LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ It was a question that seemed to catch Kansas coach Bill Self off guard: How important is it for teams to have fun?
Self had just watched his ninth-ranked Jayhawks have a blast in a blowout win over Texas, and he said it was ``huge'' for his team to have fun.
Huge enough that the Jayhawks have won two straight in dominant fashion since they started to lighten up. In fact, things have gotten so silly around Lawrence that the team recently filmed its own version of the Harlem Shake dance craze in the locker room.
The Jayhawks play No. 14 Oklahoma State on Wednesday night, with the winner moving into a tie with Kansas State for first place in the Big 12.
BATTLE FOR FIRST, AGAIN
For the second time in its last three games, No. 9/9 Kansas will face a Big 12 opponent with both teams atop the league standings when it travels to No. 14/14 Oklahoma State Wednesday, Feb. 20, at 8 p.m. on ESPN2. KU, OSU and Kansas State are in a three-way tie for the Big 12 lead with 9-3 records entering the week. KSU played host to West Virginia on Monday and the Jayhawks and Wildcats met last Monday, Feb. 11, when both were tied for the league lead.
Kansas has won two straight entering Wednesday's contest, while Oklahoma State has the Big 12's longest winning streak at seven games. Oklahoma State ended Kansas' 33-game home-court winning streak with an 85-80 win Feb. 2 in Allen Fieldhouse.
Kansas, ranked No. 9 in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches’ polls released Feb. 18, is 21-4 (9-3 Big 12). The Jayhawks are 14-1 at home, 5-2 in road games and 2-1 on neutral courts in 2012-13. In his 10th season at KU, Bill Self holds a 290-57 record for an 83.6 winning percentage. Overall, Self is nearing his 500th career victory with a 497-162 record in his 20th season as a head coach. KU averages 73.4 points per game and is giving up 60.0 for a Big 12-leading +13.4 scoring margin. KU also leads the league in rebound margin at +6.0, field goal percentage at 46.9, field goal percentage defense at 35.6, which leads the nation, and blocked shots at 6.9.
Kansas starts four seniors, including three fifth-year seniors, and one freshman. Named to the Sporting News Mid-Season All-American team Jan. 15, redshirt freshman G Ben McLemore leads the team in scoring at 16.7 points per game, which leads all Big 12 freshmen in scoring and ranks second overall in the conference. McLemore's 17.8 ppg in conference game is first in the Big 12. The Jan. 14 Big 12 Player of the Week and two-time conference Rookie of the Week, McLemore leads the league in free throw percentage (87.1) and is third in three-point field goal percentage (43.4). McLemore, who is listed on the USBWA Wayman Tisdale National Freshman of the Year Award Midseason list, has a team-high 49 three-pointers made and is second on the KU squad with 39 steals. All-America candidate senior C Jeff Withey, who on Feb. 18 was named the Big 12 Player of the Week for the second time in 2012-13, leads Kansas in rebounding (8.4 rpg) and has nine double-doubles this season, including two in his last two games. Withey leads the league in blocked shots at 4.0 per game, which ranks third nationally. Withey is Kansas’ and the Big 12's all-time blocked shots leader with 265. A USBWA Oscar Robertson National Player of the Year Midseason and Wooden Award Mid-Season Top 25 honoree along with McLemore, Withey is scoring 13.2 points per outing. Senior G Travis Releford leads the Big 12 in field goal percentage at 59.9 percent after his 5-for-7 performance against Texas (2/16). The Nov. 26 Big 12 Player of the Week, Releford is scoring 12.0 points per contest. Senior G Elijah Johnson has a team-high 114 assists and is second on the team with 35 three-pointers made to complement his 9.2 scoring average. Senior F Kevin Young rounds out the KU starters; he is scoring 7.6 points per contest and is second on the team with 6.8 rebounds per outing. Young has 971 career points between Loyola-Marymount and Kansas. Other KU regulars include freshman F Perry Ellis (4.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg), sophomore G Naadir Tharpe (5.4 ppg, 2.8 apg) and redshirt freshman F Jamari Traylor (2.0 ppg, 2.6 rpg).
ABOUT OKLAHOMA STATE
Located in Stillwater, Okla., with an enrollment of 35,000, Oklahoma State is 19-5 on the season, 9-3 in Big 12 and began its seven-game winning streak on Jan. 26. The Cowboys are coached by Travis Ford who is 99-60 in his fifth season at OSU and 289-206 in his 16th season overall. Oklahoma State is 13-1 at home, 3-4 in road games and 3-0 on neutral courts in 2012-13. OSU averages 73.0 points has a +11.4 scoring margin, which ranks second to Kansas' +13.4 in the Big 12. OSU has a +3.2 rebound margin, leads the Big 12 Conference in free throw percentage at 74.2 percent and is second in the league in turnover margin (+2.7). The Cowboys also force 15.0 turnovers per game.
