Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Tonight at San Diego, Jayhawks hope to avoid another nightmare before Christmas

Kansas players leave the court after the Jayhawk's 77-52 loss to the Temple Owls Monday at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA. In the foreground from center are Cliff Alexander (2) Kelly Oubre, Jr. (12) and Jamari Traylor (31).

Kansas players leave the court after the Jayhawk's 77-52 loss to the Temple Owls Monday at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA. In the foreground from center are Cliff Alexander (2) Kelly Oubre, Jr. (12) and Jamari Traylor (31).


— On the third day before Christmas last season, Kansas University’s basketball team suffered a 77-52 setback to Temple in Philadelphia.

For the KU players and coaches, it left a taste as sour as rotten eggnog and was as depressing as receiving a lump of coal in one’s stocking.

“Temple was close to wrecking Christmas,” KU coach Bill Self said of KU’s second-worst loss in the 13-year Self era, tying a 25-pointer to Texas in 2006.

“That’d be coming a little too strong,” noted the coach, who won’t let one hoops game ruin such a holiday. “We haven’t historically played a great game before break.”

The Jayhawks (9-1)— who will meet San Diego State (7-5) at 10 p.m. Central time today in 12,414-seat Viejas Arena — also lost a pre-holiday-break game at Arizona, 84-67, during the 2008-09 season.

“We played at USC one year and were awful, just trying to get home before Christmas, but we won,” Self said of a 63-47 win over the Trojans in 2011-12.

KU also won at Ohio State, 74-66, before break in 2012-13 and at Cal-Berkeley, 78-63, in 2010-11. In 2003-04, KU beat UC Santa Barbara and lost to Nevada in a four-team holiday tourney in Reno.

“I think the guys will have a different approach. It won’t guarantee anything, but I think we’ll have a chance to play well,” Self said.

KU does have a reason to get extra fired-up for an Aztec team that is coming off a 52-45 home loss to Grand Canyon University on Friday. San Diego State came to Lawrence and defeated the Jayhawks, 61-57, on Jan. 5, 2014.

The Aztecs ended KU’s 68-game home nonconference win streak.

“We lost, plain and simple,” said KU junior forward Wayne Selden Jr., who scored six points that day off 2-of-8 shooting. Perry Ellis was 1-of-8 from the field for four points, while Jamari Traylor had three rebounds and two points. Frank Mason III hit four of eight shots (2-for-3 from three) en route to 14 points.

“We’re excited for this game. We know what we have to do this year. It’s a new team, new year. We’re not dwelling on the past. We know what happened. We know what we want to do now,” Selden added.

KU’s Ellis said, “yes definitely,” when asked if the Jayhawks can use what happened the last time as motivation. “We just want to leave, and be able to go home (for Christmas) and be happy. You don’t want to have that little break and be upset with ourselves. We need to go compete at a high level,” Ellis said.

San Diego State has also lost to Utah (81-76), Arkansas-Little Rock (49-43), West Virginia (72-50) and San Diego (53-48). The Aztecs have beaten Illinois State (71-60), San Diego Christian (71-61), East Carolina (79-54), California (72-58), Long Beach State (76-72), Biola (73-53) and Nicholls (84-47).

It should be noted four of the Aztecs’ defeats easily could have been victories. S.D. State trailed Utah by two with :27 left, was tied with Little Rock with 1:44 left, was down one to San Diego with 1:16 left and up two on Grand Canyon with 2:59 remaining.

“They are terrific defensively. They labor to score. They labored to score two years ago when they beat us,” Self said of a team that averages 65.7 points and allows 59.3 with a defensive-field-goal percentage of 35.5, sixth-best mark in the country.

“They lost to Grand Canyon. I don’t understand that one, but they can really guard,” Self added.

Freshman guard Jeremy Hensley averages a team-leading 13.4 ppg. SDSU’s next four scorers average between 8.8 and 7.8 points per contest. Senior forward Winston Shepard is at 8.8 ppg, followed by freshman Zylan Cheatham (8.5 ppg), junior guard Dakarai Allen (8.3 ppg) and sophomore guard Trey Kell (7.8 ppg). Cheatham leads the team with a 6.2-rebound average, while Allen has 11 blocked shots and a team-high 11 steals. Kell has made a team-best 15 three-pointers, which is just ahead of Hemsley and Allen’s 13 each.

“Their defense was so good two years ago,” Self said. “They bothered us immensely with their post traps. We struggled scoring the ball the whole game. They are one of the best defensive teams we’ll play all year.”

KU averages 90 points a game while allowing 68.3.

