
games. KU averages close to ten steals a game on the season but they
have failed to notch more than three in each of the last three games.
It’s not necessarily the low number of steals that alarms
Self, it’s the combination of the lack of turnovers and the
lack of fundamentals on the defensive end. It’s also probably
not a coincidence that the big men have endured more foul trouble of
late. Poor perimeter defense definitely has had an impact on that area
putting more pressure on those who are the last line of defense.
“Our technique has gotten pretty flawed and
careless,” Self stated. “We are getting beat way
too much on the bounce because of lunging and reaching and we are not
forcing turnovers. It's a bad combination when your don't force any
turnovers and you still get beat. We can do both. We can pressure and
not get beat, but that certainly hasn't been the case of late. We need
to get a lot better with our perimeter defense."
"I think he wants us to be more solid,” Chalmers said
referring to Self’s wishes. “By us being more
solid, it keeps our big men out of foul trouble, so once we do that, it
will be good. I think we can apply a little bit more pressure outside.
We still need to play by the fundamentals and regular defensive rules.
We just have to do that and put more pressure on the offensive guards."
Self has always been known as a defensive coach and one entire practice
this week was spent solely on defensive drills and principles. The
difference when KU works on something this diligently is that the tools
are all there. Kansas has terrific defensive guards but Self just needs
to find a way to renew the vigor and restore the principles
he’s taught these players.
"We still have the best defensive guards around. They just haven't
played to that level. You don't go from being a great defender into a
bad defender in a week,” said Self. “But there are
a lot of things that we can improve on. We just have to tighten some
Kansas will find out very quickly if it has “righted the
ship” against some of the Big 12’s best guards when
the conference’s feel good story of the year comes to
Scott Drew’s Baylor Bears brings an array of talented
perimeter players. Junior guard Curtis Jerrells leads the team in
scoring (14.4 ppg) but he’s not the only guard playing well
for this 17-4 Baylor squad.
"They are probably the best collection of guards that we've faced so
far this year,” said Self heaping high praise on the Bears.
“Baylor is probably as deep at the guard position as anybody
in the country. (Aaron) Bruce has been there forever and he is hard to
guard. (Curtis) Jerrells is a pro and he's hard to guard. (Henry) Dugat
is as athletic as anybody in the league and then you bring in Tweety Carter and Dunn is fabulous. They have five really good guards."
This should be the perfect test for a KU team looking to improve at the
defensive end of the floor.
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