Junior G Markel Brown leads OSU in scoring at 15.8 points per game which ranks third in the Big 12. His 17.3 average in conference games is second to KU's Ben McLemore in the league. He is second on the team with 41 three-pointers made and at 4.5 rebounds per game is one of six Cowboys who average 4.3 rebounds or better. Freshman G Marcus Smart leads the Big 12 with 2.9 steals per game to complement his 15.0 ppg scoring average. His 108 assists are a team high and his 5.8 rebounds per outing are second best on the OSU squad. Sophomore G/F Le’Bryan Nash is next in scoring at 13.3 points per contest. He averages 4.3 rebounds per game. Redshirt sophomore F Michael Cobbins (6.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg) and senior C Philip Jurick (3.4 ppg, a team-best 6.7 rpg and 27 blocked shots) round out the OSU starters. Freshman G Phil Forte comes off the bench and has made a team-best 57 three-pointers this season. Forte averages 11.3 points per game, is second on the team with 35 steals and makes 88.3 percent from the free throw line. Other OSU regulars include freshman F Kamari Murphy (4.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg), redshirt sophomore G/F Brian Williams (3.0 ppg) and junior G Kirby Gardner (1.5 ppg).
Kansas leads the overall series with Oklahoma State 106-54. The Jayhawks have defeated the Cowboys in four of their last five meetings and five of the last seven matchups. Kansas is 34-31 against Oklahoma State in games played in Stillwater, including a 32-31 record in Gallagher-Iba Arena. Since 1997, the start of the Big 12, the series is 4-4 in Stillwater meetings. Also since the inception of the Big 12, KU is 16-7 versus OSU (12-5 in regular-season play and 4-2 in the Big 12 Championship). KU head coach Bill Self is 10-8 all-time against his alma mater, including 9-5 while at KU. OSU’s Travis Ford is 2-5 versus Kansas.
Earlier this season, OSU's Markel Brown scored 28 points, including 7-of-10 from three-point range, and Marcus Smart added 25 points in the Cowboys' 85-80 win on Feb. 2. The OSU victory ended Kansas' 33-game home-court winning streak, which was the nation's second longest active streak at that time. Ben McLemore led KU's charge with 23 points, while Kevin Young added 12 and Jeff Withey 11 points, respectively. OSU scored 26 points off Kansas turnovers and had 23 second-chance points in a game that had 12 lead changes and six ties.
KANSAS TEAM NOTABLES
--Kansas leads the NCAA Division I in field goal percentage defense at 35.6 percent and is third nationally in blocked shots at 6.9 per game. Both stats lead the Big 12 and KU also leads the conference in scoring margin (+13.4), field goal percentage (46.9) and rebound margin (+6.0). The Jayhawks also rank in the top four of the Big 12 in scoring (third, 73.4), free throw percentage (third, 71.8), rebounding (second, 39.1), rebound defense (second, 33.1), assists (fourth, 15.0) and assist-to-turnover ratio (fourth, 1.1).
--Kansas has held a double-digit lead in all but five contests this season. KU has held the lead in all but one game in 2012-13.
--Out of its 25 games, Kansas has held 16 of its opponents to 60 points or less, including seven of the last 10 conference foes: 46 at Texas Tech, 44 vs. Baylor, 59 at Texas, 55 at Kansas State, 54 vs. Oklahoma, 56 at West Virginia and 47 vs. Texas.
--KU has outrebounded 20 of 25 opponents this season, including 16 of its last 19 foes. KU has had five games with 10-plus rebounds over its opponent, including a 41-23 advantage against Kansas State (2/11).
--Kansas has out shot all but four opponents in 2012-13. Additionally, KU has shot 50 percent or better in nine games this season. KU's 54.1 percent at West Virginia (1/28) was its league best during 2012-13.
--Kansas has held a 40-plus point lead in four different games this season.
--Kansas has had four players score in double figures in 10 times this season, including five against Iowa State (1/9).
