Bill Self Previews Rematch with No. 3 Oklahoma

Video Link Coach Self Press Conference

LAWRENCE, Kan. — No. 6 Kansas (20-4, 8-3 Big 12) faces its second top-10 opponent of the week with a visit to No. 3 Oklahoma (20-3, 8-3) on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. Central on ESPN.

The Jayhawks and Sooners played-up to their rankings in the first meeting of the season as then-No. 1/2 Kansas needed three overtime periods to prevail over then-No. 2/1 Oklahoma, 109-106, in Allen Fieldhouse on Jan. 4.

ESPN College GameDay will be on hand in Norman for Saturday’s rematch which gives the winner an upper hand in a contentious race for the Big 12 regular-season title – Kansas and OU are currently tied with No. 10 West Virginia at 8-3 in conference play.

Kansas head coach Bill Self met with members of the media on Thursday afternoon to preview the much-anticipated rematch with the Sooners.


Bill Self

Q. What has been the difference in Perry Ellis’ improved shooting percentage?
COACH BILL SELF: Well, you know, it was an issue last year, and he still probably shoot 50 or right there at 50, if I’m not mistaken. But I would say this year is actually shooting more at least, but he’s driving it more. I think he’s settling less than what he has maybe in the past. He is a terrific in-between jump shooter.

But at least visually from what I’m seeing right now, he’s probably taking less of those and probably more shots close at the basket. He has been really, really consistent shooting the ball.

Q. Is this the best stretch for Perry Ellis since he’s been here?
COACH BILL SELF: No, I don’t think so. I really thought last year he was dominant, all American, first team type dominant for about a four game stretch in February, right before he got hurt. Texas, I don’t know if you remember, there was like 9 to 23, shot it terribly. Texas had all of those big guys. But totally dominated his game with activity. I thought that was the best stretch he’s had. But I do think offensively this is the most efficient stretch he’s had.

Q. Is this type of game that you get excited for based on the last time you went three overtimes to decide a winner, the way these two teams with this personnel match up?
COACH BILL SELF: When we played them the first time, I don’t know if you remember, we played Baylor on Saturday with a short turnaround, we practiced Sunday, and it’s probably the only time maybe, maybe, since we’ve been here, that you almost had to slow them down in practice on Sunday after a tough game on Saturday. They were so excited, so fired up. Anything that we did, I mean guys are sprinting to a loose ball. It was — we cut practice off in 35 minutes because we’re not going to get any better than this.

But you knew then they were excited to play OU. So I think that we’ll have the same excitement this time. And a lot of it will be because of the prior game, but also a lot of it will be because obviously conference implications, also.

Q. Do you think started to lean on Frank Mason III too much on defense in the first game against OU?
COACH BILL SELF: I don’t know. We actually did a pretty good job on Isaiah the first time. And Jordan killed us and Isaiah is on a serious run right now. He’s on a very positive up tick right now. I don’t know how we’ll do it. It may be more switching than what we’ve done in the past, maybe so it could be any of the three guys guarding him.

But I haven’t decided yet exactly how we’ll go.

Q. Buddy Hield is not afraid to turn the ball over. Is that because he has the ball so often?
COACH BILL SELF: I think so. We used to say this all the time growing up, you know, there’s real efficient players that let’s say that make a great percentage of their open looks or whatnot. But the guys that can really, really play are guys that go get their own shot, and Buddy is a combination of both. His efficiency is ridiculous, but he can also can go get his own shot. He demonstrated that against us. We did a great job defensively, he only gets up 23 shots, but he was so efficient.

But when you go get your own stuff, when defenses are designed to stop you, of course your turn over are going to be higher than somebody playing it safe or an efficient player. I don’t know who leads their team in turnovers, but I would be surprised it’s not Buddy just in part because he’s making more plays off the ball than what other people are.

And it’s the same way with us. Frank got off to such a good start handling the ball, but I would say in conference play Frank would probably be by far our leading turn over guy. And I think in large part because the ball is in his hands more.

Q. How do you prepare to face OU’s Khadeem Lattin protecting the rim?
COACH BILL SELF: You know, that was the thing in the first game that probably surprised me as much as anything is how dominant he was protecting the rim. And then he also — you know, he finished well, too.

We got to figure out some way to get him away from the basket and do some different things. But he had an unbelievable game against us the first time. Their backup can come in and block shots, too. That’s going to be part of our game plan is figuring a way to get him away from the basket some.

Q. With OU having four guys who are shooting deep at such an efficient clip, this is as creative as you have to get defensively?
COACH BILL SELF: You guys will remember, I hadn’t thought about this, so my answer is off the top of my head, but the hardest team I always thought to guard was Iowa State when they had Curtis Stinson, Will Blalock and they had Jake Sullivan at the three that could stretch. And those two big guys Jackson Vroman and Jared Homan inside. To me that was the hardest team for us to guard.