“I told our guys we need this. We need to go somewhere that is not a neutral site,” Self said. “I don’t know the exact details. I was told it’s one of the hottest tickets in the history of the program. It will be good for us to be tested in an environment like that.”

S.D. State coach Steve Fisher on KU: “You can say they’re the No. 1 team in the country, and most people who watch and have seen them would not bat an eye,” Fisher told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “They’re that good … good enough to win the national championship.

“I would say they’re unselfish, but I would also say they’re quick to shoot the open shot and they make it,” Fisher added. “They make shots, so it helps with assists. If you throw me the ball and I miss a wide-open look, there’s no assist. If it goes in, it’s an assist. They make a lot of them.”

This, that: Fisher is 346-190 in his 17th season at SDSU and 530-272 in his 25th season overall. Fisher and Self are two of 11 active head coaches to win an NCAA title — Fisher while at Michigan in 1989 and Self at Kansas in 2008. ... S.D. State is preseason pick to win the Mountain West Conference. ... The Aztecs lead the all-time series, 2-1. SDSU beat KU, 81-69, on Dec. 23, 1979 in San Diego. The following season, KU defeated SDSU, 79-66, in Allen Fieldhouse ... Kansas is 25-8 against current membership of the Mountain West Conference.


Rodney Crain 6 years, 11 months ago

Hoping for a Christmas Miracle - getting a commitment from a top recruit!

Kent Richardson 6 years, 11 months ago

Rodney, here's to hoping your stocking gets stuffed.

Gerry Butler 6 years, 11 months ago

well I read yesterday I thin that Thon Maker is getting closer to deciding and the read, the feel I get it might just be KU or INDIANA. not quite sure how I feel about that. I', not sure about his approach to college or maybe its his guardian, heard maybe some grade issues, but I am not for sure, just don't really want another Diallo scenario

Rodney Crain 6 years, 11 months ago

I have never been a fan of Thon Maker. He is outside in player, and he might have some serious baggage coming with him. Even though we have not had a positive recruiting year so far, I would not be concerned if he passes on KU.

Joe Ross 6 years, 11 months ago

Thon Maker's situation will NOT be a repeat--I repeat--NOT be a repeat of the Diallo situation.

Whether Maker is suited to Kansas is another matter entirely.

Marius Rowlanski 6 years, 11 months ago

I would be more thrilled if we signed Jarrett Allen. I'm not nearly as sure as I was about Bragg or Diallo leaving after this year. I think Bragg will definitely returned for a second year.

Armen Kurdian 6 years, 11 months ago

This is going to be a very hard game for these guys due to the travel, time change, and playing away from home before Christmas, and coming off a game three days ago. Don't be surprised if the energy level from the team is low tonight...and SDSU is really going to be up. I'm on the East Coast, probably can't stay up to watch...too sleep deprived.

Kent Richardson 6 years, 11 months ago

If Bill has any control over this team we should get hard on it and not let up. Fisher got his revenge for a perceived recruiting slight and Self has a long memory.

We might see a broken watch, again, if we are sloppy.

Two rim protectors for Perry to deal with. He knows his history, they know his history and so does the media and our upcoming opponents. Good time to make liars out of us Perry. 1-8 last time has to hurt doesn't it? We love you man please return the favor.

Damian Glaze 6 years, 11 months ago

I don't think the time zone should be an issue for this team. They have traveled and played in Korea and Maui over the last five months. I won't let them lean on that excuse. This team will play defense aggressively like a West Virginia or a Michigan State. That will be what trips them up if anything.

Mike Riches 6 years, 11 months ago

I think the sting from the last two years (SDSU beating us in Allen and the Temple game) will help make sure we come out firing on all cylinders. It's a late game against a decent opponent in a place that has one of the best student sections in all of college basketball. I think we win a close one tonight.

Jared Reeves 6 years, 11 months ago

First true road game of the year always seems to be difficult--no matter the opponent. Let's hope our desire for payback motivates us enough.

Also, it looks like we may struggle scoring in the paint again. Hopefully we can adjust if necessary.

Jay Scott 6 years, 11 months ago

When you say "Also, it looks like we may struggle scoring in the paint again. Hopefully we can adjust if necessary.", is that based on the success of SDSU against good teams in the paint, which there isn't any? Is it based on the 60% shooting by Kansas bigs? Is it based on the fact that SDSU is smaller than Kansas in the front court, which they are? What is this based on?

Jared Reeves 6 years, 11 months ago

Jay, I am responding as a last chance for things to be civil between us. I appreciate that you asked for my reasoning/evidence rather than engaging in personal attacks.

