Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

COLLEGE BASKETBALL ; Kansas Trying to Find Defensive Identity

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

COLLEGE BASKETBALL ; Kansas Trying to Find Defensive Identity

Article excerpt

LAWRENCE, Kan. - The hallmark of Kansas under Bill Self has always been defense, the kind of gritty, in-your-face man-to-man that suffocates and frustrates everyone who sets foot in Allen Fieldhouse. So when he called this year's bunch of Jayhawks the "poorest defensive team we've had in 13 seasons in Lawrence, the bar isn't exactly low. They're still holding opponents to about 39 percent from the field and showed in wins over Duke, UAB and Georgia they can get after it.

But if third-ranked Kansas wants to win its 13th straight Big 12 title, and reach its first Final Four since 2012, everyone on the roster is aware their defense must be even better.

Far better than in a 90-88 victory over Kansas State on Tuesday night.

"They scored 88 points. I think it's terrible, said Svi Mykhailiuk, who scored the controversial buzzer-beating layup to give the Jayhawks the win. "Me and my teammates we know we played bad and we know that we need to get better because ... we got to play defense to win games.

"If we want to win, Mykhailiuk said, "we need to become a defensive team.

Like the teams that have taken Kansas the farthest in the NCAA Tournament.

The group that won the national championship for Self in 2008 held teams to 37.9 percent shooting, tops in the Big 12 and third nationally. That was part of a run over 10 years in which the Jayhawks led the league in defense eight times and never finished worse than 13th nationally.

The Jayhawks' defensive collapse doesn't appear to be an isolated, one-year incident, either.

They've finished lower than 20th nationally each of the past four years, led the Big 12 once, and were ranked 50th in the NCAA and fifth in the league heading into Tuesday night's game.

In other words, Self realizes that he has a problem.

"Pride would probably be a concern. Toughness would be a concern, he said. …

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