LAWRENCE — Tyshawn Taylor hadn't spoken publicly since his poor performance during Kansas' loss to Kansas State on Monday. That hadn't stopped others from dissecting his six-turnover, one-assist showing, though, so Taylor figured he might as well be open with his thoughts, too.
"That's all you can do," Taylor said Thursday, "when the whole world knows that you played bad.... And I know that. I just have to be better."
When confronted after a loss, players are often able to acknowledge the obvious. But Taylor, whose personality has the capacity to spill out in all directions, went deeper. He tried to explain why he played what was probably the worst game of his career against the Wildcats in Bramlage Coliseum.
"I've got to be more focused," Taylor said. "I was really rattled on Monday. The crowd was into it. It was just one of those games where I was like, 'Man, I don't even know what to do right now.' I know all of us played our part in us losing, but if I had played a better game, we would have had a better chance. I really messed that up. I feel like I owe my team a little bit."
Taylor said KU's defensive struggles start with him, since he is the point guard and pressures the ball more than anyone. But Monday, he said he got off to such a poor start on both sides of the court that he started thinking "it's going to be one of those days." KU coach Bill Self would like more resolve from his floor leader when things aren't going well.
"The thing that was a little disappointing to me wasn't how he started," Self said, "but that he couldn't turn it."
Sure, it may seem late in the season for revelations like these to come out. But it really isn't. Coaches would rather players confront their issues in mid-February than in March on a long bus or plane ride home. Self recalled that the 2008 national championship team was "still pretty full of ourselves until the Oklahoma State loss," which occurred Feb. 23. That was the Jayhawks' third loss, and, who knows, maybe it'll take another loss or two for this Kansas team to get it.
But that certainly isn't what KU wants. Even though the Jayhawks will lose their No. 1 ranking, they are still a solid candidate for a top seed in the NCAA Tournament, and they think they began to get their issues worked out during a team meeting and film session Wednesday.
KU junior forward Marcus Morris said players listen to their coaches more after a loss.
"A lot of things come into perspective after a loss," Morris said. "We've been getting away with a lot, mainly just defending. We've been making shots all year. Last game, both things went wrong. That's how we lost."
The Morris twins joined Taylor in going under the microscope this week. Markieff picked up his second intentional foul in three games for an elbow above the shoulder and finished with three points and no rebounds. Marcus had 13 points but battled foul trouble as well.
Self said the twins are getting a reputation among game officials for being players with an attitude — a "fair" reputation, at that. And Self said it doesn't help that the refs group the twins together.
"That's a natural thing. I do it myself," Self said. "It's always 'the twins.' Certainly, I think they've got to do some serious things because the things that have transpired during games have hurt their team."
Self says seniors Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar have been good leaders but that the Morris twins are the guys that his players more easily follow.
"We're supposed to be leaders on the team," Markieff said, "supposed to set examples for younger players. Us doing that is not a good look for our program.
"We can play without talking to the refs. Me and Marcus are very emotional players. We're into the game so much. When we feel as though we're being taken out of the game (by fouls), we get that attitude. We definitely have to change it."
For Self, the Kansas State debacle helped diagnose his team's overall issue.
"The biggest problem with our team in my opinion isn't (lack of) effort. It isn't talent," Self said. "We struggle with focus. We struggle with being able to maintain things. And so, if distractions, no matter how (small) they are, if that was a factor on Monday, what will it be like during the NCAA tournament when there are more distractions?"