In short, my reason for predicting that we might struggle in the paint is (1) the Aztecs defense, which is one of the best in the nation, and is holding opponents to 35.5% on field goals. (2) Perry Ellis was 1 for 8 last time we played them, and the Aztecs have some of the same interior players (3) KU seems to struggle scoring in the paint over length/shot blockers, which is well documented.

If we continue on this path, I don't see why we can't get along and/or agree to disagree civilly.

Jay Scott 6 years, 11 months ago

Let's look at those replies. 1) The Aztecs with a few exceptions have played a JV schedule and still have 5 losses. Their only vaguely credible win is vs Cal, who have been a disappointment. 2) about 140 minutes of the Jan. 2014 game were played by players not dressing tonite. 3) "Seems" and "well documented" are two different things. Ellis had a bad night against a huge and experienced Vandy front court. That's the only blip. SDSU are smaller than KU in the post.

It is the first true road game and it will be a zoo.

Jared Reeves 6 years, 11 months ago


(1) Even if it is true that the Aztecs have lost to bad teams and haven’t beaten good teams, doesn’t mean they can’t play good defense in the paint. I did not claim KU would lose. (2) The fact that this year’s KU team is different than in 2014 doesn’t mean KU won’t struggle to score in the paint. (3) Even if it is true that Ellis only had one blip this year, doesn’t mean Ellis hasn’t struggled more throughout his career and that his struggles are well documented. Also, if it helps to clarify, I will retract the word “seems” from my previous statement. SDSU is slightly smaller than KU in the post, but it has shot blockers.

Jay Scott 6 years, 11 months ago IS possible that a team with no history of good defense against good teams COULD play good defense. Yes., they COULD.

It IS possible that a team whose bigs are shooting collectively over 60% COULD struggle to score in the paint against a smaller unproven team. Yes, they COULD.

It IS possible that Perry Ellis, a 14 pt, 55% shooter in the paint COULD be hampered by an smaller unproven lineup. Yes, it COULD happen.

It's also possible that you'll win the lotto. Get a ticket!

Jared Reeves 6 years, 11 months ago


(1) You have not proven that SDSU has no history of good defense against good teams. Your evidence was simply that they lost several games. A team can play good defense and lose. Kenpom has SDSU’s defense ranked 7th in the country.

(2) Overall shooting percentage of our bigs is not the best indicator in how the team (or Ellis in particular) will score in the paint against a specific team. It is one indicator. But as I indicated, against taller/shot blocking teams, KU (especially Ellis) struggles on the inside.

(3) Ellis shooting 55% overall is only one indicator of how he will perform against a specific team. Again, he was 1 for 8 the last time we played SDSU, and they have some of the same interior players. Also, your claim that SDSU is unproven is not entirely accurate—They have a 6-10 forward, who last time he played KU got 13 points and 9 rebounds; and he blocks a ton of shots. Seems like the type of player Ellis might struggle against in the paint. Hopefully Ellis can take him away from the basket, where Ellis seems to have more success.

I think KU will win, and I hope we can still score in the paint. As you have indicated, there is evidence that may happen, but there is always evidence that points the other way.

Rodney Crain 6 years, 11 months ago

Jared and Jay you are making me look calm and reasonable on here and that takes quite alot to do.

At least you have stopped calling each other names, so I am going take that as a positive step in the right direction. One step at a time is all you can hope for.

Tom Jones 6 years, 11 months ago

"Jared and Jay you are making me look calm and reasonable on here and that takes quite alot to do."

OK, I audibly chuckled at that.

Kent Richardson 6 years, 11 months ago

It is freaking the rest of us too, Rodney.

Marius Rowlanski 6 years, 11 months ago

I'm not sure if we are struggling to score in the paint or if we are just having so much success from shooting outside. When Bragg or Lucas are in the game, they both try to feed the ball down low... At least more so than the other bigs.

Bryce Landon 6 years, 11 months ago

I try not to remember what happened in January 2014 when the Aztecs came in. The final score was closer than the game; at one point, KU was down 11 to these guys. It was a total embarrassment and one of the most poorly played KU home games of all time. Revenge would taste so sweet going into Christmas.

Tom Jones 6 years, 11 months ago

SDSU was the better team for most of that year and KU had an almost total roster turnover from the year before, so no, not "embarrassing". Maybe you didn't follow college basketball then?

It's always strange to see KU lose at home, but that was a tough loss to a very good team that was one of the top defensive teams in the nation.