And then you get into the Iowa State with Georges Niang as a mismatch and everything is so hard to guard. I think that Oklahoma, though, to me, is probably the hardest personnel to guard. I think because all of them can go get their own. All of them put pressure on the defense. None of them are just one dimensional, he’s a spot up guy. Jordan Woodard is a guy that last year, I don’t know if you remember, he shot more free throws on the team than anybody by far. He’s great to get inside of you. And Isaiah Cousins and Buddy Hield can do a little bit of everything and you’ve got a stretch four. So I’d say Oklahoma is probably about as hard a guard as there’s been in the league.

Q. Are you surprised at how fast Coach Lon Kruger has been able to turnaround Oklahoma and get that program back on track?
COACH BILL SELF: No, no. Lon was a great hire. Buddy (Hield) and Isaiah (Cousins) were good throw ins. And (Ryan) Spangler. Those are — I mean real throw-ins. And so — and the way that they’ve done it is — think about this: They’ve got four starters that have started over 90 consecutive games together. You can’t help but get better when you do that. I think Lon and his staff have done just a remarkable job and there’s obviously energy with the program and certainly they’re not going anywhere. They’re going to be there to stay. But it wasn’t that — not that long before that, because OU is capable of doing it, Blake Griffin was the National Player of the Year and they were a two seed, if I’m not mistaken.

Billy (Tubbs) was a one seed three years in a row at OU. So it’s been done there before, but the way he’s done it is just — and I think that gives you the best chance for staying power.

Q. Can you talk about Buddy Hield’s improvement?
COACH BILL SELF: Well, you know, I think so much of it is — we thought he was plenty good enough. But based on personnel that you have and based on wants and desires and things like that he picked the perfect place. OU is the perfect place for Buddy. He’s able to play through mistakes early in his career.

The thing at least from the outside looking in, I can’t comment on it as an expert, but he’s totally addressed whatever things that they felt like it was a weakness in his game. If his release was too low. If his footwork needed to get better. If he couldn’t get his own shot as well, individual improvement to be able to break for others. He’s taken it and just expanded on his game and gone to a whole new level. He was really, really good. He was a high energy guy. He could score points. Back then he was probably more of a volume shooter without question.

But now, I mean, he’s become so efficient. That’s why I think he’s going to be a really, really good pro is because you can plug him into any team, if he gets six shots, there’s a great chance he’s going to make three. Whereas some people need to have the ball in their hands all the time or be able to play through a ton of mistakes. He could play on a good team or a bad team the way I see it because he’s so efficient.

Q. Is Buddy Hield going to be the run-away guy for the National Player of the Year?
COACH BILL SELF: Yeah, yeah, there’s nobody else. There’s other talents. Denzel (Valentine) hadn’t got hurt, maybe you could make a case for him. We saw him when he was as good against us as Buddy was against us for the most part. And of course (Ben) Simmons you can make a case for the best prospect, without question. But nobody’s impacted the game this year like Buddy has. They could give that award out now.

Q. You guys always have been good — obviously it’s hard to win on the road. But you’ve been able to be beat good teams on the road, the right team on the road?
COACH BILL SELF: No, the San Diego State win, the way you look at it now turns out to be a really good win. They were 10-0 in their league. That turns out to be a really good win. Winning at Texas Tech was a good win. We saw what happened last night (Texas Tech defeating No. 14 Iowa State). It’s a good win without question. But your point is — in order to win this league you’ve got to go beat top 15 teams on the road because there’s so many of them.

Texas won at West Virginia. Baylor won at Iowa State. OU played unbelievably well at Iowa State and won big at Baylor.

So you’re right, the other teams in the league have done it and certainly we need to do that, as well.

Q. How does your approach change with the team when going on the road?
COACH BILL SELF: I don’t know that it changes approach. We’ve been doing this a long time. Our road record in our league is ridiculous over time. You don’t win the league that many times in a row just by winning home games, you’ve got to go win on the road.

I think last year was the only year that we’ve been at Kansas that we didn’t have at least five hundred or better in league play on the road. Last year I think we were 4-5. It doesn’t really change. The thing about it is, sometimes you wake up and it feels a little different than it does other times. I think football teams will probably tell you the same thing. Sometimes an 11 a.m. start is different than an 8 p.m. start. Sometimes a good shooting round leads you to believe you’re ready and you’re not. Sometimes me being a jerk creates intensity or focus, where other times it creates pressure and maybe an uncomfortableness which you do not want when you’re playing away from home. I don’t know if there’s an exact science. We try to be the same all the time regardless of home or away.

The hard games are the ones where you think your guys may not be quite all there and you’ve got to somehow get them there. Those are the hardest games. These are the fun games to me as a coach, knowing that, hey, we’re going to get their best and they’re going to hopefully get our best and just go have fun and play.

