“I remember my first college game as a varsity player,” Erving once said. “I had a 27 point/28 rebound game. I wasn't a big guy, but I was able to chase rebounds down, and that set a school record in the first game."
MORE MINUTES FOR RELEFORD?
KU coach Bill Self said he’d like to find more minutes for freshman guard Travis Releford. The former Bishop Miege (Roeland Park, Kan.) star would surely love to play in front of his hometown fans in Kansas City. Releford is averaging 4.4 points and 1.6 rebounds in 7.4 minutes per game.
“His attitude has been great,” Self said. “He just wants to be out there. He’s competitive. I like that about him. I think Travis has a nice swagger and confidence about him. He also knows he’s young and he’s got to learn some things. But I think he’s going to be fine. I think he’s going to be a good player.”
This is the fifth meeting between UMass and Kansas with KU leading the overall series 3-1. The Minutemen upset No. 15 KU in the last matchup, 64-60, on Jan. 16, 1999 in Amherst, Mass. KU won the first meeting, 86-75, against No. 15 UMass in the championship of the 1993 Preseason NIT at Madison Square Garden. Kansas then defeated No. 1 UMass the next season, 81-75, on Dec. 3, 1994 in the John Wooden Classic in Anaheim, Calif.
The teams played a home and away series during the 1997-98 and 1998-99 seasons. No. 3 KU beat UMass, 73-71, at Allen Fieldhouse on Dec. 10, 1997, while UMass defeated the Jayhawks the following season.
First-year UMass head coach and Minutemen alum Derek Kellogg shined in the two games in 1993 and ‘94, making 7 of 11 three-pointers. Kellogg had 12 points and four assists in the ‘93 game at Madison Square Garden, while scoring 11 points with four assists in 1994.
KELLOGG MEETS KU AGAIN
Kellogg got a first-hand look at KU in the national championship game last April as John Calipari’s assistant at Memphis. Also on the UMass staff from last year’s Memphis Tigers’ team are aides Andy Allison and Shyrone Chatman. Calipari coached Kellogg as a player at UMass from 1991-95.
LOWE ON THE GO
UMass senior point guard Chris Lowe is one of the most underrated point guards in the country. He’s averaging 12.6 points, 6.1 assists (No. 21 in nation) and 3.1 rebounds per game, while shooting 42 percent from the field, 50 percent from beyond the arc, and 79.2 percent at the charity stripe. He scored nine points with 12 assists in the Minutemen’s victory over Holy Cross on Wednesday, his second straight game with double-digit assists.
Lowe ranks third all-time in career assists at UMass with 534, just 100 shy of the all-time record. He’s led the A-10 in assists the last three years.
“I've been slumping lately and I just got back to the basics, playing defense and getting my team involved,” Lowe said after the Holy Cross victory. “I was worried about too many things and I was too distracted the first couple of games. I just got back to myself and started being Chris Lowe, what made me a great point guard to begin with.
“I started playing defense and getting my teammates the ball. The other team was sagging in the paint, so I drove into the paint and got my teammates the ball for open jump shots. We have great shooters in Matt Glass, Ricky Harris, and Anthony Gurley, they knock down the shots.”
Lowe’s teammates say he makes the team go.
“We are a whole different team (when he plays well),” Glass said. “When he is in his comfort zone, when he is making plays, when the floor is spread we put the ball in his hands and let him go. He is one of the top point guards in the country. He gets people involved and takes over the game and he showed that (against Holy Cross).”
Senior forward Tony Gaffney also has high praise for Lowe.
“He has been phenomenal,” Gaffney said. “Obviously, there have been people who have doubted this team (2-6), especially him. You guys don't see it, but every day in practice he has been the best leader we have. He comes into practice smiling every day, trying to get guys going. He knows this is a long season. He has been a changed man and I can't say enough about him. His enthusiasm through this whole time has been great.”
GREAT START FOR GAFFNEY
Gaffney, a 6-8 senior forward, is off to a tremendous start for the Minutemen. He’s tied for third in the nation with 12.9 rebounds per game and second in blocked shots with 5.3. Gaffney, who averages 13.3 points, entered the season with career averages of 3.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game. Gaffney has flirted with a triple-double in his last two games. He had 17 points, 11 rebounds and eight blocks versus Holy Cross, while posting 15 points, 18 boards and a career-nigh nine blocks against Boston College on Dec. 6.
30 AND COUNTING
KU has won 30 consecutive home games, the fourth-longest streak in the nation and also the fourth-longest streak in school history. The UMass game is considered a home game for Kansas as it’s part of the KU season ticket package.
NO PLACE LIKE KANSAS CITY
Kansas is 28-1 in its last 29 regular-season games in Kansas City. KU’s loss to Syracuse on Nov. 25 in the CBE Classic championship game was it first regular-season loss in K.C. since falling to Ohio State, 64-61, on Jan. 2, 1983... KU went 26-4 in Kemper Arena from 1997 to 2006, including winning Big 12 Tournament titles in 1997, 1998 and ‘99.