December 07, 2011
Say this about Bill Self: He's always has been — and still is — brutally honest when it comes to assessing his Kansas team's performances during post game press conferences.
He'll praise when they're good, and vent when they're not so good.
In his nine seasons at the helm in Lawrence, though, he may have never been as harsh as he was following Tuesday's ugly 88-80 victory over Long Beach State.
Star junior forward Thomas Robinson scored a career-high 26 points while showing off his rapidly-developing offensive arsenal. Junior center Jeff Withey finished one blocked shot shy of a rare triple-double. Senior guard Conner Teahan hit four 3-pointers after making his first career start.
But a series of turnovers and poorly executed plays helped Long Beach State close a 19-point second half deficit down to four, and made it a game for much longer than it should have been.
Cue Self (and if you want to hear the audio, click here) …
"We are the worst passing team I have ever seen," he started. "It's ridiculous to watch. You can look up and down the lineup, and there's nobody that values the ball at all.
"We shot the ball great and shared it great early. Thomas was on fire. We actually defended them pretty well except for ball-screen defense. We had so many mental breakdowns that allowed them to score 39 the first half. In the second half, our defense was pretty good, but our offense sucks.
"The thing that's so pitiful is of their 41 points the second half, 25 were off of our turnovers. Our guards had zero assists, six turnovers the second half. It's hard to look good when you don't get shots. It is as miserable a performance the last 10 minutes as I've ever seen."
In that second half, Kansas as a whole committed just four assists to 16 turnovers. The Jayhawks coughed up possession 22 times in the game, with the ball getting stolen 15 times.
Much of that starts with the fact that Self is still waiting for a reliable, consistent option at point guard to emerge.
Junior Elijah Johnson has been a much more dangerous scoring threat this season than he was in his first two, but in three games since the team returned from the Maui Invitational, he's committed 11 assists and 11 turnovers.
Meanwhile, senior Tyshawn Taylor hasn't been able to shake the out-of-control, reckless ways that have made him a liability all too often at the point during his KU career. Including an epic 11-turnover performance in a 68-61 loss to Duke in the title game in Maui, he's committed 32 in eight games. He's averaging more turnovers (career-worst four per game) than assists (3.6).
Johnson and Taylor aren't deserving of all of the blame, but as the team's primary ball-handlers, if things are going to change, it begins with them. They committed nine of the 22 giveaways on Tuesday.
Self's rant, though, wasn't limited to just commenting on Tuesday's game. He offered a potentially gloomy outlook for Saturday, when No. 2 Ohio State comes to Allen Fieldhouse, if the course doesn't reverse soon.
Doing so won't be easy, as the Buckeyes bring one of the top perimeter defenses in the country to Lawrence with them, spearheaded by sophomore guard Aaron Craft.
"If we handle the ball like that, they can pick the score," he continued. "Let's just call it like it is: They will pick the score in our own building if we handle the ball like that. We have to do a better job. Elijah … unbelievable, the plays he made after he subbed back in after his sitting because of his fourth foul. Incredible he can make those plays when he's sitting over there watching and knowing the score and the circumstances in which we need him to give us some minutes to win the game. We have to have a lot better guard play. We have to have everybody play better.
"It will be a jailbreak if we turn the ball over against Ohio State. They won't just be running out and scoring two points. They will be making plays that are ESPN Top 10 plays. We have to handle and pass it and maybe think the game a little better Saturday."
Follow Ryan Greene on Twitter: @ryanmgreene