In KU's case after its 67-64 setback to Michigan State in Atlanta on Nov. 13, the Jayhawks have definitely got better and made progress in their last three victories over Chattanooga and then Washington State and Saint Louis at Sprint Center in Kansas City at the CBE Hall of Fame Classic on Nov. 19 and 20.
The No. 12 Jayhawks (4-1) look to keep up the momentum when they host
San Jose State (2-2) tonight at 8 p.m. in Allen Fieldhouse on ESPNU.
KU coach Bill Self was quite pleased with how his team played in
beating the Cougars (78-41) and Billikens (73-59) in Kansas City. The
Jayhawks performed with high energy and held Washington State to just
29.8 percent shooting while limiting SLU to 34.6 percent marksmanship.
"I think we got better," Self said. "I don't think there's any question
about it. There were a lot of good things that happened. We got better
over here. That was a big key."
Travis Releford and Jeff Withey certainly got better in Kansas City.
They both came up huge in the championship game against the Billikens
as Releford scored 23 points, including 21 in the first half, while
Withey dominated inside with 25 points, five rebounds and seven blocks.
Releford and Withey, along with Ben McLemore, made the all-tournament
Releford, who had previously struggled with his shot before the games
in Kansas City, averaged 20 points in the two contests at Sprint Center
and was named the Classic's Most Valuable Player. He shot 7 of 13 from
the field, 4 of 7 from three-point range and made 5 of 6 free throws in
the title game.
"He was unbelievable the first half," Self said. "It was good for him
to kind of get the lid off the basket so to speak."
The Jayhawks now face a San Jose State team which returns three
starters from last season's team that went 9-22 and 1-13 in the Western
Athletic Conference. The Spartans are coming off two victories over UC
Santa Cruz (94-54) on Nov. 20 and Weber State (68-67 in OT) on Nov. 15
after previously falling at New Orleans (72-68) on Nov. 9 and Houston
(77-75) on Nov. 13.
SJSU is led by senior guard James Kinney, who is averaging 21.0 points
with 6.5 rebounds per game. He also has a team-high 11 steals.
Sophomore guard Nick Grieves played in his first game of the season
against UC Santa Cruz and had 18 points in 11 minutes. Junior forward
Chris Cunningham averages 12.0 points and a team-high 9.0 rebounds per
game, while sophomore guard D.J. Brown is also averaging 12.0 points
The Spartans are averaging 76.2 points and allowing 67.5 points per
game while outrebounding foes 39.5 to 34.2. They also average 8.5
steals and 6.3 three-pointers per game.
While San Jose State looks to be improved from last season, the
Jayhawks know they just have to focus on themselves and getting better
each practice and game.
One player Self hopes gets untracked against the Spartans is Elijah Johnson. He's averaging 10.2 points and a team-high 4.0 assists per
game, but shot just 41.3 percent from the field. Self wants to see the
senior leader be in attack mode as he undergoes the transition to
primary point guard this year.
"I don't think he's quite got it to the point where he knows he can be
more aggressive," Self said. "In the past when he's been aggressive,
he's been aggressive to try to score. Now, I don't think he really
understands that him forcing help on the first side gets the guy a
better shot on the second or third side. He's kind of too stationary
for me, but I think he's doing fine. He just hasn't made shots yet. The
lid will come off for him. ... I don't think he's really got into a
Up Next: San Jose St.
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