Jayhawks Not Satisfied

The Jayhawks are one game away from reaching the Elite Eight for the fourth time in the Bill Self era and 20th time in school history.

But to advance to Sunday's game, No. 3-seeded KU (27-7, 14-2 Big) must knock off No. 2 Michigan State (28-6, 15-3 Big Ten) in the Sweet 16 Friday at approximately 8:45 p.m. (CST) at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

The game features a rematch between the two teams' battle last Jan. 10 in East Lansing, where the Spartans dominated the Jayhawks with a 75-62 victory.

Two and a half months later, KU is much improved team heading into this Sweet 16 battle. The young Jayhawks were still trying to find their way that January afternoon at the Breslin Center, and junior forward Mario Little (fouled out with no points in seven minutes) was playing in just the third game of his college career after being sidelined with injuries.

The Spartans led 37-18 at halftime and whipped KU on the boards, 42-31. Junior guard Sherron Collins led Kansas with 25 points, while sophomore guard Kalin Lucas paced MSU with 21 points. The Jayhawks shot just 40 percent from the field, although they held the Spartans to 39.3 percent shooting. MSU went 26 of 35 from the free-throw line, compared to KU's 17 of 28.

"I think we are older and I think not playing in the Breslin Center will be somewhat beneficial," KU coach Bill Self said. "We stunk offensively, we were a really bad offensive team. They just dominated us in the first half; we played hard in the second half but didn't have enough gas in the tank.

"I believe we are a little bit tougher and our supporting cast has been more consistent, although it didn't really show in Minneapolis (NCAA first two rounds last week). Overall I feel like we are a better team."

Both squads should be extremely well-prepared for this next meeting.

"Tom Izzo (MSU head coach) historically has done as good of a job with the scouting report as any coach I've ever coached against," Self said. "They were really prepared for us the first time and took away a lot of our strengths and I'm sure they will do a good job of trying to do that again. We have to figure out a way to counter that and we need to do a much better job of guarding them."

Like Kansas, Michigan State is an improved team since the January matchup. The Spartans have won eight of their last nine games and beat Robert Morris (77-62) and USC (74-69) in Minneapolis to advance to the Sweet 16.

The Spartans, who won their 11th Big Ten regular-season championship, average 72.1 points while allowing 63.1 ppg. They are a deep, balanced, and defensive minded team which lead the nation in rebound margin at +10.1 (39.1 to 29.0).

 "They are relentless on the glass," Self said. "We're plus seven for the year, something like that. But with them, you can't let balls come to you, you have to go attack the ball. You got to hit and go get as opposed to hit and wait. They're very, very good in not allowing themselves to be blocked off, keeping balls alive."

Lucas, the Big Ten Player of the Year, leads Michigan State in scoring (14.6 ppg) and assists (4.5 apg), and ranks second on the team with 34 steals. Junior forward Raymar Morgan is the other double-digit scorer at 10.7 points per game while ranking second with 5.5 rebounds. Senior center Goran Sutton is next in scoring (9.8 ppg, team-high 8.3 rpg), followed by sophomore guard Chris Allen (9.0 ppg, team-high 51 threes), sophomore guard Durrell Summers (8.3 ppg), freshman forward Delvon Roe (6.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg, team-best 26 blocks), and senior guard Travis Walton (5.3 ppg, 3.2 apg).

Senior forward Marquise Gray (3.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg), freshman guard Korie Lucious (3.0 ppg) and freshman forward Draymond Green (2.8 ppg) also contribute to the attack.

Self has great respect for the Spartans, who've featured eight different players in double figures in one of their NCAA tournament games. Six players are averaging at least 9.0 ppg through the first two games. Morgan and Green led MSU against Robert Morris with 16 points each, while Summers paced the Spartans with 11 points versus USC.

And then there's Lucas, one of the premier guards in the land. He's tied for team lead with Green for the tournament with an 11.5 point average.

"I would say, next to (Ben) Woodside (North Dakota State guard who lit up KU with 37 points in the opening round of the tourney), that we haven't had a guy outplay us more than Kalin Lucas did in the Breslin Center," Self said. "He totally dominated the game. From our perspective when the game was in the balance he just took the game over. I know positively that he has all of our guys' respect."

Of course, Izzo's Spartans have to respect the Jayhawks and their go-to players Collins and Cole Aldrich. Collins is averaging 28.5 points in the tournament, while Aldrich is coming off the first official triple-double in school history in KU's 60-43 victory over Dayton on Sunday.

While Self needs more contributions from players like freshmen Tyshawn Taylor and the Morris Twins (Marcus and Markieff), the KU coach fully expects Aldrich and Collins to bring their ‘A' games Friday night.

"I think the NCAA tournament is the time for the best players to shine," Self said. "People talk about them all year long, and now everybody gets to see them on the brightest stage."

And as Self added, "the best way to really show what you're capable of is for your team to advance."

That's what KU will attempt to do against Michigan State. The Jayhawks are ready for prime time and show the nation how much they've grown since the last game versus the Spartans.

"I think we're more mature as a team," Taylor said. "When we played Michigan State earlier this year, it was our second away game for the season. I think we were like (14 games) in, still young, still going through some growing pains like a young team does.

"I feel like we're March mature. (We've) been through a bunch of battles since then. I feel we're going to handle the situation a little bit better than last time. Their pressure (rattled) us. I think we're better."

While Aldrich said making the Sweet 16 was "a dream come true," he and his teammates certainly aren't ready to rest after reaching Indianapolis.

"I am still not satisfied," Collins said. "I think that we can do more."

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