Brett McCabe 6 years, 11 months ago

Would have never thought that we'd have a losing record to San Diego State in basketball. As Ann Wilson said, it's time to even it up.

Barry Weiss 6 years, 11 months ago

This could be the game for Diallo to come in and help out.

Mick Allen 6 years, 11 months ago

The loss to SDS here was a bitter pill to swallow, but as Jay said yesterday, that was a SDS team that was very close to going to the Final Four. SDS's defensive effort was as strong as any we've faced, along with that of MSU, in the recent past. They totally dominated us inside. Perry had more shots blocked than he had points. SDS's play was the primary reason we played poorly. This year is different in that because of our current personnel we are not as reliant on the high-low as we were 2 years ago, and we have placed an obvious emphasis on our perimeter game and pushing the ball in transition to get easy baskets. However to play the pace most conducive to our having success we still must get the ball off the defensive board and create turnovers with our pressure defense and occasional 3/4 court trap to create run outs. Graham and Mason have been effective with their on ball pressure defense. Unless Diallo becomes an inside offensive presence, I am confident that Coach will have to continue to push the pace of play. When you have more athletes, you want more possessions.

Jay Scott 6 years, 11 months ago

Naadir Tharpe was the starting PG vs SDSU two years ago. He was 2-10 with 5 pts and 4 fouls. Freshman Frank Mason came off the bench to score 14 in 25 minutes.

Junior Frank Mason will start tonite. BIG difference.

Bryce Landon 6 years, 11 months ago

Losing clearly did not bother Tharpe, as he was partying with half-naked women after losing to Stanford in the Round of 32 that year. Glad he's gone.

Rob Bedford III 6 years, 11 months ago

The women were only half naked in the leaked photo. I'm sure he partied with them completely naked.

Kent Richardson 6 years, 11 months ago

Naked women gets the most thumbs up award. Lol

Robert Brock 6 years, 11 months ago

KU will win this game if the Hawks can:

  1. Show that they can play a true road game

  2. Play tough in the paint (are you listening, Perry?)

  3. Get their half-court game in order (fast break points will be hard to come by)

  4. Find a short rotation that works in a nasty, tough game (Cheick please!)

Prediction - KU 58, SDSU 56

Joe Joseph 6 years, 11 months ago

Sand Diego State is not a good team this year. If Kansas loses it will be due to its own lack of energy and focus, which will understandably be challenging to maintain given the looming holiday break.

Rodney Crain 6 years, 11 months ago

This one scares me still, long trip, first true away game, right before the holiday, Temple is still fresh in my mind. It will be a lack of focus considering their roster and ours if we lose. At least we know we can have a big second half if we need it. Agree Joe with your points.

Chad Smith 6 years, 11 months ago

Please everyone stop comparing SDSU to their 2013-2014 team. They were 31-5 that season won the mountain west, went 16-2 in conference play and were ranked in the top 15 for most of the season going as high as #5 in the country. They lost to arizona in a close game in the regular season 69-60 and then in the Sweet 16 where Arizona was the #1 seed in the west, 70-64. They have already equaled their entire loss total for that season this season before January. They had great interior players as well as a great guard in Xavier Thames. They still have some great players and it will definitely be a test for us, but if we play defense and shoot decently, we should be able to win.

Rodney Crain 6 years, 11 months ago

Chad I am concerned about how KU plays not SDSU.

Josh Galler 6 years, 11 months ago

Ok I do not have cbs sports network and I am not going to a sports bar late. Can I watch the game on the CBS Sports App?

Kent Richardson 6 years, 11 months ago

You can stream live Video of CBS Sports programming on your smart phone or tablet. Hi def content eats up a lot of data so WI-fi is best for sure. Turn off your cellular data in case WI-fi is lost because the transition from cellular to WI-fi is seamless and if you are not checking the icons you may miss it. That way if you lose the stream you will know your Wifi is down. The connection does not automatically reconnect. Unless you have an Apple product that is in charging mode and your device enters sleep mode you will likely lose your WI-fi connection also.

Joe Ross 6 years, 11 months ago

I expect Kansas to win tonight, and SDSU shouldn't present too much difficulty tonight for the Hawks.

My ongoing concern with this team is that they underachieve, and it appears that the whole is in fact the sum of its parts.

