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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Game day breakdown: No. 14 KU basketball vs. Stanford

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) pulls up for a three over Stanford guard Christian Sanders (1) during the first half on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) pulls up for a three over Stanford guard Christian Sanders (1) during the first half on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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No. 14 Kansas Jayhawks (9-2) vs. Stanford Cardinal (6-6)

Time: 10 p.m. Thursday | Location: Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, California

TV: ESPN2 | Radio: IMG Jayhawk Radio Network

Log on to KUsports.com for our live game blog coverage and follow the KUsports.com staff on Twitter: @KUSports @mctait @TomKeeganLJW @bentonasmith @nightengalejr @chasenscott & @nickkrug

Keys for Kansas

1. Capitalize on veteran guard play

In previewing Thursday's matchup during a phone interview with the Journal-World, Stanford coach Jerod Haase — a former Kansas player who said he would “always have great feelings about Kansas” — pointed to guard play as a potentially huge factor in this one.

With Stanford missing two veteran guards because of injury and the Jayhawks starting three guards with serious experience, the battle in the backcourt could go a long way in determining how this one goes.

Specifically, that is true of Devonté Graham in the eyes of Haase, now in his second season with Stanford.

“When you have four-year guys and seniors, they become so valuable, especially at the guard position,” he said. “(Graham's) leadership and attitude are terrific and are a big part of what that team is about. We're well aware of what he's capable of and think he's a terrific player.”

Said KU's Malik Newman of playing against young guards: “You just try to go out there, pressure them, try to heat them up and try to turn them over.”

2. All five to the glass

Although the Jayhawks have superior length and athleticism throughout their lineup, pure size is an area in which Stanford will an advantage in this one.

The Cardinal starts three players 6-foot-8 or taller and also can bring a couple of big bodies off of the bench. While none of them are as big as KU's Udoka Azubuike — 7-foot, 280 pounds — the KU center can't neutralize all of that Stanford size by himself, and will need a big-time effort from the Kansas guards on the glass to help the Jayhawks get out of California with a victory.

Stanford is outrebounding opponents by more than five boards a game, including a 41-27 edge in the team's most recent outing — a 12-point home victory over San Francisco last week.

Kansas, meanwhile, is outrebounding its opponents by more than six boards a game, making the battle on the glass a potentially huge factor in this one.

3. Get out and go

The easiest way to make Stanford uncomfortable and to put this game on a path that plays into Kansas' favor is by forcing the issue in transition.

Stanford enters Thursday's game averaging just 74 points per game — compared with 89 ppg for KU — and the Cardinal seems to much prefer a slower, more deliberate, half-court type of pace.

Five of Stanford's six wins have featured finals in the 70s and in its six losses, the Cardinal has given up an average of 86 points to opponents, meaning that if the Jayhawks can push the pace and get this one into the 80s, their odds of winning should go up tremendously.

Although he still is just in his third game back, sophomore guard Sam Cunliffe's presence on the KU bench should help the Jayhawks emphasize tempo. That's because while Cunliffe likes to fly up and down the floor himself, he also can enter the game with Marcus Garrett for a few minutes here and there to give the KU starters a rest and make sure they're fresh and ready to push the pace from start to finish.

Mega Matchup

Stanford forward Reid Travis vs. KU's defense

A year ago, Stanford big man Reid Travis set Allen Fieldhouse opponent records for free throw makes (19) and free throw attempts (22) during a 29-point outburst that no one in a Kansas uniform that day will soon forget.

“I know Reid Travis is a handful, or more than a handful,” KU coach Bill Self said of the Stanford junior. “He'll be licking his chops because we didn't defend him very well last year.”

Because Haase starts the 6-8, 245-pound Travis at power forward, KU's defensive game plan will not be as simple as trying to let 7-foot sophomore Azubuike bother him with his size.

“If you put Dok on him, then you're going to take Svi or Lagerald and put them on their starting center,” said Self of 6-9, 245-pounder Michael Humphrey. “We'll have to do a good job of trapping him and trying to front him and playing him before he catches it.”

Added Haase of the many looks he expects Kansas to throw at his talented big man this time around: “The great part about Reid is, he is fairly consistent. He's as disciplined of a person as I've ever been around and one of the most competitive, too. I don't need to work him up and get him excited about the game. He's as pro as it comes and he'll be ready.”

Jayhawk Pulse

The infamous last game before Christmas has delivered a mixed bag of results for the Jayhawks throughout the years, and always has been one of the tougher games for Self to get maximum effort and focus from his team.

While most of the prewinter break setbacks came during Self's early years with the program — Kansas is actually 7-1 in the past eight years in the final game before break — the challenge of locking in and keeping his players' minds on the task in front of them instead of the upcoming break from practice and school and time with family, has not always been easy for Self and his coaching staff.

“We've been really good the last game before break and we've been awful,” Self said.

The lone KU loss during this recent eight-year stretch was a 25-point blowout loss at Temple in 2014. Before that, KU also dropped late December games to Arizona in 2008 and Nevada in 2003, both on the road. KU also lost to UMass on Dec. 13, 2008, in Kansas City, Mo., and Davidson in the same building on Dec. 19 three years later.

That fact, along with the recent back-to-back losses that are still fresh in the minds of the Jayhawks, have this team locked in on finishing nonconference play on a high note before a few days with friends and family and then a return to campus to get ready for the start of Big 12 play, which opens Dec. 29 at Texas.

