LAWRENCE — Defense, Bill Self will argue, really boils down to five things.
The Kansas basketball coach cited effort, focus, toughness and technique as attributes that make up a good defensive squad, and he wasn’t pleased with the Jayhawks on any of those fronts in the aftermath of an 86-57 victory over Fort Hays State on Tuesday night at Allen Fieldhouse.
One final factor, Self said, may have given the Division II-level Tigers another lift against the No. 4-ranked Jayhawks.
“It’s also respect too, you know?” Self said. “We’ll guard better probably against opponents that they probably respect more.”
Self was displeased with the Jayhawks’ effort on several fronts in their exhibition finale but took particular aim his team’s defensive lapses and lack of activity.
Fort Hays State shot only 34.9 percent from the field in the contest but “out-scrapped” KU, according to Self, who cited a “flat” first half which saw 10 lead changes and an underwhelming five-point lead for the Jayhawks at the break.
“Defensively,” Self said, “we were bad.”
Self credited FHSU and coach Mark Johnson for running offense that limited turnovers and kept the Jayhawks off-balance but also said the KU defense simply “broke down.”
“The biggest thing is how many times they put the ball down and just beat us,” Self said. “They are crafty and we’ll probably play some guys like that who are just as crafty and even more athletic, and we can’t keep the ball in front of us.
“Certainly we looked bad many possessions.”
Self targeted four Jayhawks — two starting guards and two bench bigs — for their defensive deficiencies.
“We’ve got some issues guarding the ball,” Self said. “They just go around Malik (Newman) and Svi (Mykhailiuk) too much, and Billy (Preston) and Mitch (Lightfoot). I mean, so, that’s four of our eight guys that seem like they just attack ’em off the bounce. So we’ve certainly got to do a better job of guarding the ball.”
The defensive lapses had consequences for Newman and Mykhailiuk.
The duo didn’t start the second half and played a combined 21 minutes in the period, replaced primarily by freshman Marcus Garrett. Mykhailiuk (16 minutes) and Newman (11) both finished the game with shorter stints than Garrett (18).
With just over 15 minutes to play and the Jayhawks holding a 10-point lead, Self went to sparingly-used walk-on player Clay Young — “I just didn’t really think that Svi or Malik deserved to be out there, to be honest with you,” Self said of the decision.
“The reality is,” Self said, “you have a couple of guys who are supposed to be two of your better players that don’t compete and other guys that still do not understand ball movement and where to be, you are going to look bad.”
Mykhailiuk could at least hang his hat on an eight-rebound performance, more than the six Preston and Lightfoot combined for in 39 total minutes. Self specifically took aim at Preston, who finished with 11 points on 5-for-6 shooting but just three boards.
“Six-foot-10 (Preston) and 6-foot-9 (Lightfoot) combined for six rebounds against a team whose tallest player was about (6-7)? That doesn’t show me much,” Self said. “You make a jump shot so you played better? That’s not how I see the game.”
Self said he thought Preston played “poorly.” He pointed out one instance where, near the end of a shot clock, the freshman backed 6 feet off his man and surrendered an uncontested 3-pointer.
“I did not think he posted up strong one time,” Self said of Preston. “He doesn’t remember what we are trying to do and certainly he was a liability on defense. … If that’s the best we got from an intangible standpoint, it was not good.
“Whenever (Preston) is guarding a guy who is not exactly a West Virginia or a Kentucky guy and you cannot protect the rim against 6-foot guys, that is sad. There are a lot of things he can learn from this one.”
Self was hopeful he’d have his team’s attention when it returned to practice Wednesday. A team playing its worst preseason game in its exhibition finale isn’t always a bad thing, he noted.
Still, it was clear he is at least slightly perturbed with most of his players’ effort.
“There’s several things we can improve on,” Self said. “But usually defensively, when you want to be a player, you can will yourself to be a player defensively, and that didn’t happen tonight.”
Elsewhere, the numbers weren’t pretty.
Outside of Graham and 7-foot center Udoka Azubuike — who finished with 15 points on 6-for-8 shooting exclusively at short-range — KU players combined to shoot 42.9 percent from the field and went 3 for 21 from 3-point range.
“Obviously when you live by the 3, which we’ve been doing, you can look bad when it doesn’t go in the hole,” Self said. “… You don’t play with activity and people minus Devonte’ go 3 for 21 from 3? That is a formula to get your butt handed to you.”