LAWRENCE — Bill Self didn’t flinch when he kicked the scorer’s table late in Tuesday night’s home defeat to No. 18 Texas Tech.
The Kansas coach did, however, wince when he heard what one of his players said following the game.
The No. 10-ranked Jayhawks were humbled on their home court by the Red Raiders, 85-73, in what was only the 12th defeat at Allen Fieldhouse in Self’s 14-plus seasons at the helm but the second in KU’s last three games here — and the third in three home contests against Power Five foes this season if you count a Sprint Center defeat to Washington.
Upon hearing senior guard Devonte’ Graham said in his postgame interview that the Jayhawks “have just got to want it” more than their opponents and that it’s “basically just an effort thing,” Self unloaded.
“I think it’s ridiculous that kids could say they’ve got to want it more. I think that’s a ridiculous statement,” Self said. “But what’s sad is it’s true. Whenever you say that somebody wants something more than you, oh my God, to me as a coach, it makes me cringe because that is my responsibility to put them in a position to be competitive and we haven’t done that near enough.”
The Jayhawks (11-3, 1-1 Big 12) were out-rebounded 44-29, beat on the offensive glass 18-8 and topped in second-chance points 15-4, which led Self to say the team was “out-toughed” on the boards. Graham scored a game-high 27 points for KU but was the only player of the eight the team deployed who in Self’s opinion “tried his butt off.”
“When you’re playing with little depth and guys don’t play well or perform, execute or whatever and you’ve got nowhere to put ’em, then because there’s really not depth to put back in the game it makes it hard,” Self said. “Everybody, five of the seven have to play very well every night just about for us to have a chance to play against really good competition and win, and tonight that certainly wasn’t the case.”
Self, who put a boot to the scorer’s table following a Malik Newman turnover with 4:38 remaining and the Jayhawks down eight, said he could’ve stomached the team’s poor shooting effort — KU shot 45.5 percent from the field, 23.1 percent from 3-point range and missed all 12 of its second-half shots beyond the arc — had the group shown better spirit from an activity and effort standpoint.
“The thing about it is with ball, it shouldn’t matter what we shoot, especially at home,” Self said. “The worse you shoot it the more you grind. Do you give up in a football game when your quarterback’s having a bad game or he gets hurt? Well, you’ve got to rush it then. We didn’t do that.
“That’s what concerns me. It’s not as much, ‘Well, you’re 0 for 12 or you did this or that.’ I hate to say this: It’s going to be hard to win if we don’t shoot better offensively, but that’s not what turns coaches on. So you missed the shot. Big deal. They’re 6 of 24 from 3 and they found some ways to score when the ball didn’t go in the hole too.”
The Red Raiders (13-1, 2-0) never trailed en route to their first ever victory at Allen Fieldhouse. Keenan Evans had a team-high 15 points for Tech, which got at least 11 points from five players and scored 26 points off 15 turnovers.
“That never happens,” Self said of his opponent’s success rate converting KU’s turnovers. “Obviously their best offense was our offense.”
Tech stormed out to a 23-7 lead and kept KU at bay the rest of the way, with the Jayhawks getting no closer than six in the second half. Zhaire Smith’s driving open-lane dunk and ensuing free-throw make — the Red Raiders were 21 of 25 from the line — put his team up 10 with 1:10 remaining and effectively iced the victory.
“Every time we tried to make a comeback we did something to help them keep us at arm’s distance,” Self said. “We just didn’t put enough game pressure on them there late.”
The Jayhawks’ next test won’t get any easier in their pursuit of a record-breaking 14th consecutive Big 12 regular-season title. KU travels to No. 16 TCU for an 8 p.m. Saturday tilt in Fort Worth, Texas.
Self, it should go without saying, will look for more intangibles from his squad in that contest.
“Just competitive plays and acting like you want to be an athlete and (being) competitive, we weren’t even in the game there,” Self said. “When you have to make shots to play good because you’re a pretty team and you’re a finesse team, that’s a formula for getting beat when you play tough teams, and that’s certainly what happened tonight.”