Coming off a CBE Hall of Fame Classic title, the Kansas Jayhawks return to Lawrence as they play host to the San Jose State Spartans on Monday evening.
Bill Self's Jayhawks have four wins against just one loss this season. Since dropping a 67-64 decision to Michigan State in the Champions Classic in Atlanta, Kansas has posted wins over Chattanooga, Washington State and finally Saint Louis (73-59).
George Nessman's Spartans opened the season with a pair of losses to New Orleans and Houston. San Jose State has dug itself out of that early hole with back-to-back wins over Weber State (68-67 OT) and UC Santa Cruz (94-54).
This marks the first time these two teams have met on the hardwood.
The Spartans' first win was a nail-biter in overtime, while the victory over the Banana Slugs was vastly different, with SJSU rolling to a 40-point rout. San Jose took over the game five minutes in and never looked back, shooting a scorching 60.3 percent from the floor overall, compared to a meager 28.4 percent for UC Santa Cruz. Chris Cunningham led the way with a double-double of 19 points and 18 rebounds. James Kinney and Nick Grieves poured in 18 points apiece in the win, while Xavier Jones finished with 10.
The Spartans have shot the ball well this season, coming in with a .490 shooting percentage, that includes an impressive .431 from behind the arc (25- of-58). Kinney leads four players in double figures with a robust 21.0 ppg. Grieves played in his first game against the Banana Slugs and his 18 points are certainly encouraging. Cunningham (12.0 ppg) and D.J. Brown (12.0 ppg) provide solid depth. Cunningham, who is shooting a ridiculous .688 from the floor, is tops on the team in rebounding (9.0 rpg).
The offensive numbers for Kansas won't put fear in the opposition, but despite averaging a modest 71.6 ppg, the Jayhawks are enjoying a solid +16.2 scoring margin, thanks to stellar defensive play. KU is limiting foes to just 55.4 ppg on .355 shooting and holds a +5.2 rebounding margin as well. Four of the team's five starters are averaging double figures in scoring, led by redshirt freshman Ben McLemore's 14.0 ppg. Senior Jeff Withey (13.8 ppg, 8.0 rpg) has been a strong presence in the middle. Senior guards Travis Releford (11.8 ppg) and Elijah Johnson (10.2 ppg) give the team perimeter balance. Johnson contributes in a number of ways, leading the team in 3-pointers (9) and assists (5.0 apg).
In the win over Saint Louis, Kansas got huge performances from Withey and Releford. A seven-footer at the pivot, Withey dominated the Billikens, tying his career-high with 25 points, while blocking seven shots. Releford hit four 3-pointers and finished with 23 points in the win. Releford, Withey and McLemore were all named to the All-Tournament team, while Releford picked up MVP honors.