Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Big challenge: KU wary of Hoyas’ massive center

Joshua Smith waits for his next interview during Georgetown University basketball media day on Oct. 23 in Washington. Smith, a 6-foot-10, 350-pounder, and the Hoyas will host Kansas University Wednesday at Verizon Center.

Joshua Smith waits for his next interview during Georgetown University basketball media day on Oct. 23 in Washington. Smith, a 6-foot-10, 350-pounder, and the Hoyas will host Kansas University Wednesday at Verizon Center.


Kansas University’s basketball team, like just about every squad in America, is at a size disadvantage when going against Georgetown and the Hoyas’ imposing center, Joshua Smith.

“It’ll be like a lunar eclipse if Josh is standing a certain way and Cliff is behind him. There’s a chance you will not see Cliff,” KU coach Bill Self said, jokingly, of 6-foot-8, 240-pound Cliff Alexander guarding 6-10, 350-pound man-mountain Smith during today’s 6 p.m. battle between the No. 10-ranked Jayhawks (6-1) and unranked Hoyas (5-2) in Verizon Center.

“I don’t think you can prepare for Josh. He’s huge. He’s got great feet. He’s got soft hands. He’s a good passer. He moves so well,” Self added of Smith, who averages 12.7 points off amazing 66.7 percent shooting and 6.9 boards in his senior season at Georgetown.

The Jayhawks are quite familiar with Smith, who chose Georgetown over KU as his transfer destination after two seasons at UCLA.

This will be KU’s fourth meeting against the McDonald’s All-American.

As a freshman, Smith scored 17 points and grabbed 13 rebounds while playing 28 minutes and fouling just twice in UCLA’s 77-76 loss to KU on Dec. 2, 2010, in Allen Fieldhouse.

As a sophomore, Smith had one point, one rebound and fouled out after playing 13 minutes in the Bruins’ 72-56 loss to KU on Nov. 22, 2011, in Maui.

Last year, Smith had five points and no boards and fouled out of KU’s 86-64 win over the Hoyas in Allen Fieldhouse.

“To me, he looks like he’s in very good shape. They’re playing through him more. His production per minute is off the charts,” Self said of the pivot who was called The Washington Monument, Round Mound of Georgetown, Joshua Tree, Transfer from UCLWeigh, Capitol Rotunda, SmithZONEian, Big Smooth and Freight Train by Hoyas fans who created possible nicknames for Kent, Washington, native Smith in an unofficial Twitter/Facebook discussion in November of 2013.

“We’re going to have to limit his good touches and allow him not to get to his spot on the block quite as easily,” Self added.

Smith, 6-9, 239-pound senior Mikael Hopkins and 6-3 Big East preseason player of the year D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (14.4 ppg) provide an effective inside/out combination for the Hoyas, who defeated Florida (66-65, OT) and lost to No. 5 Wisconsin (68-65) in the Battle4Atlantis in the Bahamas. KU also beat Florida, 71-65, Friday in Allen Fieldhouse.

“He (Smith) is a big dude. We really have to front him and do things like that,” said Perry Ellis, KU’s leading scorer and top rebounder at 14.6 points and 6.7 boards a game. “He has a big body and is strong. They are a real aggressive team. We’ll definitely have to compete.”

KU will be without inside depth, as 6-8, 220-pound junior Jamari Traylor has been suspended a game following his weekend arrest.

“We all support him. At the same time, somebody else will have to step up,” Ellis said. “I feel we have the pieces to do that. We just have to make sure we do step up.”

Landen Lucas, a 6-10, 240 sophomore who Self said would again start with Frank Mason III, Wayne Selden Jr., Ellis and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, likely will open on Smith, with Alexander getting plenty of minutes trying to stop the immovable force.

“Cliff embraces contact, there’s no question about that. When he and Josh are guarding each other, there will be some banging going on in that regard,” Self said. “I think Cliff has done a really good job. I didn’t think he was very good the first half at all against Florida, but he was tuned in the second half (as KU erased 18-point deficit). I thought he played great, played with energy, those things. He and Landen without question are our most physical guys.”

Smith spoke about KU to the Washington Post on Tuesday: “You can see why they’re always in the tournament. They’re always playing hard. They’re always physical. They have a great coach. They’re not going to give us anything. We have to go out and take it.”

