After rolling to an 8-1 start with a busy early schedule, No. 6 Kansas caught its breath and got back to basics while practicing for its rivalry game at Missouri on Saturday.
“So there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be rested before we play Mizzou,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “And there are some things we need to definitely work on. So hopefully we’ll be more equipped to play a little bit better when we go out there.”
Self promised to work on team defense ahead of this game.
“If you could get a team to promise to not set one ball screen, our defense would be a lot better,” Self quipped after Kansas defeated Seton Hall 91-65 on Dec. 1. “So that would be all you’d have to do.”
He also noted his team’s struggles in defensive transition during the first half against Seton Hall. That is notable because Missouri (9-0) has shifted to a fast-paced style that has produced 93 points per game, the most in Division I.
Kansas is averaging 77.7 points per game led by forward Jalen Wilson (21.9 points per game) and Gradey Dick (15.3). Self believes the Jayhawks could be even more explosive offensively with better passing.
“We’re hard to guard when that ball moves,” he said. “And when it doesn’t move we get kind of stale and easier to guard. So that’s something that we’ll be stressing all year long.”
After racing through its early schedule of games against mid- and low-major programs, Missouri faces its first big test under first-year coach Dennis Gates.
Last season Kansas routed the Tigers 102-65 in Lawrence, Kan., in the first Border War game since Missouri left the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference after the 2012 season. The rematch will draw a sellout crowd at Mizzou Arena, the first in Gates’ tenure.
Gates hoped to learn more about the school’s storied history with Kansas during his conversations with former Missouri coaches.
“I think I’m gonna probably try to call every former head coach, no different than I’ve called them at the beginning of the season,” Gates said. “I already have a great relationship with the majority of them. But you know, it’s one of those things where you have to do your research. And I’ll continue to do the research on it, whether it’s my conversations with Norm (Stewart), conversations with Quin Snyder, conversations with Mike Anderson, Frank Haith, Kim Anderson and even Cuonzo (Martin), I have to do my research as leader, CEO of the program and now build a gameplan with our staff.”
Missouri has seven players averaging at least 9.0 points per game, led by guard D’Moi Hodge (16.7 points) and forwards Kobe Brown (14.3) and Noah Carter (12.2).
Through Wednesday’s games, the Tigers also ranked first in Division I with 21.6 assists per game and second with a 1.83 assists-to-turnover ratio.
“I want to consistently play a style that gives you a positive assists-to-turnovers ratio, you shoot the ball over 30-plus percent from the three, and you defend,” Gates said. “I think our guys are doing those three things in their own unique way.”
–Field Level Media