There’s no disputing Kansas has a different look this season.
With the exception of 7-foot Udoka Azubuike, the Jayhawks have played much “small ball.” The Jayhawks have been losing at Allen Fieldhouse. And they are looking up at Texas Tech in the Big 12 standings.
Yet when Kansas coach Bill Self looks at his team, he sees one similar to one headed to Lawrence for a 6:15 p.m. Saturday showdown: WVU.
“The Mountaineers and the Jayhawks have some similarities this year,” Self said on Thursday. “I think we both play really well at times and we both labor at times. When they’re playing well, they’re as good as anybody. And I feel the same way about us. When we’re playing well, we’re as good as anybody.
“I just don’t think either team has been as consistent as what probably Bob [Huggins] wants or what we’d like either. So it’s two teams potentially as good as anybody playing Saturday.”
Since a five-game winning streak that culminated with a Jan. 20 victory over Baylor, Kansas hasn’t won more than two games in a row. On its recent two-game road swing, the Jayhawks lost at Baylor 80-64 and won at Iowa State 83-77.
On Thursday, Self looked back at his team’s 71-66 win over West Virginia in Morgantown. The Mountaineers led by 16 points in the first half and 15 early in the second before the Jayhawks rallied. Since then Kansas is 5-3.
“I can’t say we’ve gotten a lot better because our record doesn’t reflect that,” Self said. “But I do think we know more who we are than what we did then. In that particular game, we did not play great. They controlled the game for 30 minutes, but we played a really good last 10. I’m sure Bob would say they played good for 30 and didn’t close the game out the way they’d like to.”
Huggins could also have said he didn’t like the way his team closed in regard to the last time WVU played in Lawrence.Ranked No. 9 at the time last season, West Virginia got up on then-No. 3 Kansas by 14 points with under three minutes to play. Yet the Mountaineers fell apart under the Jayhawks’ pressure and lost 84-80 in overtime. Frank Mason had 24 points for Kansas.
West Virginia hasn’t beaten Kansas at the “Phog” in five tries.
“We didn’t [revisit that game],” Huggins said on Thursday. “We looked a little bit at the first game [of this season on Wednesday]. Some of the things they ran offensively and some of the things we ran, but that’s it. We’re not going to go back to last year.”
While WVU put together a strong 82-66 victory over TCU Monday, Kansas was defeating Iowa State in Ames via a blistering 62-percent shooting over the last 20 minutes.Notably in that game, former five-star recruit Silvio De Sousa, who reclassified to join Kansas, came off the bench and helped the Jayhawks to their first halftime lead in their last three outings. He had three rebounds, a put-back and a converted free throw toward the half’s end.
“Even though he’s not comfortable, he’s getting more comfortable,” Self said. “He can give us 5-6 minutes a half. [Not playing more] isn’t from a talent standpoint, it’s just about confidence and thinking too much.”
West Virginia’s opponent after Kansas is Baylor. After losing six of seven, the Bears have won four straight.Part of the reason is the resurgence of power forward Terry “T.J.” Maston, who had 26 points in the most recent win at Texas and 23 earlier in the month in a loss at Oklahoma. He has been recovering from hand surgery.
“He gives us another scorer,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said on Thursday. “When he’s on he’s really tough to stop.
“There’s always some time when you come back that you have to get the rust off and you have to adjust to how the team is playing. With T.J., his biggest strength is his scoring ability. Injuring that right hand really slowed him up for all but the last two weeks. Now he’s returned back to form. And when you have someone that offensively potent, it definitely stresses defenses. He can change games.”
WVU will visit BU for a 7 p.m. Tuesday matchup.