News, notes and quotes on No. 2 Kansas' battle against Iona tonight at 7 p.m. in Allen Fieldhouse, while being extra hyped for the game since this reporter was born two minutes away from Iona College in New Rochelle, N.Y., home of the old and popular Dick Van Dyke TV show, which starred Van Dyke as Rob Petrie and Mary Tyler Moore as his wife, Laura.
The sitcom, which initially aired on CBS from 1961 to 1966, won 15 Emmy Awards.
Founded in 1940, Iona College is a private Catholic liberal arts college of approximately 3,800 undergraduate and graduate students. The college is located 20 minutes northwest of Midtown Manhattan.
Iona returns six letterwinners, including three starters from last season's 20-14 team which tied for fourth in the MAAC at 11-7.
The Gaels (1-1) lost their first game at Cleveland State (73-69) on Nov. 9 despite leading 44-29 at halftime before beating Wofford (76-55) at home on Nov. 16. Iona shot 68.0 percent from the field versus Wofford, including 62.5 percent from beyond the arc.
Six-foot-five senior guard Sean Armand leads the team in scoring at 18.5 points per game while tied for team lead with five assists and three steals. Six-foot-nine junior forward David Laury averages 17.0 points and a team-high 8.5 rebounds per game. Six-foot-seven sophomore guard Isaiah Williams is the third player in double figures averaging 13.5 points while second on the team with 6.0 rebounds per game.
Iona, under head coach Tim Cluess (68-35 in his fourth season with the Gaels and 169-58 in his eighth season overall), has won 20 or more games in each of the last four seasons.
It will be a long shot for Iona to knock off the Jayhawks; Kansas has won 64-straight games in Allen Fieldhouse against nonconference foes. Still, KU coach Bill Self expects a good test from the Gaels, who start a four-guard lineup.
"We haven't gone against zone yet for the most part," Self said. "I think Louisiana at Monroe played a few possessions of 1-3-1 (in the season opener on Nov. 8) so this will be the first time we played against a team that played predominantly zone. They'll mix it up. They'll play 1-3-1 and 3-2 and kind of a 2-3 matchup, and they play faster than anybody we've played so far. They play faster than Duke as far as wanting to shoot it quick. They're small so we'll be having bigs guard on the perimeter. Obviously, they can score the ball and they definitely pose a threat from a scoring standpoint. Whether or not we're able to handle their zone and attack it without thinking is something that will be very important."KU-IONA SERIES KU leads the overall series with Iona, 2-1, with the last meeting coming at the 1988 BMA Holiday Classic at Kemper Arena, an 86-62 Jayhawk victory. In 1980 and 1981, the schools played a home-and-home series with Iona winning the first meeting, 81-77, in New York on Feb. 7, 1980. Kansas beat the Gaels the next season, 94-64, in the Phog.
JAYHAWKS TAKE FLIGHT
KU (2-0) jumped from No. 5 to No. 2 in the latest AP Poll after its 94-83 victory over Duke at the Champions Classic in Chicago, Ill., on Nov. 12. Kansas received seven first place votes. Michigan State is the new No. 1 team after beating Kentucky in the Champions Classic. This is MSU's first time at No. 1 in the AP Poll in 13 years.
"I like it," Self said of KU's' No. 2 ranking. "You might as well be able to learn how to operate under a little duress or stress that's either self-imposed or from outside influence. That'll prepare you for later on down the road, so that doesn't bother me at all."
Freshman center Joel Embiid wasn't aware of KU's rise in the polls when interviewed at 3 p.m. on Monday. He wasn't ready to celebrate.
"I think it's good for the program, but it doesn't mean anything," Embiid said.
LET'S ‘D' UP
Self liked how KU competed in the national spotlight against Duke, but wasn't been pleased with his team's defense. Duke shot 51.7 percent from the field, including 55.6 percent in the first half.
"If teams are going to shoot 50 percent against us, we've got no chance," Self said. "There's so many things that we've got to do to improve, and I think we will. We've been fortunate, we've been exposed, but we've also won. And that's probably the best combination you can actually have."
Self talked specifically where his team needs to grow defensively.
"If you can guard the ball, that eliminates a lot of rotation type situations, because if you can't guard the ball you force help all the time," Self said. "I would really like to be able to guard the ball better, and obviously our interior post defense was lacking against Louisiana at Monroe," Self said. It wasn't that bad against Duke because Duke didn't throw the ball inside as much. They drove it, their big guys drove it. We've got to get better in that area. I think just as a whole and a mindset of not relaxing during possessions I think will be something that we certainly need to improve."
Junior point guard Naadir Tharpe commented how KU needs to improve defensively against Iona.
"Just more helping the helper out and just being a strong help because a lot of times in the games you watch against Duke and then previous games, a lot of guys just driving right underneath each other so we got to make sure we stay in stronger help," Tharpe said.
IONA'S KU TIES
Iona College President Dr. Joseph E. Nyre is a Kansas graduate. Dr. Nyre received both an Ed.S and Ph.D. from the University of Kansas before completing post-doctoral fellowships at both KU and Harvard Medical School. He has been at Iona since 2011 and is the college's first lay president.
Jeff Ruland was a basketball legend at Iona from 1977-80 who still ranks in the top-5 in program history in points, rebounds and field goal percentage. A bruising 6-10 center, Ruland played for coach Jim Valvano. Ruland starred on the 1979-80 Gaels' team which beat eventual national champion Louisville, 77-60, at Madison Square Garden during the regular season. Iona posted a 29-5 record that dream season and was ranked as high as No. 19, the best in school history.
Ruland, a second-round draft pick, played in the NBA for parts of eight seasons. Injuries prevented him from achieving true greatness, although he was a two-time All-Star who averaged 17.4 points and 10.2 rebounds during his career.
Ruland, who was nicknamed "McNasty" by Boston Celtics legendary announcer Johnny Most, later served as head coach at Iona and the District of Columbia, where he was fired from the Firebirds in 2013.