LAWRENCE, Kan. -- First, Bill Self thought his Kansas basketball team lacked effort at practices. Later, he reasoned that execution in practices was too disjointed for a team sitting 5-0 and ranked No. 2.
Whatever the case, Self ordered a second workout on the same day during an eight-day layoff before playing host to Stanford (4-3) on Saturday.
"The thing about it is with athletics, you can try hard and still look like crap," said Self, who has pushed just about any button possible with players during his Hall of Fame coaching career.
"There's definitely a difference between competing and trying hard. Anybody can try hard. You get a ribbon for that. But that's the baseline. Competing is focus and concentration and listening. There's a lot of other intangibles that go with competing, and I don't think we've been very good at that in practice of late."
In games, however, the Jayhawks remain undefeated following an overtime thriller against Tennessee in the championship game of the Preseason NIT. That victory was achieved following a brief scouting synopsis and a 30-minute Thanksgiving practice.
"That's about as good as carrying out the defensive game plan as we can possibly do," Self added. "I know we got it in us. I just don't think the focus has been quite as good as what it should be."
The learning curve for several newcomers could factor into that, though some of them had a year to adjust to Self's system as transfers.
Brothers Dedric and K.J. Lawson transferred from Memphis and are coming off their best collective performance to date, combining for 32 points, 19 rebounds, five assists and three steals against Tennessee, which was ranked No. 5 at the time.
"We've been playing this game so long and I'm just glad to see my brother get a chance to go out there and play," said Dedric Lawson, a junior forward and preseason All-American. "I thought he played terrific. He came out there with high energy ... he's a competitor."
The Preseason NIT was the fifth straight in-season tournament the Jayhawks have captured and their 13th straight victory in the regular season against a team ranked in the top 10.
All five projected starters for Stanford are freshmen or sophomores. Third-year coach Jerod Haase is treading near .500 (37-36) with the Cardinal. He played three seasons at Kansas from 1994-95 to 1996-97 under Roy Williams.
The teams will be playing for the third time in as many seasons.
Sophomore forward KZ Okpala leads Stanford with a 16.3-point average. He and another sophomore forward, Oscar da Silva, each averages a team-high six rebounds.
Da Silva scored 12 points to pace a balanced attack Wednesday as Stanford topped Portland State 79-67. Portland State posted a 24-5 advantage in offensive rebounds, which led to a 21-3 edge in second-chance points. But the Cardinal survived by limiting the Vikings to 31.7 percent shooting while Stanford made 53.8 percent of their field-goal attempts.
Work underneath promises to be even tougher against Kansas. Dedric Lawson, who is 6-foot-9, averages a double-double (17.8 points, 10.4 rebounds). Foul trouble has limited 7-foot center Udoka Azubuike to 21.8 minutes on average, but the sophomore chips in 14.4 points and 6.0 rebounds.
"We were excited about the (Portland State) win," said da Silva, "but we have a lot of work to do if we want to get to where we want to be this season."
Self prods No. 2 Kansas for more against Stanford