My sense is that guys are playing under their potential. Perry, Wayne and Frank probably play closest to their potential night in, night out. Probably upwards of 75%. Brannen is a consistent spark plug offensively but there is a large gap between his level of play and his ceiling on defense, and mentally he seems to check out from time to time. Then comes a parade of players who are playing so far below what they could that it becomes difficult for me to imagine them in a national championship game (or a Final Four for that matter) unless and until we start seeing guys playing well individually, playing well as a team, doing it consistently, and against more than the likes of Montana. The game against Vanderbilt was a good example of how Kansas can play. But right now, we've got Traylor, Lucas, Mickelson, Diallo, and Svi all on the blink. Danny had a supporting cast dubbed "The Miracles". In 08, there was no clear leader but everyone supported everyone else. "Leadership by committee", as it were. But this team lacks both consistent leadership AND support, and Im half-serious in suggesting that Coach Self should hire a hypnotist/motivational speaker/life coach to their staff to get inside these guys' heads.

Since the overachieving team led by Thomas Robinson in 12, guys simply arent playing up to their ceiling. Wiggins was great but could have been better. Oubre was slow out of the gate as was Alexander. Diallo seems slow. Please dont give me the OAD/freshman argument. Look at Ben Simmons. Julius Randle. Jahlil Okafor. Tyus Jones. Tyreke Evans. Derrick Rose. Michael Beasley. Kevin Durant. And on and on and on. So that argument is OUT! Furthermore, there are guys that have been in the system forever who still dont seem to have mental toughness under the belt (Traylor in particular). Teaching the Xs and Os may be 95% of a coach's effort, but that other 5% (that is to say coaching a mentality) makes everything else come together and covers over a multitude of sins.

Some will argue against me based on stats. And that's okay. But stats didn't lose to Wichita State or Stanford or Michigan or any number of tournament teams Kansas has been favored to win against. Some will argue that many on this group of guys is responsible for helping to carry the conference win streak forward. Im sorry, but at Kansas the goal should be consistent success at the national level.

Joe Ross 6 years, 11 months ago

I think Coach Self teaches confidence by default. With experience in the game, and the game "coming to them", their confidence grows. This is certainly true. But there is nothing wrong with a kid going out and establishing himself by putting his moxie forward first, and playing through the mistakes he makes in the meantime. Some damn assertiveness and aggression!

You could certainly tell the difference last year. An aggressive guy is a rim rocker, not the kind that misses dink and dunk 2-foot bunnies by throwing it up softly. Hopefully the unlimited practice over winter break will nail some things down, because this team has the potential to be much better than they are AND the potential to add a national championship banner in Allen.

Tom Jones 6 years, 11 months ago

I think it's just too early. Coach is still figuring out the rotation and guys (Diallo, Svi and Bragg, espeically) are figuring out their roles.

I have very little doubt that this team will come together and make a run, even if The Streak happens to end (which I don't expect but the league's gonna be a meat grinder). The key is getting Diallo comfortable. Hunter, Jamari and Landen can be capable backups but they are not starters on a Final Four team.

I do agree with your point on lack of aggression the past few years with super young teams but I like the aggressiveness our guys are showing on offense this year. I just hope they crank it up on defense.

Joe Ross 6 years, 11 months ago

I think it's too early to tell about this team too, but even in saying that we make an admission. This is a veteran team who now has years of experience, who had the added advantage of playing this summer. The fact that its "too early to tell" means one or a more of a number of things. 1. There is no leadership from upperclassmen, 2. the summer experience has not carried over, and/or 3. these guys just dont have the right mentality given their level of experience.

Rodney Crain 6 years, 11 months ago

I think your assessment is spot on Joe. Considering the experience on the team, at times, that perceived strength just does not show up. Self has it figured out, if we play aggressively we are a tough team to beat. If he can find 5 or more players on the team that want to play that way, that is who is going to play. I loved it when he shortened the bench against Or. State in the second half. Sure showed results after a sluggish opening half.

Kent Richardson 6 years, 11 months ago

We have cited the winter break as the difference maker every year. It helps but doesn't address the hindrances you are so clearly and completely writing about. It's about the effort and give a s***. Will vs Skill.

That being said this team could be something special if the will is there.

Damian Glaze 6 years, 11 months ago

Regarding tickets, I think ticket brokers got hold of the tickets early for this one. I tried to get tickets for the last month and they were always hovering around $350 for the farthest top section. I looked over the weekend they were down to $185 for the same seats. The crowd will still be mostly SDSU, but I think there will be a decent Jayhawk presence. I also think there will be approximately 1000 or more empty seats even though the game is sold out. If I had made the trek out there from Phoenix I would expect to pick up a ticket from a scalper at about $125 before tipoff.

Marius Rowlanski 6 years, 11 months ago

Losing tonight will not ruin Christmas but it sure in hell won't make it any better.

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