Lacin' 'Em Up For Alcorn State

News, notes and quotes on KU's matchup with Alcorn State tonight (7:00 CT) at Allen Fieldhouse, while already getting hyped for the No. 1 Jayhawks' battle at UCLA on Sunday.

SCOUTING ALCORN STATE

Alcorn State is 0-9 and coming off an 87-52 loss at Wichita State on Monday. The Braves return just one starter and seven letterwinners off last season's 6-25 team. They were picked to finish ninth in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) preseason poll.

ASU, located in Vicksburg, Miss., is led by junior center JeMarkus Holt, who averages a team-high 11 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. He's followed in scoring by senior forward Jonathan Boyd (10.6 ppg, team-high 20 three-pointers and 15 steals), freshman forward Ian Francis (8.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg), freshman guard Keith Searcy (7.0 ppg, team-high 15 assists), senior guard Brandon Rogers (6.8 ppg), and freshman forward Jamar Ragland (5.4 ppg, 2.2 rpg).

Larry Smith, an Alcorn State graduate and former NBA standout, is in his second year as Braves' head coach with a 6-34 record. Smith began his coaching career with the Houston Rockets after retiring from the NBA in 1983. He served 10 seasons as an assistant with the Rockets, helping them win two NBA championships in 1994 and ‘95. He then served as head coach of the NBDL's Anaheim Arsenal and as an assistant for the Austin Torros during the 2006-07 season. Smith became an assistant with the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks in 2008 before taking over as head coach at Alcorn State on May 8, 2008.

Smith spent 13 seasons in the NBA (1980-93) with the Golden State Warriors, Rockets and San Antonio Spurs. An NBA All-Rookie  selection in 1981, the 6-8 Smith was a rebounding machine and one of the toughest players (he was nicknamed "Mr. Mean") and premier rebounders during his career. He posted career averages of 6.7 points and 9.2 rebounds in 25.9 minutes per game. Smith recorded five seasons of at least 10 rebounds per game, marked by a career-high 12.1 rebounds during his rookie season.

SERIES HISTORY

Kansas is 3-0 vs. Alcorn State with the last meeting a 57-56 victory in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on March 16, 1984, in Lincoln, Neb. That was coach Larry Brown's first season at Kansas and also star Carl Henry's senior campaign. KU first beat ASU, 72-60, on Jan. 25, 1982 at Allen Fieldhouse, and also claimed an 86-74 victory the following season in the Phog on Dec. 20, 1982. Kansas is 14-0 against current membership of the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

NO OVERLOOKING BRAVES
    
Despite Alcorn State's winless record and the upcoming game vs. UCLA, the Jayhawks say they won't overlook the Bears.
    
"We can't come in here thinking that we can't be beat because we can," sophomore guard Tyshawn Taylor said. "College basketball works like that sometimes. We could go out there and miss a bunch of shots and the other team could be on fire. I've seen it happen. We have to play them like we would play any other opponent."

ROOM TO IMPROVE
    
After a 5-0 start, KU coach Bill Self still sees much room for improvement, especially on defense and rebounding. The Jayhawks were outrebounded by Central Arkansas and Tennessee Tech. KU holds a 40.2 to 34.6 rebounding edge over foes this season.

"I would like to see us pressure the ball and not get beaten back down the court," Self said. "I would also love for us to be able to get long rebounds. We should be better at rebounding than we are."

However, KU is blocking over seven shots per game and averaging over nine steals per contest. Self knows those numbers takes away rebounding chances.

"A lot of times when you block a shot, it goes out of bounds or back to the offense and those are missed rebounding opportunities," Self said. "In games where you block a lot of shots and get a lot of steals, there are fewer opportunities to get rebounds. Our rebounding numbers are not great, but they are probably not as awful as I thought they were after watching tape."

REMEMBERING WILT

Fifty-two years ago on Dec. 2, 1957, junior center Wilt Chamberlain led KU to 63-56 season-opening victory at Oklahoma State. Chamberlain scored 30 points, while junior forward Ron Loneski added 14.

KU went 18-5 that 1957-58 season, winning the Big Seven Holiday Tournament and finishing second in the conference at 8-4. That was Chamblerlain's final season at Kansas.

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