Kansas has out shot all but four opponents in 2012-13 and has shot 50 percent or better from the field in nine games. KU leads the Big 12 in field goal percentage at 46.9 percent, is third in three-point field goal percentage at 35.7 percent and third in free throw percentage at 71.8. Individually, senior G Travis Releford leads the Big 12 in field goal percentage at 59.9 and has shot 71 percent or better in 11 games, including four league contests. Redshirt freshman G Ben McLemore's 9-for-13 (69.2 percent) shooting effort against Kansas State (2/11) was his sixth 60 percent performance of the season. He has shot 50 percent or better from three-point range in seven conference games. Senior C Jeff Withey has shot 50 percent or better in 20 of 25 games this season, including 11 games of 62.5 percent or better. Senior F Kevin Young has nine games of shooting 60.0 percent or better, including four in conference play: 7-of-9 at Texas Tech (1/12), 2-of-3 at Texas (1/19), 3-of-5 vs. Oklahoma State (2/2) and 6-of-9 vs. Kansas State (2/11).
IN THE POLLS
Kansas is ranked No. 9 in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches' polls released Feb. 18. Kansas' No. 1 ranking in the Jan. 28, 2013, coaches' poll was its first since Feb. 14, 2011, and KU has been the nation's top team 38 times, including 20 weeks in the Bill Self era. Also in the coaches' polls, Kansas has been ranked in each of the last 78 week, including 64 times in the Top 10. In the Associated Press poll and dating back to the final three polls of the 2008-09 season, this marks the 73rd-straight poll in which the Jayhawks have been ranked in the AP poll, including 62 times in the Top 10.
KANSAS VS. RANKED TEAMS UNDER BILL SELF
Oklahoma State will be the 72nd Associated Press-ranked opponent Kansas has faced in the nine-plus seasons under head coach Bill Self and the fifth in 2012-13 (lost to then-No. 21 Michigan State 67-64 on 11/13 in the Champions Classic in Atlanta, won at then-No. 7 Ohio State 74-66 on 12/22, won at then-No. 11 Kansas State on 1/22 and defeated then-No. 10 Kansas State on 2/11). In that span, KU is 46-25 (64.8 percent) against ranked competition. That percentage has an upward trend as the last six seasons the Jayhawks are 36-15 (70.6 percent) versus ranked foes.
KANSAS TO HOST 115TH-YEAR CELEBRATION OF MEN'S BASKETBALL FEB. 23
Kansas men's basketball will host its 115th-year celebration on Saturday, Feb. 23, when the Jayhawks play host to TCU at 3 p.m. in Allen Fieldhouse. Former Kansas coaches, players and managers will be recognized at halftime of the game. Included in the celebration is the 25th anniversary of Kansas' 1988 NCAA National Championship team. For the KU-TCU contest, the 2012-13 Jayhawks will wear retro attire resembling the 1988 uniforms, warm-ups, etc.
Former KU legend JoJo White will be on hand prior to the contest, autographing his book "Make It Count" in the Booth Family Hall of Athletics. White was a two-time All-American in 1968 and 1969 and a three-time All-Big Eight Conference First Team selection while at Kansas. He also left his mark in the NBA with the Boston Celtics. Both Kansas and the Celtics have retired White's jerseys. "Make It Count" is a book described as one athlete's career that was the product of genuine good values.
Here are some block party notables for Kansas All-American candidate Jeff Withey:
--Withey leads the Big 12 and is third nationally with 4.0 blocked shots per game. KU's record for single-season blocked shot average is 3.6 set by Withey in 2012.
--The 2012 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, Withey set the KU and Big 12 single-game record with 12 blocked shots versus San Jose State (11/26).
--A three-time Big 12 Player of the Week, including twice in 2012-13, Withey's 100 blocks in 2012-13 are more than six Big 12 teams this season and rank third on the KU single-season list.
--Last week, Withey broke the Kansas and Big 12 Conference career blocked shots record, currently at 265. He passed Greg Ostertag who had 258 blocks at Kansas from 1992-95 and Chris Mihm of Texas' 264 from 1998-2000.
--For his career, Withey has had 10 games with seven or more blocked shots, including three in 2012-13.
--Withey broke the NCAA Tournament record for blocked shots with 31 in the 2012 event.
--Withey broke the Kansas and Big 12 single-season blocked shots record with 140 last year (3.6 per game). He is only the second Jayhawk to pass 100 blocked shots for a single season with his 140 last year and 100 this year. The other was Cole Aldrich with 125 in 2009-10.
