Bill Self’s lack of firepower – Late Kansas was evident
Bill Self’s lack of firepower – Late Kansas was evident

SALT LAKE CITY — By the time the horn sounded in No. 4 Kansas’ 89-68 loss to No. 5 Gonzaga in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday, Jayhawks coach Bill Self said he had been preparing for next season for a long time.

That’s what happens when you only have eight healthy scholarship players left on your roster, as Self pointed out after the game at the Delta Center.

“I think the last month I’ve been thinking about next season, to be honest,” said Self, whose team had lost four of five games entering the tournament and was again without star Kevin McCullar Jr. “Not in the moments during the game, but obviously we played — we had eight guys on scholarship and we played — I mean they were healthy there late. Injuries are part of the game. That’s not an excuse.

“But we could have done a much better job as a team by putting more guys to play, and that’s something I’ve thought about for a long time. The thing is, in basketball, at first you can play through some things. But over the course of a season, there are stresses that go with it and bodies wear out, injuries occur. It’s all part of it. When you don’t have as much firepower or that maybe you have had in past years, it certainly shows this year.”

And that was evident on Saturday.

After Kansas led 44-43 at halftime in what Self described as a “horse race,” the Jayhawks came up short in the second half. Running low on energy, they were outscored 46-24 in the final 20 minutes.

“My guys were gassed,” Self said. “Everybody knew that at the end of the first half. I mean, my boys were gassed.

“I haven’t had many times where you bring a guy out and he takes a three-minute timeout and I say, ‘Come back,’ and he says, ‘I need a little more time.’ So I knew we were tired and I just hoped we had enough energy , to reach the final. I won’t blame him for the energy, but I think we played very tired in the second half.”

Self didn’t want to blame Kansas’ fatigue solely at 10:45 a.m., but said that combined with having to play a full 40 minutes of a fast-paced, intense nail-biter against Samford on Thursday night made his team.

“I’m not an expert on this,” Self said. “Sure, would we prefer more rest? Absolutely. But I’m sure everyone would love to go back to the hotel at 1am and have dinner and then have to turn her around quickly.

“I would have loved to have been able to train yesterday. But that wouldn’t matter. When I say practice yesterday, you know, the guys were gassed. It’s not the weather’s fault that we had to play 40 minutes on Thursday in a fast-paced game. That’s just the way it is – that’s just the team that tied. We had to fight hard to win.”

In storied NCAA Tournament history, Kansas’ 21-point loss is the second-longest in school history and the second-longest by an AP preseason No. 1 team, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Jayhawks became the second straight preseason AP No. 1 seed to fail to reach the second weekend (North Carolina being the other), something that has now happened four times in the past seven years.

It marked the first time in Kansas Big 12 history that it trailed by at least 20 points after leading at halftime. His 21-point deficit was tied for the largest by a top-4 seed to lead at halftime since the seeding began in 1979. And his 22-point second-half differential was the second-worst in an NCAA tournament game in history of the program.

Neither senior guard DaJuan Harris Jr. nor senior center Hunter Dickinson blamed the short turnaround for the Jayhawks’ second-half shutout.

“You can’t make excuses,” Harris Jr. said. “You want to play in March Madness. It’s the best tournament you’ll ever play in, and you can’t make excuses when you want to win basketball games at the end of March.”

After shooting 50 percent in the first half, including making 7 of 11 threes, Kansas shot 27.8 percent in the second half and made just 2 of 11 threes.

Gonzaga, which advanced to its ninth straight Sweet 16, tying Duke for the second-longest streak, capitalized on Kansas’ woes by going on a 15-0 second-half run, part of a 23-4 surge over a 7: 17 to put the game out of reach.

“In the second half we didn’t do anything and they played great, Self said. “He certainly gave us a hard time in the second half.”

By admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *