Cause For Concern?

We've heard it before. The road is tough place to play and Oklahoma State proved it yesterday with an 85-77 win in Stillwater. For KU the outright title waits but is there reason for concern on the heels of March?

I remember the day well. It was about two years ago and it felt like the sky was falling in Lawrence. February 23, 2008 the Jayhawks suffered a narrow one-point loss (61-60)in Stillwater which left them just 4-3 in their last seven games.

But soon after that game a players-only meeting took place. The switch flipped and Kansas never lost again for the rest of the reason going on to win the national title. But you already thought of that. Phog.net is not the first to remind you that things turned out ok after that loss just two years ago, in fact, head coach Bill Self did the same while speaking to reporters after the latest loss in Stillwater.

"The last time we came down here and left here sad it turned out ok," said Self with a room full of reporters chuckling. "I believe that we can get something out of it. I don't think that the thing is broken but I do think we need to really evaluate our things that we must take great pride in to be a good team especially this time of year."

One of those areas would certainly have to be on the defensive end where KU gave up a scorching 60+ percent from the floor – virtually unheard of in the Self era. After the game Self admitted when Travis Ford's team makes shots they can in fact beat anyone in the country. Saturday they made shots from seemingly everywhere. The Cowboys are hard to guard because they can spread you out and drive you and cause matchup nightmares with their size in a four-guard lineup. Kansas struggled to defend these lineups and matchups the entire game and really was dominated by OSU since the first TV timeout with the game tied at nine.

"We couldn't make a basket when they got their lead so in those times, that's when you have to guard. And obviously our toughness level defensively today was very, very poor," according to Self. "That can happen in the tournament in a one-and-done deal again so hopefully we can learn from that and understand that we weren't ready to defend today and I think that's the biggest thing. I'm not saying we weren't excited to play because we were. But we certainly weren't ready to defend."

"Their offensive players were far better than what we guarded. I thought that it was a pitiful performance by us but I also can't say that in a way that takes away from what they did because I thought they were a lot better."

Kansas wasn't ready for the offensive onslaught for sure. 77 of OSU's 85 points came from four players – Matt Pilgrim went a perfect 8-8 from the floor and notched 18 points. 5-9 Keiton Page – the Hoosiers Ollie look-a-like went for 15 points including 4-4 from three-point land – Obi Munelo scored a workman-like 17 points. And the Big 12's leading scorer did not disappoint. 6-6 James Anderson was unstoppable at times. He showed what a well-rounded player he has become scoring 27 points on 9-19 shooting including 4-6 from three.

"The thing you forget as big as he is he's got great ball-handling skills," said Self who recruited Anderson when he was in high school. "He's really good going left and probably better with his left hand than right. He's a terrific ball-handler and he made guarded shots. He made shots we don't let our guys shoot because he's that talented."

There wasn't much good news for Kansas on the offensive end either. Cole Aldrich (11 points, 5 rebounds) played just eight minutes in the second half and 24 for the game. Marcus Morris (10 points, 5 fouls) got into foul trouble and played just 25 minutes.

There were more troubling numbers on the glass where the Cowboys four-guard lineup bested KU on the boards by double digits (46-36).

"I think when you get outrebounded by 10 and your opponent only misses 21 shots that's a formula for disaster on the road and that was the case today," said Self frankly.

From the perimeter Kansas was just 8-20 from beyond the arc. The Jayhawks took quick ones and missed open ones and trailed by 16 points at the half. Kansas faced its largest deficit of the season trailing by as much as 19 during this game yet despite uninspired defense and shoddy offense KU managed to cut the lead to just six 80-74 with just about 1:15 remaining.

"To be honest it doesn't matter that we outscored them the second half (KU 48-40) because we never challenged them," Self continued. "I was happy that our guys competed and we didn't quit but we couldn't get over the hump the whole day. No matter what there was always something that happened that kept us from having a chance to get a two or three possession run."

Every time it felt like Kansas might get back into this one something nipped a possible run in the bud. It was an ill-timed foul, or a missed layup, or a clean inside look they failed to convert. As Self mentioned it was always something.

You won't hear about "good losses" in this article because I don't believe in such a thing but if you had to ask me I'd say I could feel this one coming. The feeling in my mind was that Kansas would lose one of its last three regular season conference games. There are too many teams with too much to play for left on the schedule and going undefeated in a major conference is next to impossible. But Kansas, remember, is STILL playing for an outright conference title that it doesn't intend to share. Lucky for KU it will have two more chances.

We'll be reminded ad nauseum the similarities of this loss to the one Self and Co. suffered back in 2008. Everyone hopes the result ends up the same. The only way to find out is to take care of business beginning on Wednesday at home against a Kansas State team that has now won seven straight.

"Biggest thing is we can't let one become two," said Self who is now 5-4 against his alma mater while at KU. "We have the toughest week of our schedule left – K-State at home and at Mizzou. We need to get back to being a tough, hard-nosed basketball team which we were not today."

"I hope our guys don't feel like it's the end of the earth – which they shouldn't – but I also hope they're pretty disgusted and pretty mad about what transpired today and if that's the case then I think we've got enough fight in us that we'll fight back. "

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