MCLEMORE AND WITHEY NAMED TO MIDSEASON TEAMS
Kansas' Ben McLemore and Jeff Withey were named to the USBWA Oscar Robertson Player of the Year Midseason Watch List on Jan. 31. On Jan. 10, the duo was selected to the John R. Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 announced by The Los Angeles Athletic Club. The Oscar Robertson award consisted of 12 players and Kansas and Indiana were the only schools with multiple players listed with two each. For the Wooden Award, Kansas is one of three schools to have two players among the 25, along with Duke and Missouri. The 2013 Wooden Award Gala will take place April 11-13, 2013, at The Los Angeles Athletic Club. The Gala will honor the Men's and Women's Wooden Award winners, All Americans and the Legends of Coaching Award winner, Kansas head coach Bill Self.
MCLEMORE SPORTING NEWS MID-SEASON ALL-AMERICAN
Kansas redshirt freshman G Ben McLemore was named to the Sporting News Mid-Season All-America First Team it was announced Jan. 15. McLemore is joined on the first team by Oklahoma State freshman Marcus Smart, Michigan sophomore Trey Burke, Creighton junior Doug McDermott and Duke senior Mason Plumlee.
Kansas guard Ben McLemore leads the Big 12 freshman class with a 16.7 scoring average, which is second overall in the conference. In conference-only games, McLemore leads the league with 17.8 ppg. A two-time Big 12 Rookie of the Week and one-time Player of the Week honoree, McLemore leads the Big 12 in free throw percentage at 87.1 and is third in three-point field goal percentage at 43.4 percent. KU's leading scorer, McLemore has seven games with 20 points or more this season, including a 30-point effort against Kansas State (2/11) and 33-point performance against Iowa State (1/9) in the Big 12 opener. He is the only freshman in KU history to have two 30-point games in conference play.
Kansas freshman record-wise, McLemore's:
...16.7 ppg would surpass the KU freshman record of 14.6 ppg held by by Danny Manning in 1985.
...5.5 rebound average would rank eighth on the KU freshman list.
...49 three-pointers made in 2012-13 are tied for fifth on the KU freshman list (Billy Thomas, 1995).
...43.4 three-point field goal percentage is fifth on the KU freshman list.
...87.1 free throw percentage is first on the Kansas freshmen list.
McLemore's 33 points against Iowa State (1/9):
--Were the most by a Jayhawk since Marcus Morris tallied 33 points against Iowa State on Jan. 12, 2011.
--Are the most points scored in a game this season in the Big 12 Conference for all players.
--Were the most by a Kansas freshman since Danny Manning scored 35 points against Oklahoma State on March 2, 1985.
--Consisted of him connecting on 6-of-6 three-point field goal attempts, marking the best three-point field goal percentage since Rex Walters went 6-for-6 from beyond the arc against Ball State in 2003.
KANSAS AND THE BIG 12 WEEKLY HONORS
In becoming the Big 12's all-time blocked shots leader and recording back-to-back double-doubles, Kansas senior C Jeff Withey was named the Phillips 66 Big 12 Player of the Week (2/18). It was his second time he was named player of the week this season and the third time in his career.
Kansas redshirt freshman G Ben McLemore was named the Phillips 66 Big 12 Men’s Basketball Rookie of the Week (1/21) after averaging 16.5 points in KU wins against Baylor and at Texas. It was the second time McLemore has won the accolade this season. Last week, McLemore was named the conference's player of the Week.
Historically, McLemore is the first KU player since Josh Selby in 2010-11 to be named Big 12 Rookie of the Week twice in one season. Additionally, he became only the second Jayhawk in the 17-year history of the Big 12 to have earned Big 12 Player and Rookie of the Week in the same season. Mario Chalmers also accomplished the feat during the 2005-06 season.
McLemore was the third different Jayhawk to be named Big 12 Player of the Week this season. He joins KU seniors Travis Releford (11/26) and Withey (12/3 and 2/18) as honorees. This is the second-straight season Kansas has had three different players earn the weekly honor. Last year, KU had four different players named Big 12 Player of the Week - Releford, Withey, Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor - which was a Big 12 first for one season.
Kansas has won 12 of the 16 Big 12 regular-season titles (includes ties), including the last eight. Kansas' 55 conference titles are the most in NCAA Division I. Kentucky is second with 51 and Penn third at 37. Kansas' eight-straight league titles is the longest active streak in NCAA Division I and the longest streak in school history. Ohio State (Big Ten), Belmont (Atlantic Sun) and Murray State (Ohio Valley) are next at three on the active league title list.
Kansas returns home to play TCU on Saturday, Feb. 23. The contest against the Horned Frogs, scheduled for a 3 p.m. tip-off on the Big 12 Network, will be KU’s celebration of 115 years of men’s basketball. Kansas will then play at Iowa State on ESPN Big Monday, Feb. 25 at 8 p.m. and return home to host West Virginia on Saturday, March 2, at 1 p.m. on CBS.