Jayhawks Talk Ohio State at Weekly Press Conference

Dec. 8, 2011

On Thursday afternoon Kansas players, along with head coach Bill Self, met with members of the media in Allen Fieldhouse. As part of the weekly press conference, the Jayhawks’ discussed their upcoming opponent, Ohio State. Self fielded questions about potential individual matchups against the Buckeyes, as well as how he is dealing with his team’s turnover troubles.

Below are videos and a transcript of Coach Self’s and select players’ interviews.

  • Coach Self Press Conference 1 of 3
  • Coach Self Press Conference 2 of 3
  • Coach Self Press Conference 3 of 3
  • T. Robinson Interview

Bill Self Press Conference
December 8, 2011

Kansas head coach Bill Self
On what match-ups he is looking forward to seeing on Saturday:
“I look forward to seeing Kansas play Ohio State more so than individual match-ups. I think, on paper, it could be a great individual match-up with (Jared) Sullinger and (Thomas) Robinson. (Tyshawn) Taylor is going to have an unbelievable challenge with (Aaron) Craft and we’ll see if (Travis) Releford can guard (William) Buford. There are a lot of individual things going on. I think the guy that makes their offense, even though they’re terrific any way, but the one guy that can mess you up defensively as much is (Deshaun) Thomas because he’s a stretch four man. There are a lot of things about it. When I look at match-ups, I would say, ‘How do you guard the post?’ or ‘How do you guard the balls screens?’ moreso than individuals going after each other. With Jared and Thomas (Robinson), you’ve got two of the premiere players in America that will probably be guarding each other at least part of the time.”

On if the team is preparing any differently in case Sullinger does not play:
“We won’t prepare any differently. To be honest with you, I hope Jared does play. That’s one of the draws of playing Ohio State, and a great team, is that you go against great players. We like that, so I hope everybody is healthy and everybody plays and that it’s an unbelievable game where you’ve got two great sets of players going after each other.”

On how Ohio State matches up against Duke, North Carolina and Kentucky:
“I haven’t seen Carolina, but we have played Duke and Kentucky. The (Ohio State vs.) Duke game, (Ohio State) won easily. They dominated the game. They got off to a big lead and then Duke either ties it or cuts it to one during the first half. From that point forward, they stretched it. I thought they were so impressive on both ends. If we struggled with Duke, and they handled Duke, we’re going to have to play very well to put ourselves in a position to have a good shot to win late. I think the Buckeyes are really talented, but they do it differently. They do it through a low-post presence, they do it through execution, they do it through not fouling and controlling the defensive glass.”

On Sullinger:
“I’ve seen him play for a long time. Everybody in America has. He’s one of the most sought-after recruits out there and everybody knew he was going to be a terrific player whenever he got to Ohio State. Not knowing him personally, it seems to me that he’s a better kid than he is a player. Everybody loves to be around him, he’s got personality and he’s got bounce. He’s unselfish. When you look at his stats, in seven games, he’s only taken 74 shots. That’s around 10 per game and he’s arguably a leading candidate for National Player of the Year, so he’s very unselfish. They do a good job of getting him the ball, so he’s very impressive to me. He’s changed his body, which I think is very evident, not that it needed to be changed. Now he is more of a guy that can play in-and-out more than he did last year. He’s a terrific player. He’s one of the better players that’s played in our building in recent memory.”

On if Tyshawn Taylor will start Saturday:
“I would hope so. We need him to do that. Unless something happens unforeseen, then he’ll start Saturday.”

On trying to clean up turnovers:
“We would try to clean up turning the ball over regardless of who we’re playing against. Ohio State’s a very good team, defensively. They don’t get enough credit, probably. Maybe they do in their area, but when I look at them, I’m as impressed defensively as anything else. They only give up about seven offensive rebounds per game and their field goal percentage defense is 38 (percent), which is a really good stat. They do a lot of good things there, and Craft, to me, leads them defensively. He’s a really good defender and he’s smart defensively. A lot of our turnovers are not defense-related. A lot of our turnovers are offense-related. Like, ‘We got the ball, so let’s make sure we don’t keep it.’ It blows my mind some of the things we’re doing, which I think we can tighten up. A lot of it is just carelessness and focus. If we’re as careless as what we have been, certainly this could be a situation where our offense could lead to easy baskets for them. That was Kentucky’s best offense, it was Long Beach State’s best offense and we can’t allow that. They’re too good. They’re already hard to beat when you don’t give them points, why would we want to add to that? That will always be something we talk about. I don’t know, in two days, if you just correct everything. I’m not that good of a coach to say, ‘OK, today we’re going to become better passers.’ I don’t know how you get that done in two days. The mindset on making better decisions will be our emphasis.”

On if guarding Sullinger will put extra demands on Thomas Robinson:
“Yeah, whoever guards Sullinger will have extra demands because they will play through him. It won’t be one guy guarding him. We have to be able to help from the right spots and be smart. It will definitely put some extra demands on him, but also, if you do that, now you have (Jeff) Withey on (Deshaun) Thomas. You’ve got a seven-footer guarding a guy that plays on the perimeter a lot. I don’t know how we’re going to do that yet.”

On if the team has been turning the ball over more in games than in practice:
“No, we’re pretty consistent. If you were really going to evaluate our sloppiness, I think the majority of it occurs late in the game. I think a lot of that happens because when you get tired, you get careless.”

On if it’s important for Naadir Tharpe to contribute:
“It’s important for us to get to the point where guys can play minutes and add something. So, yes that would be important. We get a chance to watch him every day in practice and I feel like we have a decent grasp of what different guys can do. I’m fine with Naadir, but I’m also fine with Elijah (Johnson). He has shown he can be a backup point guard too, but the way it went down the other night, it obviously didn’t play out that way. We have to get everybody to do a better job.”

