Message Delivered?

KU head coach Bill Self led a spirited news conference after a 30-point win Tuesday against Belmont. But will KU get the message in time to be successful in its first true road test Saturday?

Let's face it for most of this season Kansas cruised through the schedule. Out of 12 games KU has won seven of them by 30 or more - hardly a stern test thus far. But Phog.net chronicled how the schedule would get tougher through December and so far KU hasn't always responded according to its head coach.

It will get really tough on Saturday when the Jayhawks visit a fired up Temple Owl squad which has already taken down one Top 10 team this season (Villanova) and is hungry for another resume-building win. The Owls are on the heels of cracking the top 25 for the first time since 2001 and a sold out Liacouras Center will be jacked up to face the nation's number one team.

Make no mistake about it KU head coach Bill Self is a master motivator. You don't win over 380 games and a national title without knowing when and how to push the right buttons. Self doesn't just like to be victorious he likes to win a certain way – his way. Lately, he doesn't feel his 12-0 Jayhawks have been doing things "Self style" going as far as to call his team "soft" in a spirited postgame news conference Tuesday.

"That has been the tune all year long," said a dismayed Bill Self. "Going into the season I thought we would be tougher going after balls and things like that, but this is a group that obviously needs to make shots to play well and that is embarrassing because there are going to be a lot of nights where you have to grind it out, especially away from home. We are going to run into one of those opponents on Saturday."

Saturday's opponent just happens to be the Temple Owls who are third in the nation in scoring defense (55.1 ppg) and defend the three as well as anyone allowing opponents to shoot just 23.9 percent from beyond the arc. This is a team that thrives on smart play and controls tempo and much like the Memphis game, this one will be played in grind it out fashion. It's a style of game that Self likes but he's not so sure about his team.

"They (The Owls) have lost two games and they were both basically last possession games," Self said referring to Temple's early season losses to St. John's (55-48) and Georgetown (46-45). "They are good. They play a style that will be great for us to go against because they want to muddy it up and have it be an ugly game and right now our guys definitely prefer a pretty game."

"It's going to be a fun game. I'm really excited," said junior Cole Aldrich who posted his 5th double-double of the season (11 points, 14 rebounds). "We have had a few days with just practicing, and we had a game tonight. Now were going to have a few more days to prepare for a great road game."

"It will be good for us to go in there because they will punch us in the mouth and we have to find out if we are going to take it or if we are going to lay the first lick. Hopefully we will be more ready to go. It is sold out and it will be a raucous atmosphere," said Self welcoming the challenge.

Some may wonder how or why a coach would pick apart his team after winning by 30 (81-51) and allowing Belmont to shoot just 31 percent for the game. The Jayhawks shot over 56 percent for the game and had 24 assists on 32 field goals but coaches tend to look beyond the numbers.  

"Here I am they shot 31 percent for the game and that's about as poor as you can defend. It wasn't very good on our part," Self admitted. "We played awful. It was a poor job by me of getting us ready to play. We got off to a good start, but we didn't guard them well. They just missed open shots. We didn't guard them the whole game."

The numbers that you CAN single out and point to as a source of concern are the rebounding numbers. Staggering that KU could merely outrebound and undersized Belmont team by just one and gave up 15 offensive rebounds.

"Obviously, we did not rebound the ball. We had a size advantage and I have a guy coming out of the game saying ‘Coach I am not that big' and I am saying, ‘it's Belmont, they aren't either'. It was a very soft effort by us," Self claimed.

"There is no way Cole (Aldrich) should be the only one in double-figures," said sophomore Marcus Morris. "I speak for myself, too. I had two rebounds in 21 minutes, it's unacceptable. I talked to Coach (Self) about it and I need to find more things to help me rebound better because someone needs to help Cole (Aldrich)."

"You look at the offensive rebounding stats we got seven offensive rebounds on 25 misses. Belmont isn't the most athletic team. They've got some good players but I think we are as athletic as they are and they get 15 offensive rebounds on 45 misses. I mean that's ridiculous," said an exasperated Self.

"We really have to rebound," said Aldrich who had 14 rebounds with 12 of them coming on the defensive end. "Tonight, we couldn't rebound worth anything. We just need to play hard-nosed basketball. We really played hard last year, and I think we are going to continue to get that mold, and play that way again this year."

The Jayhawks may start playing like that eventually but right now their coach is focused on rebounding numbers and some intangibles that don't always show up in the box score but make up a key component of a team's success.

"The whole thing we harp on and try to emphasize is toughness plays and we don't make them. Let's just call it like it is. We don't make toughness plays. There are 50-50 balls and we get exactly 50 percent of them," said an unhappy Self.

Self believes and preaches the value and importance of the 50-50 ball and believes that is how you win games – you must steal extra possessions. And according to Self if you don't get at least "70 percent" of the 50-50 balls "your team is not going anywhere." The 7th year KU coach knows that if this team continues to let making or missing shots dictate body language, energy level, and flow of the game there will be an L in the loss column in the near future.  

"If we win by 10 and we've showed toughness and play hard and show some zest and some energy then I'm ok with that," Self continued. "But regardless of the score that wasn't a very good performance tonight in large part because we didn't play with any energy and any toughness."

"I have very little sympathy for our team tonight. I thought collectively we were poor. We certainly have to get better. I am glad that we won. I would rather win by 10 and play the right way than have a lackluster deal like that tonight. Hopefully we will get better."

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