Is Kansas Tough?

While KU takes on Colorado at Allen Fieldhouse this Saturday, Bill Self spent much time at his Thursday press conference answering questions about his team's toughness.

Reporters wanted the scoop on the KU coach’s disappointment about KU’s lack of toughness in the second half of its 72-69 loss at Texas Monday night. The Longhorns dominated the Jayhawks on the boards the last 20 minutes (23-12) after KU easily won the board battle the first half (23-13).

“We didn’t compete hard on the glass in the second half after rebounding the ball about as well as we have all year in the first half,” Self said.

“A coach should be evaluated from how we evaluate each other, how hard they play, how unselfish they are and how tough do they play,” Self added. “I think this team has graded out this season very, very high in those areas. The second half, the way we rebounded the ball, showed a lack of toughness. For whatever reason...we didn’t make tough plays. ... We just didn’t play with the same sense of urgency that Texas played with.”

However, Self isn’t alarmed just because of one loss or one poor half.

“This has been made way too big a deal. Who on our team is not tough?” Self said in response to a reporter’s question about the toughest KU player. “That should be the question, because everybody on our team is tough. We didn’t play tough one night. We should be able to say what we didn’t do well one night. We did not play tough on the glass one night. That does not mean we have soft guys. That means that one night, we didn’t play tough on the glass. But you can not tell me over time, that we don’t have tough guys, as tough as anybody.”

KU (23-2, 8-2) will certainly need to be mentally and physically tough against Colorado (10-13, 2-7), despite the Buffaloes winning just two of their last 10 games. However, Colorado is coming off a 72-58 home victory against Oklahoma last Saturday. The Buffaloes also almost pulled out a road victory versus Oklahoma State on Feb. 6, losing a 64-63 nailbiter.

Tipoff this Saturday is at 12:45 (CST).

Colorado is led by senior star guard Richard Roby, who led all scorers with 22 points in the Buffaloes’ 72-59 loss to KU at Boulder on Feb. 2. Roby is averaging 17.1 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. Senior guard Marcus Hall ranks second on the team in scoring at 12.9 points per game, followed by sophomore guard Xavier Silas (9.9 ppg) and freshman guard Cory Higgins (8.4 ppg). Senior forward Marcus King-Stockton also gives CU a boost with his team-high 26 blocked shots.

Colorado has only played those two games against Oklahoma State and Oklahoma since its last game with Kansas.

“I really feel that Colorado, when you look at their scores, they’ve played better at home, but they’re one of the teams that’s gotten a lot better on the road,” Self said. “They lost to Texas by a basket (69-67 on Jan. 19), they lose at OSU by one, they’ve made gradual improvement the whole time. Even though we won the game by 13 over there, I don’t think our players will think that was easy because they made us play the entire 40 minutes.”

Indeed, they did. The score was actually tied at 30-all at halftime.

The Jayhawks hope to jump on the Buffaloes on their home court in the 110th-year celebration of Kansas basketball. About 230 former players, managers and staff will attend the game. Hall of Famer and former KU coach Larry Brown watched practice on Thursday and will be at practice again Friday.

KU senior guard Russell Robinson is excited to have the current Philadelphia 76ers executive vice president on hand. Some former KU players were also expected to watch practice on Friday, as they come into Lawrence for reunion weekend.

“It’s (practice) going to be a lot more intense than it ever has been,” Robinson said. “At the same time, you just got to be able to take it all in and be able to perform.”

With just three more games in February and six left in the regular season, Self knows it’s time to roll.

“My goal has always been for our teams to start getting better in February and hopefully peaking in late February, early March,” Self said.

Eleven other Big 12 teams are also hoping to take their games up a notch this month. With two league losses, KU is currently tied with Kansas State and Texas for first place in the Big 12.

“This league is good, and winning on the road in this league is a bear,” Self said. “We got six games left, anything can happen. If you’re going to make a strong push to win the league, now would be the time that you really start playing your best ball.”

Robinson agrees. He expects the Jayhawks to compete hard against Colorado.

“We got to be tough,” he said. “I think we’re a tough team overall, (but) we got to turn it up another notch. We haven’t been able to do that in our two losses (KU lost at K-State, 84-75, on Jan. 30). That’s something we got to work on and continue to do the rest of the season.”

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