The Kansas Jayhawks and the Washington State Cougars are set to meet at the Sprint Center in Kansas City on Monday night in the championship round of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic.
The winner will advance to play either Saint Louis or Texas A&M in the title tilt, with the losers facing off in the consolation game.
Washington State started its season off with two games at home, defeating both Eastern Washington (88-69) and Utah Valley (72-49) by significant margins. But then it ran into some trouble on the road against Pepperdine on Nov. 16, as it squandered late leads in both regulation and in overtime to fall, 58-56.
Kansas opened with an easy home win against Southeast Missouri State (74-55), then it faced No. 14 Michigan State. In what very well could be a preview of things to come in March, the Spartans downed the Jayhawks, 67-64. KU was able to bounce back against Chattanooga (69-55) to gain some momentum for the championship round of this event.
The Jayhawks won the only previous meeting against Washington State, that taking place in December of 1973.
Washington State has had plenty of shooting success with a .494 field goal percentage through three games, but things did not go smoothly in the loss to Pepperdine. The club shot just 19-of-47 from the floor (.404) and committed 20 turnovers, which negated the impressive effort it put forth at the defensive end. Brock Motum couldn't find a rhythm (4-of-13), but he finished with a team-high 15 points anyway. Motum is the reigning Pac-12 scoring champion, and he's off to a good start this season (17.7 ppg). Mike Ladd tallied a double- double with 10 points and 13 rebounds, while Royce Woolridge added 11 points. DaVonte Lacy is third on the team in scoring (11.3 ppg) and he has dished out a team-best 10 assists, but he shot just 2-of-7 from the field for eight points against Pepperdine.
Kansas has seen much better days shooting the ball than it did against Chattanooga, as it made a modest 44.1 percent of its field goal attempts (including just 7-of-23 from three-point range). However, it more than made up for it at the defensive end by goading the Mocs into nearly as many turnovers (19) as they had field goals (20). Ben McLemore was the catalyst in the victory, logging 25 points and eight boards. Through three games, the highly- touted freshman has been even better than advertised, as he sits as the team leader in points (16.0), rebounds (7.7), and assists (3.7) per game. Elijah Johnson (12.7 ppg) has also been rock-solid, and he put up 18 points on 4-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc against Chattanooga. Jeff Withey, one of the best centers in the country, racked up 11 points, 10 boards and six blocked shots against the Mocs.