Kansas isn’t used to losing streaks, especially in Big 12 play.
The No. 9 Jayhawks enter Saturday’s game at Oklahoma having lost back-to-back games for the first time in two seasons and two consecutive conference games for the first time since 2013.
Kansas coach Bill Self knows well the expectations that swirl around his program, but said he’s not placing more pressure on his team than is necessary.
“Saturday’s game’s important,” Self said. “(But) it’s kind of crap. You lose two in a row and the sky’s falling because there wasn’t a home game in between that you could make sure that didn’t happen.”
The Jayhawks’ were scheduled to host Iowa State between losses at Oklahoma State and Baylor, but the game against the Cyclones was postponed.
During this two-game stretch, Kansas sophomore Jalen Wilson has struggled offensively, scoring just four points in each of the losses, shooting a combined 4 of 14 and missing all six of his 3-point tries after being one of the Jayhawks’ leading scorers early in the season, alongside Ochai Agbaji.
The Jayhawks (10-4, 4-3 Big 12) beat the Sooners 63-59 on Jan. 9, with the Sooners playing without Brady Manek and Jalen Hill, two of their forwards, due to COVID-19 protocols.
Manek, a senior, returned in Tuesday night’s win over Kansas State, coming off the bench for 16 minutes, scoring six. Manek hadn’t come off the bench since the end of his freshman year.
But though Manek is likely to come off the bench once again Saturday, Sooners coach Lon Kruger said his role figures to expand rapidly.
“My conditioning, I think, is coming back slowly,” Manek said. “It’s getting there and just ready to grind for the rest of the season.”
Self has seen plenty of Manek, including Manek’s freshman year when he hit a 3-pointer late to lift the Sooners (8-4, 4-3) to a home victory over Kansas.
“The first thing I think of is quick release,” Self said of Manek. “How many guys that are 6-foot-9 have a quick release like that from the perimeter? That makes him extremely hard to guard. He needs no space to get it off.”
In that first meeting, Oklahoma’s offense largely ran through big man Kur Kuath, who has shown extended range over the last three games.
Self said there are plenty of lessons to be learned from that first meeting, where Kansas needed a couple big shots and stops in the final minute to pull off the victory, but there is a limit.
“I think we can still learn and hopefully we are learning from it on what worked, how we guarded them and what didn’t work,” Self said. “Now if (Manek) plays the five, we won’t be able to guard it like that, but I do think we can learn some stuff from it.”
While normally playing forward, Manek did see time in the middle in Tuesday’s 76-50 win over Kansas State.
The Jayhawks have had just two three-game losing streaks in 18 seasons under Self. The Sooners beat Kansas in both 2013 and 2005 to extend the streak to three.
–Field Level Media