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Monday, December 30, 2013

Undefeated Rockets not awed by KU

Arkansas State's Brandon Reed (3) drives past Toledo's Justin Drummond during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013 at The Convocation Center in Jonesboro, Ark. Toledo defeated Arkansas State 78-65.

Arkansas State's Brandon Reed (3) drives past Toledo's Justin Drummond during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013 at The Convocation Center in Jonesboro, Ark. Toledo defeated Arkansas State 78-65.

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Seven college basketball teams that are ranked in the Top 25 — as well as under-the-radar University of Toledo — remain undefeated as the New Year approaches.

“They will have a ton of confidence,” Kansas University coach Bill Self said of third-year coach Tod Kowalczyk’s Rockets, who carry a 12-0 record into today’s clash against the Jayhawks (8-3), set for a 7 p.m. tip in Allen Fieldhouse.

“They’ve got some good wins. They’ve won some close games (and) learned how to win close games,” Self added.

The Rockets of the Mid America Conference are 5-0 in games decided by four points or less, including a 71-67 victory over Cleveland State on Dec. 21 in Toledo. The other narrow victories are over Robert Morris (80-77), Detroit (80-78), Stony Brook (103-99) and Boston College (95-92).

“If there’s a negative to going 12-0, (I) don’t think we’re going to sneak up on anybody,” Kowalczyk told the Toledo Blade after Saturday’s 85-66 home rout of Coppin State. “We’re going to get their best shot, but you know what, I think they’re going to get our best shot, too.”

Former Raytown (Mo.) South standout guard Rian Pearson, who burned Coppin for 22 points, enters with a team-leading 16.6 scoring average and, as Self indicated, plenty of confidence.

“I want to go in there with the mind-set we can beat them,” Pearson told the Blade.

The win over Coppin tied the Rockets with Toledo’s 1940-41 team for second-best start in school history. The 1966-67 squad opened 14-0, not losing until a Feb. 4 game at Marshall.

“We believe we can play with anyone in the nation,” point guard Julius Brown told the Blade after scoring 18 points and dishing seven assists Saturday. “We’re going to go in with the mind-set we can win, which I believe all of my teammates believe we can.”

KU, which has won 67 consecutive nonconference home games, enters as a 14-point favorite. Kansas’ last nonconference home loss was to Oral Roberts, 78-71, on Nov. 15, 2006. The Jayhawks are shooting for a 10-3 out-of-conference record, with San Diego State bringing its 10-1 mark to town Sunday.

“From a record standpoint, I was hoping we could get to Christmas with less than three (losses), two or one or whatever,” Self said. “I didn’t think it’d be a realistic shot we’d run the table just because the competition is so stiff and playing games away from home.”

KU dropped a game to Villanova in the Bahamas and has also fallen at Colorado and Florida.

“If we are able to play well the next two games — both will be tough — I’d think that would be about the record we should have going into conference play,” Self said. “Have we played great? No. Have we gotten better? Yes. I wouldn’t be surprised had we lost one or two less, but I’m not surprised where we are at, at all.”

Self, who starts three freshmen (Andrew Wiggins, Wayne Selden and Joel Embiid), a junior (Naadir Tharpe) and a sophomore (Perry Ellis), acknowledged that “this year probably would have been a good year to play a couple more guarantee games just because we are so young.

“Our RPI ... I think we are No. 3 in the country (behind Wisconsin and UMass). Do we deserve to be there? No. It’s nice to be that high, because we played such a hard schedule. It will continue to go up, because the next two games will be two of the harder games we play.”

KU is No. 1 in strength of schedule according to realtimerpi.com.

“I feel coming in and playing all those big games so early is getting us prepared for later on in the season,” Selden said. “I feel we’ll be used to the stage by the time we get there.”

Tonight’s undefeated foe boasts scoring balance. Senior guard Pearson is followed by junior guard Justin Drummond (14.8 ppg), junior guard Brown (13.3 ppg), junior forward J.D. Weatherspoon (10.9 ppg) and sophomore center Nathan Boothe (10.4 ppg).

“We’re focused on each game. We’re focused on Toledo now,” KU freshman guard Frank Mason said. “We know they are a good team. Obviously they have a great record, and they’ve been on a pretty good win streak, so we have to come ready to play.”

This marks KU’s first game since a 86-64 victory over Georgetown on Dec. 21. The players had four days off to spend time in their hometowns before returning to the practice court Thursday.

“I don’t think we needed it (break) as a team, but probably our bodies, more so,” Selden said.

Self has said Selden has not been 100 percent for all of KU’s games.

“Just bangs and bruises of the game, falling on the floor, getting hit by big guys. Nothing major, just bangs and bruises,” Selden said of his physical condition.

He said Self’s main message since the team returned from break has been: “Basically, we just have to keep moving forward. We have to keep getting better. We can’t settle where we are at now because we are nowhere near where we want to be.”

