(AP) — No matter how often they’re reminded of it, Kansas coach Bill Self and his players maintain the team’s current winning streak is not a topic of conversation behind closed doors.
Oklahoma State will be out to end a pair of the Jayhawks’ streaks as No. 2 Kansas hopes to extend its run to 19 by winning a 17th consecutive home meeting with the Cowboys on Saturday.
The Jayhawks (19-1, 7-0 Big 12) haven’t lost since a 67-64 defeat to current No. 13 Michigan State on Nov. 13 in their second game of the season.
They’ve had some close calls along the way, though, including Monday’s 61-56 victory at West Virginia. Self doesn’t think his team will win out, nor does he plan on discussing the current streak with his team.
“Nobody talks about that. They may as a group on their own, but certainly not amongst our basketball family,” Self said. “I hope that we can keep learning lessons through winning, but that doesn’t always happen. We’ll lose again. I hope not, but it’s going to happen.”
A home loss to Oklahoma State – Self’s alma mater – would be extremely rare, as the Cowboys haven’t won in Lawrence since an 87-81 victory Feb. 7, 1989. It also could contribute to making the Big 12 race tighter.
Kansas holds a two-game lead over three teams and leads Oklahoma State (14-5, 4-3) by three.
“We have tough games against those teams with two and three losses coming up that can make it turn on a dime,” Self said. “Not holding serve at home isn’t really one game, it’s a two-game swing. There is still a lot of ball left, obviously.”
That’s exactly why his players aren’t discussing the streak, either.
“None of us are paying any attention to it,” senior guard Travis Releford said. “We don’t sit around in the locker room and talk about it because we know it’s a long season.”
Freshman Ben McLemore ranks second in the conference averaging 16.1 points, though Kansas’ defense has been a big part of its success. The Jayhawks lead the conference in field-goal percentage defense (35.0) and rank third in the country in blocks per game (7.5).
They’ve given up an average of only 52.3 points over their last six.
“I don’t think we’re as good defensively as we’re going to get yet, but I think we’re pretty good,” Self said.
Kansas’ next challenge is to stop an Oklahoma State team that has three players – Markel Brown (14.8 points per game), Marcus Smart (13.6) and Le’Bryan Nash (13.5) – who are among the Big 12’s top 10 scorers.
“From a talent standpoint, they may have as good of roster as there is in our league,” Self said. “They’re skilled players because they can score in a lot of different ways.”
The Cowboys are coming off a wild 78-76 victory over Iowa State on Wednesday after Smart, a true freshman guard, scored a team-high 21 points – the last two coming on a tie-breaking bucket with 3.1 seconds remaining.
“We’ve had a lot of teams make some big plays on us this year late in games, and we came up on the short end,” coach Travis Ford said. “We were on the positive end of that stick and made some plays.”
Brian Williams, who scored 20 points in a 70-58 home loss to Kansas in the last meeting Feb. 27, played six minutes and went 0 for 2 in his season debut Wednesday after missing the first 18 games following left wrist surgery.