How does one keep a single loss from becoming two in a row?
That's the question facing the Jayhawks at the moment, and their head coach had a few ideas Tuesday afternoon, during a teleconference with the media.
"I think just from a maturity standpoint, when you have momentum you want to extend it," Bill Self said. "When you don't have momentum you want to curtail it, cut it off. That's just what we need to do. We need to be so excited to play and go in to Christmas with a great frame of mind. Certainly a win in California will help us do that."
In Monday's loss to Davidson, Kansas was held to just 40-percent from the floor and 26-percent from three-point range. They also cashed in on just 58-percent of their 31 free-throw attempts.
The Wildcats didn't shoot light outs themselves, but through composed play and execution they managed to get buckets when they counted most time and time again, repeatedly holding off rallies by the Jayhawks.
Afterward, senior guard Conner Teahan - who went 2-of-9 from the floor and scored just six points in 26 minutes - shouldered much of the blame for the defeat. However, Self was quick to defend his veteran sharpshooter.
"When somebody screws up in practice, Conner always says 'My bad,'" he explained. "Just to take the pressure off the other guy. He's unbelievable that way. he gets it. But certainly no one feels that way around here."
This season, the recipe for a Jayhawk victory is simple in Self's eyes. They need to play as hard as they can, night in and night out, no matter the opponent, to come away with a victory.
Whereas in the past the massive talent advantage they maintained over most teams could cover for an off night, this team - while not untalented - doesn't have that kind of margin for error.
They need to guard, Self said, and do the little things – win 70-percent of the 50/50 balls, don't give up layups, defend through the entire clock and just play with more energy.
"Our past teams played harder," he said. "But they also had more depth, they also played less minutes. There was maybe some contributing reasons to that. But on those nights when we didn't quite have it or were a little lackluster, talent a lot of times prevailed."
"That's not gonna happen with this year's team," Self added. "I'm not saying we're not talented, we're just not near as talented as what we have been."
Still, with the start of conference play looming, he sees a great deal of promise in his squad.
"But to think that we would be a favorite (in the Big 12) right now, we've got a long ways to go before we can even consider ourself one of the best teams," Self said. "But I do think we have potential to get there."
Tip off versus USC is scheduled for 10 p.m. Thursday. The game will be broadcast on FSN.