This, that: The country’s undefeated teams include unranked Toledo, plus No. 1 Arizona (13-0), No. 2 Syracuse (12-0), No. 3 Ohio State (13-0), No. 4 Wisconsin (13-0), No. 10 Wichita State (13-0), No. 12 Oregon (12-0) and No. 14 Iowa State (11-0). ... Brown ranks fifth nationally with 7.3 assists per game and has a MAC-best 2.6 assist/turnover ratio. ... The Rockets have made 61 more free throws (272) than their opponents have attempted (211). UT has a .733 free-throw mark and ranks sixth nationally at 22.7 free throws made per game. ... Toledo is tied for seventh nationally in scoring at 86.4 ppg. ... Toledo is 3-10 in its last 13 games vs. nationally-ranked foes. ... UT’s last three wins vs. ranked opponents came vs. No. 25 Miami of Ohio in 1999, No. 19 Cincinnati in 2000 and No. 14 Michigan State in 2002... The Rockets have lost their last eight games vs. ranked teams — No. 11 Louisville in 2003, No. 9 Duke in 2004, No. 12 KU in 2006, No. 11 Pitt in 2007, No. 19 Florida in 2008, No. 2 Michigan State in 2009 and No. 13 Illinois and No. 22 Temple in 2010.

Time set: The time of Sunday’s KU-San Diego State game is set for 3:30 p.m., CBS television announced Sunday. The start time was determined by CBS’ NFL Playoff schedule. San Diego State is 10-1 and ranked 20th in both the Associated Press and USA Today polls and plays at Colorado State on Wednesday.

Cliff a ‘stud’: KU signee Cliff Alexander, who was named MVP of last week’s Pontiac (Ill.) Tournament, was asked by highschoolcube.com what Self said to him after Saturday’s semifinal game, which Self attended.

“He told me I’m a stud and can’t wait to have me in a KU uniform next year,” Alexander, 6-foot-9 from Chicago Curie, said.

Comments

Steve Brown 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Lighthawk memories: Blacked out so watched a Netflix. Tried to listen just got mad that TW conspired with KUAD to black us out and no I will never switch cable companies, that only rewards kidnapping, then next year it will be 12 games. This is first year since Owens era wife and I haven't attended or watched or tape delay, hard to think KU would conspire to take away loyal fan base, no matter the bribe amount. If I can be disenfranchised then you can be next year. Worse for my 85 year old dad who lives for Royals game and KU Ball, he lives out in the state and was blacked out also. Trade Snowden for Zenger in Siberia.

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Tim Deegan 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Well the undefeated Rockets (now defeated) may not be awed, but they definitely got spanked tonight!

I had to go to four different bars here in St. Louis to find the game be being broadcast but was finally rewarded with a nice 20+ point game by Tharpe, Ellis and Wiggins - each of which looked comfortable and in control out there. Reassuring to see good passing too.

Solid AFH win helped get the taste of those three losses out of my mouth. This is still a really green team, but I sure would like to see everything gel in March and have this team tear it up all the way in the big dance. The potential to do so is sooo there... looking forward to some great jayhawk ball in 2014!

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Steve Kubler 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Lovely ESPN blacked it out, so now have to play games again to watch. It's a wonder I pay for cable at all!

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Jonathan Allison 3 months, 2 weeks ago

How is tonight's game not nationally televised? Ridiculous.

I guess that I'll have to suck it up and watch online tonight.

I've had a hard time warming up to the new team this year. My job has been very demanding and our first boy being 15 months old now, I just haven't connected to KU Hoops like I usually do. I'm ready to go now though. I think this team is turning a corner.

It seems like lockerroom chemistry is pretty good and talent-wise we may have the #1 and #2 overall draft picks along with several other future draft picks on the team. It's just a matter of putting it together on the floor, which hopefully two-a-day practice sessions will help. Point guard play is the key, and I think we've got the right pieces in place, they just need to play with confidence and poise. Hopefully with AWIII healthy and with Greene and Frankamp re-juvenated we'll find a reliable sniper off the bench to take some of the pressure off the top 5. Also, it would be huge to get some reliable bench play out of Tarik going forward. The pieces are all there.

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Tony Bandle 3 months, 2 weeks ago

OAKVILLE ODDITIES:

1] I got to see some clips of Kelly Oubre recently....if he is ranked at #12, I'd sure like to see the four or five guys ranked ahead of him. THIS KID CAN PLAY!!

2] KU currently has the 5th-ranked recruiting class for 2014 with only two players!!! If/when Mr. Turner and one of the shooting guards commit along with Cliff and Kelly, we'll be Top Three again.

3] Damn, that Bill Self can't recruit worth a darn!!

4] Tonight the Rockets crash and burn...KU 78 - Toledo 63. [I wonder if Max Klinger will be there?]

5] Good luck and best wishes to the Chiefs and you great Chiefs fans..taking the Chargers to overtime, on the road, while resting your ten best players...not too shabby!!!

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Greg Lux 3 months, 2 weeks ago

In watching Cliffs game the other night I noticed he was truly a man among boys. You had no problem seeing him on the court. He was almost half again as tall and twice as big as any other player. Next year he will hopefully be a man among men. It will be interesting to see how he adjusts to playing against players as big and taller then him. I personally think he will do great. And I welcome him to the Jayhawk family ( the finest of the finest ). Welcome Cliff

Rock Chalk

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Suzi Marshall 3 months, 2 weeks ago

We will get a peak tonight at how our team looks after the first real extended period (4 days) of defensive preparations. Guarding the perimeter has been a major problem for us and will be key for this game...and all the Big 12 games as well.

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Kent Richardson 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Would like to see a solid first half no lapses in scoring. Toledo shoots six or seven more FT than their opponents so we will see if our guard play has picked up. Another wish is some respectable 3 pt shooting. Now is the time Mr. Wiggins, please? Selden a triple double.

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Ian Emerson 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Good god Cliff is going to be an absolute animal next year.

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