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Archive for Monday, February 5, 1996

LAFRENTZ SHINES AGAINST KSU

February 5, 1996

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Here's an idea of how Raef LaFrentz's Sunday went:

LaFrentz, well on his way to a career-best 24 points, was trailing a 3-on-1 break late in Kansas University's 72-62 victory over Kansas State at Allen Fieldhouse. Billy Thomas, leading the break, looped a high alley-oop pass to Paul Pierce, arguably KU's most spectacular dunker.

But LaFrentz exploded past the explosive Pierce.

"Raef just went up and got it," Pierce said in mock incredulousness.

Indeed, LaFrentz, KU's sophomore forward, went up and slammed it home himself, providing an appropriate exclamation point on his second personal-record output this season. The Big Eight freshman of the year last season, LaFrentz set a P.R. of 21 points back on Jan. 11 against Florida.

"I don't know what it is," LaFrentz said of his scoring outbursts. "I'm not consciously playing harder. In some games, things come easier to me. ... I don't understand it. You just appreciate it when it happens."

LaFrentz also grabbed a team-high eight rebounds, made two assists and plucked three steals. He scored 16 of his 24 points after intermission, when KU trailed, 34-30.

"It was just a matter of really buckling down and really getting to work in the second half," LaFrentz said. "In the second half, we all came out really enthused, very hungry. It's a matter of pride, stepping up to the challenge. Somebody had to step up."

LaFrentz had seven points in KU's 13-3, second half-opening run, and Pierce, who scored 12 of his 14 points after intermission, had two in that run.

"In the first half, we started (fast-)breaking, then we slowed back down," Pierce said. "In the second half, we started running more and pounding it down low. I felt Raef was a big push for us. They couldn't stop him or Scot (Pollard) down low."

KU's big men so dominated inside -- Pollard added 10 points, six boards and five blocked shots -- that K-State center Gerald Eaker didn't score a point, guard-forward Mark Young had just six and forward Tyrone Davis was the only KSU frontliner to near his average with 14 points. Those three combined for just eight points after intermission.

"Coach told us to limit the production of their big guys," LaFrentz said. "We were trying to put a body on them, give them bad looks at the basket."

LaFrentz admitted he was pushed around much of last season. So he bulked up and decided to push back this year.

"I'm not a physical player," he said. "I'm not a big bull. I still try to use my agility. I'm not as strong as I could be, but I'm not a weakling. I'm not going to back down."

At least one teammate noticed.

"Our big men were strong, very physical down there," said KU junior point guard Jacque Vaughn, who contributed six points and an uncharacteristic two assists. "They all stood their ground, and I'm very proud of them."

KU, 18-1 overall and alone atop the Big Eight at 6-0, will entertain second-place Iowa State (16-4, 5-1) on Wednesday. Tipoff is 7:05 p.m. at Allen Fieldhouse.

"They're doing a good job this year," LaFrentz said of the Cyclones. "We'll be ready. They're second in the Big Eight. I'm sure they'll be ready for us."

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