Q. The first game against OU in Allen Fieldhouse… Does it get any better than moments like that?
COACH BILL SELF: No, the only time that I remember looking down to the Sooner bench, one of their assistants, Mike Sheperd was kind of laughing, and I started laughing, too, because it was ridiculous.

The only other time I remember doing that, if you guys remember in the Big 12 finals when we played Texas, I mean it was a joke, I mean, we couldn’t guard them, they couldn’t guard us. I just keep looking down at Rick (Barnes) and he looks down at me, and he’s like ‘hey, this is fun to watch.’

But I will say this, it’s one thing to have a H-O-R-S-E contest at home. It’s another thing to have a H-O-R-S-E contest on the road. And when you’re playing against the best shooting team in America then you don’t want it to be a horse contest, so we’ve got to do something to not make them play well and not be as comfortable as what they were in our building, even though we did a decent job they were still comfortable.

Q. Did you feel like in the midway point in the second overtime that that was both (INAUDIBLE)?
COACH BILL SELF: You know what, maybe. I remember being down 68 to 60 with about six minutes left. That’s what I remember as much of anything.

But the way that game ended was the last 15 minutes is, okay, we’ll get across half court and we’re going to hold the ball and somebody comes in at a ball screen and somebody go make a play. And then they would come around and putter around with a ball, and somebody set a ball screen and make a play.

It wasn’t like it was crisp execution, towards the end. It was more like just both teams trying to gut it out, if that’s what you’re asking. And I do think that’s the case in that particular game.

I don’t remember exactly the details why both teams didn’t score. But it was probably because both teams were just hoping their opponent would miss, rather than we were actually doing anything great to stop them. We didn’t stop them, they just missed some; same with us.

Q. Does that make it different than the Kentucky game?
COACH BILL SELF: Yeah, I thought the OU game was much better played than the Kentucky game. I thought the Kentucky game was a great win because we didn’t play great. We had to grind, had to come back. We went through a stretch where we really, really slowed them down and vice versa.

I felt like in the OU game with us, I thought it was pretty free flowing the whole game.

The Kentucky game was a little fragmented. But I didn’t think that game was at all.

Q. Doing so well inside the last three games, what do you think contributed to that?
COACH BILL SELF: I don’t know. These stats that you guys look the and I look at them, too, points in the paint. They’re so misleading. Transition points are so misleading. A lot of time transition points don’t count — guys pushing it hard and a foul and you shoot a one on one or a foul that gets you closer to the bonus. Or it doesn’t count, you shoot and miss, but it creates rotation rebounding, so teams aren’t as good at that, so you score after that.

There’s a lot of things about that that are misleading. Points in the paint are, too. You come in transition, and you shoot a layup, it’s two points in the paint. You come down in transition, it’s two-on-one, you throw a lob, it’s two points in the paint. When you’re in half-court offense and you throw the ball inside and a guy makes the play or get an offensive rebound and put it back in.

But I would say we have scored better inside, I think Perry is a big part of that. But I’m not sure that that’s really a staff that we can hang our hat on, that we’re doing a lot better in, because we’ve got more stuff in transition or in offensive put backs.

Q. Do you think you defended pretty well when you saw Oklahoma the first time, that the offenses were so good —
COACH BILL SELF: That’s what makes me really nervous. I thought we really guarded them. I’m serious about this, if Frank had not been on our team, he would have got 60. I mean he scored, I’d say, 50 percent of the time he touched it, when Frank was guarding him. But he didn’t touch it very often. If he’d have gotten ten more touches he could have scored ten more points, easily. I actually thought we did defend them pretty well.

The thing about the way you guard them, and I’ve gotten some buddies from back home that say, hey, this is what you’ve got to do and this is what you don’t have to do. But they’re right to an extent.

But the thing about it is, any of those four guys can beat you on the perimeter, Walker can make shots or — they are really good at stretching it. And then when they stretch it you close out and they drive it and then they get to the free throw line. They’re a team that can really keep you off balance. For all our fans, you could say, well, play zone, but OU may not be the best team to play zone defense. We actually defended them pretty well.

Q. They’re a little quicker, you’re a little more disciplined?
COACH BILL SELF: I don’t know that I could say that. I would say that they’re probably better in some areas with the ball as far as driving straight lines than what we’ve guarded. I thought the other night against West Virginia I thought we did a really good job guarding the ball. But we really shrunk the floor. If you really shrink the floor to OU, they become better 3-point shooters. We’re going to have to do a better job of guarding the ball.

I think a lot of people would say when they guard us, you can’t keep Mason in front of you. If you look at it, Frank gets his shoulders past people all the time. He’s a hard guard that way. Devonte is good at that, too.

OU has three guys that are good at that all times. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re playing terrible defense, sometimes the offense is just better than the defense. The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.