Lawrence, KS (SportsNetwork.com) - The Kansas Jayhawks close out play in the 2013 calendar year, as they welcome the dangerous Toledo Rockets to Lawrence for a non-conference showdown at the Allen Fieldhouse.
Bill Self's Jayhawks are 8-3 on the season, with all three losses coming against now nationally-ranked competition in Villanova, Colorado and Florida. The team has strung together back-to-back wins since its last loss, making light work of both New Mexico (80-63) and most recently, Georgetown (86-64). The win over the Hoyas on Dec. 21 marked the 67th straight win at the Allen Fieldhouse against non-conference foes.
Tod Kowalczyk's Rockets are off to a red-hot start and hope to close out a perfect non-conference slate with this game. Toledo is off to its best start since the 1966-67 campaign and ran its record to a flawless 12-0 with an 85-66 rout of Coppin State on Saturday.
Kansas won the only previous meeting between these two teams, a 68-58 decision in the 2006 Kansas City Shootout.
Balance and depth have been the key to Toledo's success this season. The team ranks among the top teams in the country in scoring at a hefty 86.2 ppg, as all five starters are averaging double figures. The three-guard set of Rian Pearson, Justin Drummond and Julius Brown has been unstoppable. Pearson is shooting .538 from the floor this season and paces the Rockets at 16.6 ppg. Drummond is delivering on a slightly better .550 shooting percentage and posting 14.8 ppg. Brown throws up 13.3 ppg and serves as the team's primary distributor, ranking among the nation's best at 7.3 apg. Forward J.D. Weatherspoon (10.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg) and center Nathan Boone (10.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg) round out the starting five up front.
The Rockets jumped all over Coppin State early and never trailed en route to the 19-point win last time out. The win pushed the team to 12-0, matching the second-longest unbeaten streak in school history (1940-41). Pearson led the way with a game-high 22 points. Brown was right behind with 18 points, followed by Drummond (13 pts) and Matt Smith (10 pts). The Rockets owned the glass, posting a 47-25 edge in rebounding over the Eagles in the game.
There is no doubt that Toledo is taking a huge step up in competition in this game. The Jayhawks are probably very disappointed with their overall record, but the schedule has been peppered with marquee matchups, including a huge 94-83 win over Duke in early November. Kansas has been an efficient squad at the offensive end of the floor, shooting 50.3 percent from the floor to tally a healthy 78.2 ppg. Freshman superstar Andrew Wiggins may not be living up to the immense hype thrown his way, but the youngster does lead Kansas in scoring at 15.5 ppg, while ranking third on the team in rebounding (5.5 rpg). Sophomore forward Perry Ellis (13.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and freshman center Joel Embiid (10.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg) continue the youth movement in Lawrence.
The Jayhawks returned to the Allen Fieldhouse for the first time in 31 days and certainly made up for lost time by blasting the Hoyas. Kansas took a 10- point lead into the break, shooting a blistering 61.9 percent from the floor in the first half. The team finished at a .543 clip for the game, and nearly doubled-up on Georgetown in points from the free-throw line (31-16). Embiid and Tarik Black led the way in the scoring column with 17 points apiece. Wiggins finished with 12, followed by Naadir Tharpe's 10.