On the team being up 19 on Long Beach State and not having that killer instinct:
“That’s not really a statement you can use in this situation because the reason we were up 19 is because we made shots. It didn’t have anything to do with killer instinct. We’re up 19 because we made shots and the reason they came back and cut it to 12 at halftime is because (Casper) Ware made a couple of bombs and we didn’t make the same shots that we had been making. That didn’t have anything to do with killer instinct as much as carelessness. In the first half, we had 12 assists and six turnovers, which is pretty good for our team. Second half, it was four (assists) to 16 (turnovers). I think it was just poor play.”

On talking to the guards about assists to turnovers:
“We talk to them a lot. If you look at Ohio State’s guards, they are 90 (assists) to 34 (turnovers). I think that is pretty close to being accurate because I just added those up. Our guards are not close to that. I look at that stuff all the time. If you are going to have a goal offensively, I would want us to get one or more shots every possession. That would be my offensive goal and our carelessness is not allowing us to do that.”

On getting the chance to make a national statement against a top-five team this weekend since college football isn’t on television:
“Well, top-two team. I agree that we have the opportunity to make a statement for our team. We have the chance to do something that would be really good for our team, our confidence and our program. We get the chance to have a great team come to Allen Fieldhouse and it will be a juiced atmosphere, but I don’t really look at football. I thought we had the national stage in Maui and in the Garden (Madison Square Garden in the Champions Classic). We have been in a couple situations where there was a center stage and we’ve been a part of it. Now, we get a chance to be a part of the biggest stage that we’ve had a chance to be a part of. I know our guys will really look forward to it and the coaches will as well.”

On guarding William Buford:
“Travis (Releford) will have to guard him some, depending on how we play. That’s a big-time challenge. I mean the guy can score. If I’m not mistaken, he has a good chance to go down as Ohio State’s all-time leading scorer. There have been some really good players and some hard-rocking guys who have played there. So, that tells you a lot. He’s shooting the ball well above 40 percent from three right now, he can post, he can slash and he’s got an in-between game. He’s about as complete of an offensive big guard that we’ll play against this year.”

On Conner Teahan’s defense:
“I think Conner’s defense is getting better. I thought against Long Beach State he moved his feet well. The guy he was guarding a majority of the time was a real quick player, and I think his defense is getting better.”

On Elijah Johnson’s performance before he fouled out:
“Not very good. I thought he did some good things, but when he came back in with four fouls and knowing what we needed to do to win the game, I don’t think he played well from that point. When he picked up his fourth foul, I told him on the bench, ‘we need you in the game. Your fourth foul, how could you do that?’ That puts our team in jeopardy and he knows that. I think he did some really nice things, too. He’s the point guard when we get the big lead. If you look at it that way, he did really well because we didn’t start Ty (Tyshawn Taylor). Was it all him? No, but he was the quarterback when we got the big lead. Then at the end when we needed him to be the quarterback again, I thought he made some poor decisions.”

Junior forward Thomas Robinson
On if he would rather have Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger in or out of the game on Saturday:
“In; hopefully he will play, just (for) the simple factor of competition. I want to play against him, but at the same time it’s a health decision. If it was my pick, I would definitely have him in the game.”

On if being on national television makes this game more important:
“I don’t think it will be any bigger than some of the other games we have had. That definitely isn’t something that I will look any farther into.”

On playing against Sullinger over the summer:
“It is hard to evaluate players in the summer, because it is more pickup ball than anything. When you get back into the school year, everybody is back in their system. At the same time, it was great to go up against other great players and other great bigs and especially someone other than my teammates. He is definitely fun to play against; he is a smart player and he is definitely ahead of his time as a player and he knows where to be at all the time.”

On what Ohio State brings as a team:
“They have a great scorer, they have a point guard that plays defense and shuts down the opposing team’s best guard, they have good shooters and they have great role players. They’re a great team all around; at the same time, I feel comfortable with my team and we will come out and do what we have to do.”

On if he thinks he will be guarding Jared Sullinger:
“I don’t think we will too much. I’m not the coach, and it isn’t my job to say who I will be guarding, I just go out there and guard whoever they tell me to guard. I want to guard him, but that is Coach Self’s decision.”

Senior guard Conner Teahan
On the challenges Ohio State presents:
“They are a complete team. I watched them play against Duke and we’re going to have to play a lot better than we’ve played in the last couple games. We’re going to have to take care of the ball because, defensively, they are a great team and they don’t really have any weaknesses on offense either.”

On the individual matchups in the game:
“It’s always fun to compete against some of the best players in the country. Obviously, T-Rob (Thomas Robinson) and Jared Sullinger will be a lot of fun, Tyshawn (Taylor) and Elijah (Johnson) on (Aaron) Craft and Travis (Releford) and myself on (William) Buford. He will be the biggest test that I’ve had in terms of guarding a 3-man so far this year, so we’ll see how that works out.”

On getting open looks against good defensive teams:
“Long Beach State was a pretty good defensive team. They had a lot of length. We’ll just have to see how it works out. For the most part, my teammates find me when I’m open. I just have to worry about knocking it down.”

On taking care of the ball:
“That’s definitely an area we’re going to be focusing on today and tomorrow. We can over think it though. If you start worrying about taking care of the ball, that’s when you start making dumb decisions and getting passive, which also leads to turnovers. As long as we stay aggressive and keep taking it to them, I think we’ll be fine.”