“We need this one,” Self said. “We need to go out and play well. Usually a win before Christmas makes Christmas a lot better.”

Probable Starters

No. 14 Kansas

G – Devonté Graham, 6-2, 185, Sr.

G – Malik Newman, 6-3, 190, Soph.

G – Svi Mykhailiuk, 6-8, 205, Sr.

G – Lagerald Vick, 6-5, 175, Jr.

C – Udoka Azubuike, 7-0, 280, Soph.

Stanford

G – Daejon Davis, 6-3, 175, Fr.

G – Robert Cartwright, 6-2, 180, Jr.

F – Oscar Da Silva, 6-9, 210, Fr.

F – Reid Travis, 6-8, 245, Jr.

C – Michael Humphrey, 6-9, 245, Sr.

Comments

Bryce Landon 3 years, 2 months ago

Why is this game being played in Sacramento instead of on Stanford's campus?

Brian Leslie 3 years, 2 months ago

Big building + not part of season ticket holder package = big profits. Stanford students will be finishing finals or have gone home. It will be interesting to see what kind of percentage of KU fans there will be.

Martin Rosenblum 3 years, 2 months ago

Frank Mason should be there. The Kings next game isn't until Sat. night. That should motivate the team regardless of the KU contingent size.

Gary McCullough 3 years, 2 months ago

AND, if Stanford fans living in the Bay Area want to see the game they can drive 2 1/2 hours, each way. Sacramento's Golden 1 Center is Stanford's version of the Sprint Center.

Tony Bandle 3 years, 2 months ago

The Arizona State loss is looking less and less like a bad deal. The Washington loss, however, does.

This last game before Xmas break has sometimes been a roadblock for the Jayhawks. Who can forget the night KU lost to St.Louis University and Ryan Robertson's younger brother.... ST.LOUIS UNIVERSITY for Christ sake!!!

If KU plays it's game, pressures the young guards and goes through Dok, we're talking a 15 point win and a 10-2 non-com record. Probably, with the short bench, about what could be expected.

PS Let's hear it for Wofford beating Uncle Roy, making my point that the Xmas break game is dangerous for everybody!

Joe Joseph 3 years, 2 months ago

I won't be surprised if this is a tough game, either! Tough to travel a long ways and play when you know you have a big break coming up!

Marcia Parsons 3 years, 2 months ago

It's going to be hard to play through Dok. He will be surrounded by height the whole game.

Craig Carson 3 years, 2 months ago

Stanfords size scares me a little bit..3 guys 6'8 and up and all KU can throw at them is 7'0, 6'5 and 6'8

Joe Baker 3 years, 2 months ago

Cunliffe brings...6'6 or 6'7 ish and plays a bit taller. Plus he has some quick feet too. If nothing, we can use his defense, and his O will be an extra bonus.

Robert Brock 3 years, 2 months ago

Reid Travis will score 45 points. Hopefully, the Jayhawks can overcome that.

Kent Richardson 3 years, 2 months ago

Would you like a some zone with your order, sir?

Barry Weiss 3 years, 2 months ago

Nice to see this pac-12 swing this season. Who knows how long the b-12 will last when conference alignment fires up again in the future. Living in the desert southwest I would like to see Kansas get into a mega west coast conference.

Kent Richardson 3 years, 2 months ago

I still think the stumbling block is the state of Kansas allows groups that meet on campus to exclude LGBTQ from meetings for religious beliefs. California has a law that prohibits state funded schools to play at schools who have this exclusion right.

california-state-funded-universities-banned-from-traveling-to-kansas-a..

Mike Hart 3 years, 2 months ago

Kent, yes, I'm sure that is the only thing keeping midwest-based Kansas from joining a West Coast conference.... smh

Bryce Landon 3 years, 2 months ago

Nothing wrong with that. Californians can go sit on a tack.

Marcia Parsons 3 years, 2 months ago

Not me. I don't want all of our away games beginning at 10:00.

DiscGolfer Jason 3 years, 2 months ago

Haase is going old school lineup. 2 guards, 2 power forwards and a center. Still like that lineup best.

Rob Byrd 3 years, 2 months ago

Really wishing we had a bulldog driving the lane like a Frank Mason OR...Trae Young! That kid is tearing it up. Could you imagine having Young and Devonte' out there together, Malik could go to the bench and Young could dish out 15 assists a game.

Humpy Helsel 3 years, 2 months ago

I think Sam the Man and Mitch get lots of minutes tonight. We don't have anyone who can match up with Travis Reid other than the two of them. The closest we have are Mitch and Sam with their 10 fouls to give between them. If Udunka can have a strong game that makes Reid play some defense and he picks up some fouls. Our drives, unlike last year where Frank went into the paint looking for contact, is made up this year of guys who drive in looking for space to avoid contact. If Malik could develop that skill, looking for contact when he goes into the paint drawing fouls, his stock would go up dramatically now an on the next level.

Joe Baker 3 years, 2 months ago

Agreed Hump...Mitch needs a really solid breakout game and this game would be the perfect game.

Douglas L. Boehr 3 years, 2 months ago

My son Sam will be at that the game! A very vocal KU alum. His girlfriend has to root for KU or not show up. So, beware Stanford the the "eyes of the 'Hawks are upon you".

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