Kansas to Face Cowboys on Saturday

Bill Self is coming back home to Stillwater with his Jayhawks to face Oklahoma State in a 3 p.m. CBS showdown on Saturday. But rest assured KU fans, Self has no interest in becoming Cowboys head coach.

Self, who played at Oklahoma State from 1981-85 and was an assistant at OSU from 1986-93, put that speculation to rest at his Thursday press conference.

“People have requested to interview me about it, and I haven’t done it (interviews),” Self said. “I don’t get on any blogs. I don’t care what anybody says and I really think it’s an injustice to the present staff (at OSU) because they deserve every opportunity to do as well as they can possibly do. ... It’s not something that’s even worth talking about. It’s a dead issue. It’s not going to happen.”

Self did have plenty to talk about, though, regarding playing Sean Sutton’s Cowboys (13-12, 4-7), who have won three of their last four games (two straight victories) after losing six straight. OSU is coming off an impressive 59-54 win at No. 16 Texas A&M last Saturday.

The Cowboys (11-2 at home) are led by freshman swingman James Anderson. The former KU recruit averages a team-high 14.5 points per game and leads OSU with 56 three-pointers. Junior guards Byron Eaton and Terrel Harris both average 10.6 points, while the 5-11 Eaton leads the team with 79 assists and 55 steals. Sophomore guard Obi Muonelo is fourth in scoring at 9.8 points per game, while senior forward Marcus Dove averages 9.6 points and a team-high 5.6 rebounds and 31 blocks. Six-foot-11 freshman center Ibrahima Thomas is also a factor up front, averaging 5.9 points and 4.0 rebounds per game.

“They seem to be on a serious uptick now,” Self said about the Cowboys. “They’re playing very well. They handled Baylor (93-83 on Feb. 13) in a way obviously that we didn’t (KU beat Baylor, 100-90, on Feb. 9, but led by just three points at halftime) and winning at A&M is one of the most impressive wins that anyone has had in our league thus far. I’m very impressed watching them on tape. They are hard to score against, their defense has improved, at least from my vantage point watching them on tape. They are just playing better together.”

“They can really shoot the basketball,” Self added. “All of them can stretch the defense and they’re very athletic. They are one of the best teams I’ve seen in recent memory that are great at altering or blocking shots in transition defense. You don’t talk about that much, but they have guys that run with you and jump up there and make game-changing type plays.”

Self said the biggest difference in Oklahoma State’s turnaround has been the play of Eaton, who was named the Big 12 Player of the Week last week for the first time in his career. He averaged 21 points per game in OSU’s two victories over Texas A&M and Baylor.

“Byron is really playing well and under control and doing a a great job of managing the game on both ends,” Self said. “He’s a scoring point. Byron looks for his shot. I’ve always thought he’s very talented. It appears to me that he’s playing to his talent level as well as he probably has since he’s been at Oklahoma State. He can score, he makes you guard him, and he’s been really good off the ball of late.”

The No. 4 Jayhawks (24-2, 9-2) must improve their defense to contain Eaton, Anderson, and the Cowboys.

Self said three or four weeks ago, KU had the best DER (Defense Efficiency Rating, which measures the points a team allows per possession) in the nation. However, Self commented that the Jayhawks’ DER has likely slipped since then to “the top five or 10.”

“We have not guarded lately as well as we guarded before,” Self said. “I thought our Colorado defense was pretty good, but our Baylor defense and our Texas defense, when you throw in rebounding and everything, I can’t say I feel as good about those performances as what we were doing earlier.”

After beating Colorado, 72-59, last Saturday, Self was encouraged by his team’s strong practices on Monday and Tuesday. The team earned a day off on Wednesday.

“We’re not far off to getting back to where we were before,” Self said. “Hopefully through these practice sessions, we made some great strides with that.”

Although Self is returning to his alma mater and will have family and friends at the game, he said KU’s journey to Stillwater is pure business.

“This trip will be no different than any other road trip,” Self said. “We’ll go down and shoot, watch tape, get up the next morning, watch tape, not see anybody and then maybe visit (with family and friends) after the game.”

Self has won just one of four games in Gallagher Iba Arena as head coach after leaving Stillwater in 1993. He lost two games there as head man at ORU, and lost at Oklahoma State, 80-60, his first year at Kansas on Feb. 9, 2004. Self’s Jayhawks beat OSU, 64-49, at Stillwater on Feb. 13, 2006.

“It’s a great place to play and the fans are right on top of you,” Self said. “I’m sure it will be a great home crowd.”

But Self knows there’s no place like Kansas. And that will likely always be home.

Phog.net Top Stories