Mason update: KU’s Mason, who sprained his ankle against Florida on Friday, practiced Tuesday and will play tonight, Self said Tuesday night.

Prep rivals: Georgetown freshman Paul White, a 6-8 forward from Chicago Whitney Young, was a high school rival of KU’s Alexander, who attended Curie High.

“Throw it out the window. Different setting, different teams, different support,” Thompson said. “Obviously he’s played against Cliff quite a bit. So if you are asking if I went to Paul for Cliff’s scouting report, I might do that today once we get in there (for Tuesday practice).”

Fans studying: Georgetown coach John Thompson III, about the possibility Georgetown fans may not show up tonight in full force. This week is first-semester exams. “Let’s be honest, there are not too many places like (Allen Fieldhouse). I hope our fans come out and give us a boost.” It’s expected thousands of KU fans will attend tonight’s game.


Rodney Crain 7 years, 9 months ago

Smith will be a nice test for our team as a tune up for Texas. This should be a good game, looking forward to it.

Clarence Haynes 7 years, 9 months ago

"It's expected thousands of KU fans will attend tonight's game"....I'll be there!

Edward Daub 7 years, 9 months ago

We can also bring in Hunter Fisher Mickelson to put a sleek greyhound body on Smith.

Walter Bridges 7 years, 9 months ago

Not sure in what universe Hunter Fisher Mickelson would qualify as a 'sleek greyhound' except maybe against Josh Smith...

Nice way w/words Ed.

Clarence Haynes 7 years, 9 months ago

Hope that Smith gets in foul trouble before our BIGS do!

Mike Riches 7 years, 9 months ago

"It’s expected thousands of KU fans will attend tonight’s game."

That is one thing I love about KU...D.C., Orlando, Nassau, California, Texas, doesn't matter where, KU faithful are there. We try to get to 3-4 games a year, and living in Dallas, most of the games we get to attend are road games, and yet, there are almost always thousands of KU fans at every one of those games. That's not to mention the 16,300 that fill AFH for EVERY game. Without question, we have one of the best, if not the best, fan bases in the country. I hope our fans can make some noise tonight against a very good Georgetown team. This week is probably the toughest we'll have in non-conference. I expect our guys too be ready for the challenge!

Walter Bridges 7 years, 9 months ago

I know you also must have noticed that nearly 3/4 of the fans in the final against Michigan State in Orlando were solidly Jayhawk fans. Whenever KU plays at the Garden, there is always a large contingent of Jayhawk fans. There is also a large alumni association in NYC. I wish we would do another preseason NIT but it seems Roy liked that tournament better than our current coach . I'm not sure if I agree that this is our toughest week in non-conference games. Three games in four days at Orlando plus Rider to open the week after being trounced by Kentucky would be my pick.

Mike Riches 7 years, 9 months ago

Fair enough Walter, I just hope we lose the same number of games this week as we did two weeks ago! I agree on the Pre-Season NIT, by the way. That would be worth a trip to NYC!

Jack Wilson 7 years, 9 months ago

Game plan might be pretty simple. When we have the ball, try to get Smith away from the basket and create situations where he might pick up a cheap foul or two. Since Cliff and Perry both can hit the 15 footer, that's our best combo (as it usually always is). Also, quick double teams of Smith if he gets the ball on the block to disrupt. It's doubtful anyone will have the anchor to stop Smith from backing the ball down. Not that complicated.

Suzi Marshall 7 years, 9 months ago

I think that had been part of the game plan the past 3 times we played against Smith. Alexander has shown that shot, as has Mickleson but not so sure about Lucas. This could be Mickleson's big game break to earn some notice.

It could also be a huge game for the Mason/Graham/Selden combo to use their quickness again to get in the lane to create havoc and fouls.

John Strayer 7 years, 9 months ago

I don't understand why more team don't push tempo against Georgetown...I mean 6'10" and 350lbs have got to be a lot to carry in an up and down track meet of a game. Full court press and run every chance you get to eliminate half court possessions...

Aaron Paisley 7 years, 9 months ago

Because their defense is good enough to keep teams out of transition.

Eliott Reeder 7 years, 9 months ago

"Smith... who chose Georgetown over KU as his transfer destination after two seasons at UCLA."

Can you imagine a Hudy-ized version of Smith on our roster right now!?! Yeesh!

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